If you are planning a trip around Europe, Madrid will probably one of your destinations. Regardless of the type of travel, whether you are using trains or you travel by plane, whether you stay in an apartment in Madrid or choose other alternatives, deciding to visit this city is certainly going to be the right decision. You will get to experience music and art that are built on centuries-old heritage, contributors of which are well-known geniuses such as Picasso, Goya, Dali, Cervantes, and many others.
What is so special about Madrid?
The history of Madrid starts with the establishment of the Royal Court in 1561. After the consolidation of the country, Madrid became the royal capital. During the centuries, Madrid had been influenced by many cultures (especially Arab) and, as the capital, was the main point of new ideas, movements, and rebellions. Nowadays, Madrid has become the capital of culture and art thanks to its immense offer of museums, concerts and other cultural events.
Art in Madrid
For anyone interested in exploring art, Madrid is the place to be. It offers so many opportunities for art tours and cultural visits, that it is unlikely you will find such a valuable exhibit of culture anywhere in the world.
When it comes to art, Madrid is the right place to get to know some of the most popular museums in the world (lately, even more, popular than Louvre in Paris). One reason more to explore the history and evolution of art in Madrid is the fact that the three main and most popular museums are located in this city: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Reina Sofía form a triangle of art, called the Golden Triangle of Art. In a kilometer long walk, one can see the world’s greatest pieces of art made by Picasso, Goya, Velazquez, Dali… There is no similar place in the world where you can find more masterpieces in such a small space.
• Museo del Prado
The collection of the Prado Museum comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures. One can start the visit in the 11th century, then see the masterpieces from the Spanish Golden Age: Ribera, Zurbarán, and Murillo. Later on, the most important paintings of Velázquez are exhibited: Las Meninas and The Seamstresses. From the 19th century, there is Goya’s gallery with the tapestry he created and a room of the 19th-century art displaying works by Federico and Raimundo Madrazo and Sorolla.
Apart from the Spanish painters, the Prado Museum offers Italian art from the 14th century – Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Mantegna’s The Death of the Virgin and Antonello da Messina’s The Dead Christ Supported by an Angel and Raphael’s virgins from the 15th century. There are also works of Flemish school due to political ties of Spanish monarchy and Flanders. Some of the Flemish artists represented in the museum are: Dürer, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt, and Watteau.
• The Reina Sofía National Art Museum
The Reina Sofia National Museum is a museum of the 20th-century art and it is primarily dedicated to Spanish art. It has a library specialized in the art with more than 100 000 books, over 3500 sound recordings and almost 1000 videos. There are around 4 000 paintings, more than 1400 sculptures, almost 3000 cartoons, more than 100 decorative pieces and architecture. The museum reflects innovative artistic tendencies and contemporary art. Here you can find some of the masterpieces of surrealism, cubism, and expressionism. The contemporary Spanish art is divided into three collections:
- ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945)’
- ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968)’
- ‘From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982)’
The most famous piece in the museum is Guernica, one of Picasso’s well-known paintings. Exhibited by the Republican Government at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, this mural depicts the pain suffered by the victims of the bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica on 27 April, 1937.
• The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is an art museum, once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection and includes Impressionists, Expressionists, European and American paintings from the second half of the 20th century. Its collection of paintings counts more than 1,600 paintings. It represents the connection between classic works of Prado Museum and the contemporary art of The Reina Sofía National Art Museum. The Museum is a private collection of Thyssen Bornemisza family which they collected for more than two generations. The most important art representatives and movements from the period between the 18th and the 20th century are shown in its interior. Some of the most famous are the works of Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Klee o Kandinsky and many others.
Art in Madrid beyond the Golden Triangle of art
Although this part of the city is the most popular among the travelers and the Golden Triangle certainly gets the most attention in the travel guides, there are many other galleries and house museums to explore in Madrid. Some of them are:
- Cervantes House Museum – The childhood home of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is now a house museum dedicated to this Spanish writer. It recreates the customs, traditions, and everyday life in the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum dedicated to the author of Don Quixote also houses an important bibliographic collection with editions of Cervantes’ work from different periods and in different languages. There is also a consolidated programme of activities such as workshops for children and teenagers, conferences, plays, and musical shows.
- Navy Museum – a museum of the Ministry of Defense where you can see objects from the war and find out more about the military history of Spain.
- The National Archaeological Museum of Madrid is the place where you can see archaeological findings from Prehistory to the 19th century, especially from the Iberian Peninsula, distributed over three floors.
Flamenco, opera, jazz…? The choice is yours!
The variety of music that you can listen to in Madrid makes this city a very interesting and popular place for people all around the world. Read more about the exciting history of some music movements and different concerts and music events Madrid has to offer. After that, the choice is yours!
The chotis – typical music from Madrid
The curious fact about this type of music is that its origin is – Scottish! It was named after the German Schottisch. The chotis was popular during the 19th century in the working-class barrios of Lavapiés and La Latina. The chotis was danced for the first time in 1850 at the Royal Palace. This dance was so successful and became so fashionable in the capital that the citizens of Madrid decided to make it their own. Of course, they added some authentic and popular air, giving rise to the chotis as we know it today.
A type of music you can hear almost everywhere in Madrid – both in bars and clubs. Besides listening to the music in the background everywhere you go, you can also watch the legendary and amateur performers of jazz. Even if you are not a big fan of jazz, you will definitely fall in love with this music once you hear it in Madrid. The best place to explore the jazz scene is the street Las Huertas, where you can find some of the most popular bars in Madrid and listen to both jazz and blues. As the street is full of people day and night, it is absolutely sure that you will enjoy it!
Opera Music in Madrid
The most representative type of opera, unique to Spain is zarzuela. It origins from the 17th century and comprises of musical acts dealing with social realities of that time. It is full of costumes, The best place to visit and experience the zarzuela is Teatro de la Zarzuela. Some of the most popular Spanish operettas were performed here. It is now owned by the Ministry of culture, and throughout the history, many events were organized here since its inauguration in 1856. Another respectful and important opera house is The Teatro Real. It is considered to be the top institution in the country in the music and performing arts field. It is led by the King and Queen of Spain. The most talented stage directors, singers, and conductors from around the world have performed here. The program usually combines contemporary and classical lyrical opus in order to satisfy the taste of different audiences with different interests and ages.
Flamenco Music in Madrid
Flamenco is a form of music and dance typical for Spain. It has roots in Andalusia where it was created in the 17th century. Madrid nowadays is practically a synonym for flamenco. The most popular place where flamenco is presented every day except Sunday is café Chinitas. It is also an inevitable part of some festivals organized in Madrid. You can also visit the following bars and enjoy this traditional and well-preserved dance and music:
- Corral de la Morería - Flamenco shows begin in 1956 and it is the oldest and most reputable flamenco bar in Madrid. It is included in the book “1,000 places you must see before you die”, the bestseller of the New York Times.
- Casa Patas – Another great place to enjoy flamenco right in the center of Madrid. To attend the show, you buy a ticket which also includes dinner, and the prices start at €60.
- Torres Bermejas - Here is another bar with a decades-long reputation to attract the best of Spanish flamenco performers.
- Tablao Cardamomo – If you stay in apartment Madrid, you will be quite near Cardamomo, one of the biggest venues where you can watch flamenco and marvelous performers from all over the country.
- Café de Chinitas – Another centrally located flamenco bar, this time near Gran Via street. You can watch impressive performances every day except on Sunday and enjoy the food served during the shows.
The main characteristics of flamenco are spontaneous moves, the freedom, and passion. It is a unique blend of the Andalusian music and dance, also influenced by the gypsy ethnic group. Dance, palmas, zapateos, and cante are all the component of flamenco, a dance which has spread all over the world and made something quite distinguishable in the Spanish culture.
Discover modern music in Madrid
If you prefer modern music, visit some of the following popular music festivals in Madrid:
- Universal Music Festival (July)
- Noches del Botánico (June/July)
- Dcode (September)
Madrid has a lot to offer when it comes to music, art, and culture in general. Its museums have been rated as best in Europe, the festivals and concerts are attracting more people every year, and the cultural offer is rich and diverse. We can say that it becomes not only the capital of Spain but also a capital of European culture. Its diversity and mix of tradition and cultures stand in favor of this fact.