Spain's most essential museums
Bilbao Guggenheim Museum
Picasso Museum in Barcelona
Madrid's golden trio
When it comes to art, Spain is an absolute must. Its museums are home to some of the greatest collections in the world, and are chance to enjoy some of the great geniuses and masterpieces of universal painting. Starting with the Prado and moving on to the Guggenheim Bilbao, here we present the museums you can't afford to miss if you're coming to Spain.
In the Spanish capital, the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía National Museum offer an opportunity to explore the history of universal painting through the works of the great masters. Located very close to one another in the very heart of the city, these three galleries comprise a truly unique cultural itinerary: the 'Paseo del Arte' (Art Walk) in Madrid.
Your visit should, of course, start with the Prado Museum. This is one of the world's finest art galleries, and its rooms are home to the best of the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, among other collections. Take your time, because here you'll find some of the most important works by remarkable artists such as Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Titian, Tintoretto, Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt. Next, head for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Its collection includes works from early 13th-century painting through to German Expressionism, with examples of Impressionism, the English School and the European and American avant-garde, with valuable pieces by their greatest exponents: Dürer, Van Dyck, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Kandinsky…
The Reina Sofía National Art Centre –recently extended and now among Europe's largest galleries– still awaits. Here you'll find Picasso's universal work Guernica, along with an outstanding collection of contemporary Spanish art including pieces by Miró, Dalí, Chillida and Tàpies.
The genius of Picasso and Dalí
The work of these two Spanish artists revolutionised 20th-century art. The Picasso Museum in Barcelona will allow you to examine the work of this Cubist master in depth and follow his evolution. The pieces on display cover his formative years, the different stages of his artistic production, and his work as an engraver and ceramicist. Science and Charity, Harlequin and the Maids of Honour series are some of the emblematic canvasses by Pablo Picasso on display at the museum. If you want to enjoy the surrealist world of Salvador Dalí, then make for the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, in the province of Girona. Situated 139 kilometres from the city of Barcelona, a visit to the museum takes the form of a game as you try to make out the hidden images to be found within the creations on display.
Tribute to contemporary art
A trip to the famous Guggenheim Bilbao Museum is worthwhile just to see the building designed by prestigious architect Frank Gehry. This museum in northern Spain has a wide range of avant-garde and contemporary art in its permanent collection. It features outstanding international artists, and a stunning presentation of the works which is designed to harmonise with the museum building itself. If you like modern art and are on the Mediterranean coast, then be sure to visit the IVAM Museum in Valencia: its exhibition programme tends to focus on the classical avant-garde movements developed up to the 1960s.
And in inland Spain, specifically in the city of León, we recommend paying a visit to the Castile-León Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC), whose programme and its over 1,600 works pursue the relationship between art and social, political, cultural and aesthetic situations.
The important role played by these places within the Spanish museum panorama is clear, and this can be seen by their attendance figures. However, you'll find an extremely broad offer, and not only for lovers of fine art. There are also museums on science, archaeology, maritime themes… Using the search engine www.spain.info you can find information on the over 400 collections. The hard part will be choosing between them!