We last visited Madrid over 20 years ago. We wanted to see the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum, which has Picasso’s Guernica.
We purchased tickets in advance to enter the Prado at the 10:00 opening time. Formed from the royal collection, the Prado features Spanish masters such as Diego Velasquez and Francisco Goya. Velasquez is best known for his painting of the Spanish court, but I found this painting to be the most powerful and unexpected from Velasquez.
Goya was also a court painter. He depicted members of the royalty in unflattering terms, again and again. He must have been very good to retain his royal patrons.
As part of our planning, we listed the days the museums are closed and when they have free admission. Four museums offer free admission during a week. Aside from the Prado and Guernica, we were pretty flexible about the museums, so we decided to visit the remaining museums during the free admission times. We even visited the Prado again, catching a reconstructed cloister and Goya cartoons for tapestries that we missed our first visit.
The highlight of the Reina Sofia Museum is Picasso’s Guernica. He painted it as part of a publicity campaign by Spanish artists to call attention to the German Luftwaffe bombing cities during the Spanish Civil War. In this case, the Germans bombed the Basque town of Guernica and killed over 1600 people. Picasso stipulated that the painting remain outside Spain while Franco was alive and be sent to Spain after his death. There is good supporting material to explain the parts of the painting.
We hadn’t seen the Thyssen Museum before. Formed from a private collection, it has a broad range of art that isn’t great. The free admission helped. A highlight was this Bernini marble of San Sebastian. The Villa Borghese in Rome has amazing Bernini statues, but they don’t allow photography.
The Caixa Forum is a new museum that had some very good special exhibits assembled from other museums.
The four museums are the four pins on the right side of the map. Crowds were manageable during the free times, so free worked well for us.