What are the most important museums in Spain

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Nuria Santesteban |

Art, archeology or natural sciences. The variety and quality of Spanish art galleries make our country a world reference. The Prado National Museum, the Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum form what is known as the “Triangle of Art” in Madrid and are must-sees for any lover of classic, modern and contemporary.

With the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences, they form the “star quintet” of the capital. But are not the only ones. We review the list of the most important museums in Spain.

Madrid’s must-see museums

View of the main entrance to the Prado Museum in Madrid. EFE/Victor Lerena

Prado National Museum https://www.museodelprado.es

The Prado National Museum is the most important classical art gallery in Spain, as well as a world reference.

Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Tintoretto, Tiziano or Murillo are just a small sample of what the visitor can find, with a collection that spans from the 11th to the 19th century.

Las Meninas, las Hilanderas, the naked maja, the 3rd of May, the triumph of Bacchus, the crucifixion, the garden of delights, Saturn devouring his son… Such is the quantity and quality of the masterpieces that make up the museum, that the only option is to visit it with time to be able to cover everything.

NATIONAL MUSEUM REINA SOFÍA ART CENTER
Facade of the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid. EFE/Dove Bridge

Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum https://www.museoreinasofia.es

It is the most important museum of modern and contemporary art in Spain. Dalí, Picasso or Miró are among the most relevant artists with collections in the art gallery.

Two works stand out from the others: Guernica by Picasso and The Girl at the Window by Dalí.

For lovers of surrealism, cubism and expressionism, this is your site.

NATIONAL MUSEUM Thyssen-Bormenisza
Exterior facade of Palazzo Villahermosa which houses the collection of the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum. EFE/Beatriz Velardiez

Thyssen-Bormenisza National Museum https://www.museothyssen.org

The Thyssen-Bormenisza Museum has come to complete, with the Prado and the Reina Sofía, the artistic offer of the capital. It covers the history of European painting from the Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century. It is the largest private collection in the country.

German Renaissance, Italian and Flemish primitives, 19th century American painting, impressionism, German expressionism and Russian constructivism, abstract painting or pop-art are some of the currents to be visited in the gallery.

Van Eyck, Durero, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Monet, Degas, Morisot, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Mondrian, O’Keeffe, Hopper, Munch, Duccio… his solo algunos de los grande numbers de la pintura cuya obra puede contemplater at the Museum.

Since 2017, this museum is national, like the Prado and the Reina Sofía, which serves to emphasize the public status of the museum’s collection.

NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Facade of the National Archaeological Museum (MAN). EFE/Juana Benet

National Archaeological Museum http://www.man.es/man/home.html

As the museum itself reports, it is a public institution that aims to offer a “rigorous, attractive, interesting and critical interpretation of the meaning of the objects that belonged to the different peoples of present-day Spain and the Mediterranean region, from antiquity to recent times, so that knowledge of its history is useful for analyzing and understanding current reality”.

The Lady of Elche and the Lady of Baza are two of the most remarkable pieces of the museum, as well as the rooms of prehistory, Roman and medieval archaeology.

The museum brings together more than a million pieces of our historical heritage that show us the evolution of Spanish society.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCES
Facade of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. EFE/Sandra Ruiz of the tree

National Museum of Natural Sciences https://www.mncn.csic.es/es

The National Museum of Natural Sciences was created by Carlos III in 1771 and is one of the oldest in the world. It has remarkable unique pieces among its collections, such as the megatherium, which arrived in 1788 from Río Luján, Argentina, and which was the first reconstruction and assembly of a fossil vertebrate. It has nearly 10 million copies among its collections.

It is also a national center dedicated to the study of paleobiology, geology, ecology and climate change, with particular emphasis on environmental biology and biodiversity.

Must-see museums in the rest of Spain

GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
View of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. EFE/Luis weaving

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao https://www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/

Built by architect Frank O. Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum building is already a work of art in itself. Its curves and “the extraordinary set of titanium volumes” make this museum a unique symbol for the city of Bilbao. It has an extensive representation of contemporary art.

Its permanent collection primarily includes works by the most prominent artists of the past four decades, in addition to funds lent by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Among the permanent exhibitions, stand out The stuff of timeby Richard Serra Installation for Bilbaoby JennY Holzer or Puppyby Jeff Koons.

The museum exhibits change frequently and also host concerts, festivals, lectures, screenings and workshops.

MACBA MUSEUM
Image of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA). EFE/Domenec Umbert/fs

Barcelona MACBA https://www.macba.cat/en

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona houses works from the second half of the 20th century and is also a benchmark for contemporary art. The construction of the museum was a shock for a district, the Raval, transforming it into one of the most modern districts of the Catalan capital.

Work of the architect Richard Meyer, this building is combined with the capella MACBA, a Gothic chapel of the convent of the Angels.

It has more than 5,000 works created from the late 1950s to the present day. 1950s abstraction, European pop, 1960s and 1970s avant-garde, figurative photography and the most current artists all have their place at MACBA.

DALI THEATER MUSEUM
Several people are waiting to enter the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. EFE/David Borrat

Dali Theatre-Museum (Figueras) https://www.salvador-dali.org/es/museos/teatro-museo-dali-de-figueres/

The Dalí Theater Museum was the artist’s last residence in Figueres. The project was designed by Salvador Dalí himself and houses one of the painter’s largest art collections. Some of the works that we can find are Port Alguer or Self-Portrait with “Humanity“.

Works from his private collection of artists such as El Greco, Marcel Duchamp, Mariano Fortuny or Modest Urgell are also exhibited.

As a curiosity, in the Dalí Theatre-Museum we can find the tomb and the last bedroom of the artist.

Picasso Museum (Barcelona) http://www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona includes more than 4,000 pieces that the artist from Malaga created in the different disciplines in which he worked throughout his life, including painting, sculpture, engraving, drawing…

It is the reference center for learning about Picasso’s formative years, with an almost exhaustive collection up to the blue period. Most of the works on display span from 1890 to 1917.

It also houses an exceptional representation of works from 1917 and the series The Meninas (1957).

Picasso Museum (Málaga) https://www.museopicassomalaga.org/

The Buenavista Palace houses around 200 works by Picasso from his various stages of creation. The collection spans nearly eight decades of work by the Malaga-based artist with the various themes and techniques he masters.

CAIXAFORUM VALENCIA
CaixaForum Valencia. EFE/Ana Escobar

CaixaForum https://caixaforum.org/es/

More than a museum, the particularity of these spaces lies in the tendency to apprehend cultural spaces as something alive where exhibition halls, conferences and workshops mingle.

The CaixaFórum centers are cultural centers of the “la Caixa” Foundation with offices in different cities in Spain and traveling exhibitions throughout the country.

IVAM Valencia https://www.ivam.es/es/

The Valencian IVAM is a modern and contemporary art museum that houses artists of the stature of Paul Klee, Robert Delaunay, Ignacio Pinazo or Julio González.

Visitors can freely enjoy a permanent collection of 11,322 works on the 20th century avant-garde and trends such as pop-art.

The names of Julio González and Ignacio Pinazo stand out as two axes of the museum and two names of modern Spanish art.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ROMAN ART OF MERIDA
View of one of the mosaics on display at the Museum of Roman Art in Mérida. EFE/Jero Morales

National Museum of Roman Art (Mérida) https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/mnromano/home.html

It contains one of the best collections of Roman sculptures and mosaics on the peninsula which help the visitor to understand the functioning of a large Roman city, Emeritus Augusta.

It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage buildings, as part of the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida.

The work of architect Rafael Moneo, the core of the museum revolves around the Roman period, but the visitor can see specimens from the Visigoth period, Late Antiquity and even medieval and modern pieces.

Web editor: Nuria Santesteban

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