Museum Assistant (and her Companion) has just returned from a short trip to Madrid, and is ready to tell you a bit about what did she manage to see there in just two days! Madrid is a huge city, but once you find an accommodation in the very city center (like we did), you are able to squeeze a lot into your visiting plan, even if you have just a couple of days. We arrived in Madrid late in the afternoon on Saturday, on Tuesday morning we headed for beautiful Toledo to spend a couple of hours there, and returned to Madrid in order to catch a bus back to Barcelona. So, as you can see, we had actually just two days to enjoy all that Madrid has to offer.
We arrived in Madrid late in the afternoon and immediately headed for the place we booked via Airbnb. I must confess that we were incredibly lucky with our accommodation. The flat that we found was located in the very city center, in the charming neighborhood of Chueca, and boy, we really booked it last minute! Having just a couple of days to spend in Madrid we didn’t want to bother neither about figuring out how does the public transport work nor about wasting time trying to get from one point to another.
We left our stuff at home and went out to grab some coffee and take a walk around the beautiful Parque del Buen Retiro (esp. Park of the Pleasant Retreat). This place has everything we miss in the Mediterranean parks of Barcelona: dense deciduous trees, shady alleys, flora of a more “northern” character /sigh/.
day #1 | Museo del Prado
On Sunday we woke up early enough to have a quick breakfast and arrive at Museo Nacional del Prado at 10:00 AM sharp. We decided to spend a whole day visiting this particular museum, as it houses one of the world’s biggest and more important collections of European art. Have you ever studied Art History? Once you arrive at Prado you realize that its collection covers around 60 % of the content of a standard Art History coursebook. Seriously. They have the best Velázquez, the best Goya, incredible Zurbarán, Titian, Ribera… And if it wasn’t enough, right now they’re hosting a huge temporary exhibition of Hieronymus Bosch: Bosch. The 5th Centenary Exhibition. I’d like to dedicate a separate post to this project, so now I’ll just tell you that it is stunning, beautifully designed, and created with true grandeur. Works presented at the exhibition have been lent by the most important cultural institutions in the world, including Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, National Gallery in London, Het Noordbrabants Museum in ‘S-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), or Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. It’s a must-see!
We spent over 8 hours visiting the museum, with a tiny coffee break after seeing the Bosch exhibition. However, even one full day is not enough to enjoy fully the opulent collection of Museo Nacional del Prado. We will come back there, that’s for sure.
day #2 | Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza & Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
On Monday morning we grabbed a fresh, warm baguette and headed for the Parque del Buen Retiro one more time. Brunch on the grass (shared with a cluster of tiny sparrows) can be a real treat! Shortly after 12:00 PM we arrived at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which forms a part of the so-called “Golden Triangle of Art” together with Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. A former private collection started in the 1920s by Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, it is now a public institution, a priceless national treasure. Opened in 1992, the museum houses three floors of permanent collection (beginning with Gothic and early Renaissance art, especially Italian trecento and quattrocento, and ending with Lucian Freud and other remarkable representants of the 20th cent. art), a bookshop, and additional exhibiting space for temporary exhibitions.
However the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection is truly astonishing, both I and my husband had very mixed feelings about the museum itself. The way of exhibiting objects is really reprehensible. An aggressive, salmonish / apricot color of the walls interferes severely with the original color range of exhibited artworks. An intense, yellow light only reinforces the harmful effect. The only part of the collection that is exhibited decently, is the collection of the 20th cent. art — walls of the exhibition rooms are white, and objects are thoughtfully arranged, only the lighting could be better. I sincerely hope that there will be something done about the exhibiting conditions in Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the sooner the better.
After leaving MTB, we took a slow walk around the beautiful Las Cortes neighborhood, stopped for a while to have some cortado con hielo (iced macchiato) accompanied by a good read, and headed for Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. We joined the queue forming in front of the entrance to the museum, and after a couple of minutes, we entered its monumental edifice. Museo Reina Sofía occupies a historical building of a former hospital, with an added contemporary wing designed by Jean Nouvel. The architecture of the museum is just as magnificent as its collection, famous primarily for Picasso’s Guernica. The permanent exhibition is constructed contextually and focused mainly on the artistic movements which were born in the shadow of the World War II. I loved the contexts created by curators, especially the fact that they used Goya’s astounding yet terrifying The Disasters of War series as a starting point of the exhibition. The objects are presented in a thoughtful way, with proper spacing and a sense of continuity. I think that many institutions dealing with contemporary art should take Reina Sofía as a role model for presenting their permanent collections.
day #3 | Toledo
On the last day of our trip, we decided to visit the nearby town of Toledo (it’s located only 40 minutes away from Madrid!), a wonderfully preserved medieval city with lots of charming narrow streets, old churches, and a monumental cathedral. One literally has to have eyes in the back of her head if she doesn’t want to miss any of the idyllic nooks of the city! We visited a charming Museo de Santa Cruz, and the church of Santo Tomé (St. Thomas) where the most remarkable work by El Greco, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, can be seen. Then we just wandered through the town enjoying its unique atmosphere, so different from what we are used to living in such a vibrant city as Barcelona.
We wanted our trip to be as low-cost as possible. Our Airbnb accommodation cost 87 €. If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, Museum Assistant has a special gift for you! Register using this link: www.airbnb.pl/c/ogrodniewicz to receive a 20 € discount on your first journey!
As far as the admission fees in the museums of Madrid are concerned, there are lots of possibilities to enter a museum for free:
Museo Nacional del Prado — free entrance Mo-Sat 18:00-20:00, Sun 17:00-19:00 (free entrance to the permanent collection, tickets for temporary exhibitions can be purchased with a 50% discount)
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza — free entrance Monday 12:00-16:00 (IMPORTANT: there is no possibility of visiting temporary exhibitions on that day!)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía — free entrance Mo-Sat 19:00-21:00, Sun 13:30-19:00 (including temporary exhibitions)