A cornerstone of culture, we are lucky to have many museums in Spain, being paintings their main content. These places not only provide us information and feelings about the past or what to expect in the future, but also allow us to ‘travel’ to other countries thanks to the temporary exhibitions that they are capable of organising by borrowing and lending top pieces of art.
Temporary exhibitions are also an excellent call to action for visiting museums when not on holidays – or an excuse to travel to other city for that matter. Sometimes the “mañana – mañana” symptom affects more than just Spanish people in that sense.
The top Art museums in Spain in visitor terms in 2016 were:
- Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), Modern and Contemporaneous Art (+3.6 million visitors)
- Museo del Prado (Madrid), European Masters from XIV – XIX centuries (+3 million visitors) (Madrid)
- Teatro-Museo Dalí (Figueres), dedicated to Salvador Dalí (1.3 million visitors)
- Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, mainly temporary exhibitions, being its curvy building with glass and titanium façade finished in 1997 the main attraction in many occasions (+1.1 million visitors)
- Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid), acquired to the Baron with that name in 1993 after his family had accumulated during seven decades a variety of works from the XIV and XV centuries to the Pop Art and the Figurative Painting of the 1980s, complementing the Prado and Reina Sofia Collections (+1 million visitors)
- Museo Picasso Barcelona (dedicated to Pablo Picasso) (+1 million visitors)
- CaixaForum (Barcelona and Madrid), temporary exhibitions of works coming from places such as the British Museum (+1.3 million visitors combining both locations)
- Museo Picasso Málaga, dedicated to Pablo Picasso (+500K visitors)
Beyond paintings, other art museums worth considering are:
- Museo Nacional de Arqueología subacuática (Cartagena), objects coming from sunk ships: amphoras, plumb bars, anchors, etc. In relation to the city heritage, centred in the Carthage and Roman time.
- Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación Altamira (Santillana del Mar), with objects, paintings and information around the pre-historic time of the Iberian Peninsula, replicating the Altamira Cave where there are cave paintings (pre-historic art) from that period.
- Museo Nacional de Escultura (Valladolid), Spanish sculptures from the Middle Age till the XIX century, with different forms/motives and materials.
- Museo Nacional de Arte Romano (Merida), art works from the Roman time, coming mainly from houses, theaters, and cemeteries of that period. Building designed by Rafael Moneo.
- Museo Nacional de Arqueología (Madrid), presents objects from the different cultures that resided in the Iberian Peninsula, from the antiquity to more recent periods.
For your visits to those or others, make sure you visit their websites (English version is usually available) to know more about their history, artworks, timetable, and in which hours and days you can visit them for free. Also, you can become a member or ‘friend’ for certain ones (so you can go to that place as many times as you wish for a fixed annual price) or acquire cards to visit a number of them (usually at a city or regional level) for less money. The less known of those is the “Tarjeta Anual de Museos Estatales” (Annual Card for State Museums) that gives you the possibility to visit the majority of the previously mentioned museums and other ones as many times as you wish during one year for 36€. Now that is a bargain!
From my part, my favourite museums are Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza. I fondly remember the temporary exhibitions they held in the last years about Caravaggio (Thyssen), and Ingres and the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg (Prado). On my to-do list are all the museums that I mentioned in the second list, starting with the MAN (Museo Nacional de Arqueología).
We will follow up in the future with my notes and experiences about the Prado Museum and analysis of museums beyond art, like those for sport teams or the Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias (Valencia).
What are your favourite museums in Spain? Do you visit them often? Any other ones that you would recommend? Any temporary exhibition you have seen recently that have caught your attention?
Links of Interest
Europapress, Los principales museos españoles cierran 2016 con más de 9,5 millones de visitantes (The main Spanish museums receive/host more than 9.5 million visitors in 2016)
Guía del Ocio, Guía para ir gratis a los museos de España (guide to visit Spanish museums for free)
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Estadísticas de Museos (Figures/Statistics around Museums)
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Directorio de Museos y Colecciones de España (Directory of Museums and Collections in Spain)
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Tarifas, abonos y tarjetas (prices, season tickets, and cards)
Spain.info, 10 Museos para todos los gustos (10 Museums for every taste)
Worldatlas, The World’s Most Visited Art Museums
Photos: Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. Bison painting in Altamira Museum, Santillana del Mar. Prado Museum, Madrid.