Art in Madrid

The Spanish capital may currently play second fiddle to its Catalonian contender, Barcelona, when it comes to la Liga, the Spanish football league, but it more than holds its own in terms of cultural wealth. Indeed, Madrid hosts an array of museums, theatres and concert halls to rival any in the world, with fabulously diverse programmes and exhibitions. Because the city centre is so compact, it is a good idea to book a hotel in the centre – you will be able to make your way to the main attractions by foot. There is no shortage of accommodation to choose from in the central districts, or barrios, as they are known.

Museums in Madrid are not limited to the famous Golden Triangle – three museums are located along the leafy Paseo del Prado Boulevard – but they are a reliable first port of call for visitors new to the city and they continue to delight long-time residents who have explored them on countless past occasions.

The first corner of the triangle is the Prado Museum, which holds what must be one of the world’s most important art collections: 9,000 works (mostly paintings) of which 1,500 are on display at any one moment. Works not in the permanent collection are rotated, and the museum holds a number of conferences and courses throughout the year.

If this sounds a little daunting, and you are only in Madrid for a short stay, you may find the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum more manageable. The works (of which there are around 800) are elegantly displayed over three floors, with the oldest exhibits on top, and are arranged chronologically and thematically. However, if you have the time and inclination, it is useful to think of the Thyssen-Bornemisza as complementing the Prado – many of the works in the collection, begun in 1920 by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza's father, are examples of styles or periods which are absent from its more extensive cousin.

The Reina Sofía National Art Centre, the final corner, is a modern and contemporary art gallery and also houses conferences, poetry recitals and contemporary music concerts, as well as the largest library in Spain dedicated to art, on its top floor.

Of course, if you still have energy after these three heavyweights, there are plenty of smaller (and often less crowded) galleries to explore. You need only wander around the Salamanca and Chueca districts to happen across any number of delightful little exhibitions, making Madrid a real haven for art lovers.

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