Spain is a country of sunny beaches, famous wines, and rousing dances. It also has a rich cultural heritage and is home to many famous museums.
I have been lucky enough to visit many of them, so here is the list of great Spanish museums I picked:
TL;DR: The most famous museums in Spain
- Prado, Madrid: A vast collection of paintings by Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya.
- Dali Theater Museum, Figueres: The most extensive collection of art by Salvador Dalí, a strange but extremely talented surrealist painter and a great mystifier.
- Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid: One of the largest private collections in the world, with an approximate collection value of €700 million.
- Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid: Picasso’s Guernica, nearly eight meters wide, will make you freeze in admiration.
- The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia: In this masterpiece architectural complex of Santiago Calatrava, neither children nor adults will be bored.
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. An avant-garde building made of titanium plates, designed by the American architect Frank O. Gehry, has become a magnificent platform for presenting masterpieces of modernism and contemporary art.
- Picasso Museum, Barcelona.
- National Archaeological Museum, Madrid.
1. Prado Museum, Madrid
The most famous Spanish museum is the Prado Museum in Madrid. Its building is a magnificent example of strict neoclassicism, all within the confines of a park erected in the 16th century.
A hefty portion of the exhibits consist of paintings donated by Spanish royals, with the main treasure being a vast collection of paintings by famous Spanish artists.
The works of Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya are widely represented in the museum. The collection of paintings by Titian, Hieronymus Bosch, and Rubens is also impressive.
You will also find a collection of sculptures and works of applied art in the Prado.
Helpful tip Use GetYourGuide to get to the direct entrance ticket and skip the line.
2. Dali Theater Museum, Figueres
It is the second most visited Spanish museum. You will find it in the artist’s homeland of Figueres, Catalonia (86 miles north of Barcelona).
The museum is located in the theater building; its opening occurred during Salvador’s lifetime in 1974. The artist endowed almost all of his works to his hometown, so this museum has the most significant collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures of Dali. Also, you can visit the artist’s apartments.
Tip: Salvador Dali is buried in the crypt in the museum’s basement.
3. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
You will find the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Palacio de Villahermosa, a large building, the former mansion of the Dukes of Villahermosa (the most important noble titles in Spain).
It is one of the main museums of Madrid, which is part of the “Golden Triangle of the Arts.” The Queen Sofia Art Center (Reina Sofia Museum) and the Prado Museum are also on this list. All three attractions are within a 5-minute walk, which is quite convenient.
Until 1993, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Gallery was the most extensive private collection in the entire world. And today, it is part of a world-scale state museum. The approximate value of the museum’s collection is €700 million.
4. Queen Sofia Arts Center, Madrid
Among the main objectives of the Museo Reina Sofía are the display of avant-garde works of art and the worldwide promotion of contemporary Spanish art.
Picasso’s famous Guernica, brought to the museum in 1992 from Cason del Buen Retiro, competes with famous works by Dali, Miró, Juan Grísa, Pablo Gargano, Chillida, and Tapies. The museum’s numerous temporary exhibitions attract many people who want to learn about the latest trends in art.
In addition to the museum, the Art Center includes a concert hall, a library, and the trendy “Arola Madrid” restaurant opened by the famous chef, Sergi Arola.
Two floors of the museum are occupied by the paintings of famous Spanish avant-garde artists: Juan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Juan Grísa, and Salvador Dali. Other contemporary masters of the brush are also represented, including Eduardo Cillida and Antonio Tapis.
However, the most famous exhibit of the National Museum is undoubtedly the painting “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso. Next to this painting, you will see working sketches, from which you can learn about the birth of the masterpiece.
5. The City of Arts and Sciences
It is a well-known cultural and architectural area in Valencia, located on the former site of the Valencia Botanical Gardens, inside the beautiful leisure park Turia.
The world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava designed the complex, which now includes an opera house, a planetarium, an oceanographic park, and a science museum.
The City of Arts and Sciences looks sleek, modern, and even futuristic, and the architecture is gorgeous! Also, it is easy to get to both the Valencia city center and the beach from this location.
6. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
The avant-garde building, notable for its challenging geometry, eliminates straight angles and connects the most unthinkable shapes. All surfaces of the structure gently curve, and the plastic forms of the building’s interior flow from one to another.
It is said that the Guggenheim Museum’s main exhibit is the building itself, with its completely unimaginable outlines.
Each year the world-famous museum is visited by more than a million people, offering many events for all visitors wishing to expand their knowledge of art.
7. Picasso Museum, Barcelona
In the city of Barcelona, the artist not only received significant academic training but also found the creative inspiration that opened the way to the world of contemporary art.
8. National Archaeological Museum (MAN), Madrid
The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century to exhibit archaeological, ethnographic, decorative, and numismatic finds.
The permanent exhibition provides a complete overview of Spanish history from prehistoric times to the 19th century.
The museum’s collection includes Egyptian sarcophagi and mummies, decorative Hispano-Roman art, and Arab and Mudejar furniture and ceramics.
One of its most important treasures is the Iberian bust “Lady of Elche.”
9. Sephardic Museum, Toledo
You will find this museum in Toledo, in the historical building of the Synagogue of El Tránsito. Its exposition tells about the history of the Jews in Spain.
Visitors are introduced to the history of Spanish Jews from Roman times to their expulsion by the Catholic kings. The museum holds many historical treasures. These include objects of Mesopotamian civilization, coins, marriage contracts, church utensils, maps, archaeological finds related to ancient tombs, teaching models, and much more. Here you can also visit the museum library and video library.
10. Sorolla Museum, Madrid
Did you know Joaquin Sorolla is called the “Master of Light”? Discover his works when you visit the house-museum of the artist in Madrid and learn why he earned that moniker.
The museum will help you better understand Joaquin Sorolla’s creative evolution stages. You will see different periods of the master’s artistic life, diverse in style and subject matter. In particular, his works reflect social criticism, family portraits, paintings of everyday life, and self-portraits.
There is also a collection of sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, old photographs, and a rich archive of personal correspondence. In addition, works by authors such as Benliure, Rodin, or Bloy can be seen in the museum.
Tip You can also see many of Sorolla’s paintings in the Fine Arts Museum (Valencia).
11. El Greco Museum, Toledo
The museum tells the story of the great master and the influence his work had on the city of Toledo.
You will find the museum in the Juderia quarter of Toledo. It includes two buildings – a 16th-century courtyard house and an early 20th-century annex, along with a garden.
The museum exhibits numerous works by El Greco, mainly from the latter period of the genius painter’s work, as well as paintings by other 17th-century Spanish artists, furniture from the period, and ceramics from Talavera de la Reina (a city in the Province of Toledo, well known by its pottery craft).
Tip: See the enormous painting “View and Plan of Toledo” (1610-1614), an incredible masterpiece by El Greco.
12. The Palaeolithic Art Museum: Cave of Altamira
You will find this exciting museum in the Nothern Spain (see the map). The museum itself is a replica of the Altamira Cave discovered in 1879 in Cantabria, Spain, which marked the discovery of Paleolithic cave art , created in 35,000~11,000 BC.
The permanent exhibition “Times of Altamira” lets you get acquainted with life in the Iberian Peninsula in the prehistoric period. It reveals various aspects of life related to art, culture, daily life, and ways of hunting through the most characteristic objects of this period in the Iberian Peninsula.
Interesting fact For years, the cave art of Altamira was branded as a fake by scientists. It wasn’t until more discoveries were made in France that this opinion changed.
13. El Escorial, Madrid
In addition to the Prado museum, there are several museums on Madrid’s outskirts. One of the most interesting among them is the Escorial Palace.
The museum is located near the village of the same name, an hour’s drive from the city. Construction of the palace began in 1563 and lasted 21 years, after which it became the residence of King Philip II of Spain.
The Escorial complex consists of a palace, a cathedral, a monastery, and a theological school, which initially deceives visitors with its external austerity and then amazes them with the extraordinary splendor of its interior decoration.
The palace houses more than 5,000 famous paintings, with works by Titian, Tintoretto, Bosch, El Greco, Velázquez, Van Dyck, Veronese, and other notable artists.
In the Escorial, Greek sculptures, ancient wall carpets, jewelry, books, and manuscripts can also be seen. One of the most valuable treasures of the palace is the Gospel with golden pages. The Escorial is the burial place of the ashes of Spanish kings.
In lieu of a conclusion
Believe it or not, Spain has more than 1,500 museums; among them, of course, there are some quite unusual ones. For example, the Microminiature Museum or the Salt and Pepper Museum (Guadalest), the Rice Museum (Valencia), the Robots Museum (Madrid), etc.
So, you do not have to follow the standard tourist guides. Choose any museum that interests you; Spain has many of them.
What are the most famous museums in Valencia, Spain?
There are currently 35 museums in Valencia, among them:
- IVAM – Valencian Institute of Modern Art
- Valencia Cathedral Museum
- Science Museum Príncipe Felipe in the City of Arts and Sciences
- The Fallas Museum
- Carme Contemporary Culture Center
- House of las Rocas (the special carriages used as floats for the Easter and Corpus Christi processions)
- Valencia Museum of Fine Arts
- The Museum of Illustration and Modernity of Valencia
- La Almoina Archaeological Museum
- Blasco Ibáñez Museum-Home
- Ceramics Museum
- The Rice Museum
What are the most famous museums in Barcelona, Spain?
There are over 58 museums in Barcelona, among them:
- Picasso Museum
- The National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC)
- Antoni Tápies cultural center and museum
- Barcelona’s Center of Contemporary Culture
- Santa Mónica arts Center (La Rambla)
- Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA)
- Joan Miró Foundation
- Museo de Cera de Barcelona (Wax Museum)
What are the most famous museums in Seville?
- The Museum of Fine Arts
- Flamenco Museum of Seville
- Andalusian Museum of Contemporary Art
- Archeological Museum of Seville
- Museum of Arts and Traditions of Seville
- Inquisition Museum
Hello, my name is Nadia. I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality).