I’m free to write an ‘Ode to the Prado‘ post — and eventually might, as I’m now a card-carrying Amigo¹, visit often — but Spain’s flagship art museum hardly needs publicity. Three and a half million visited the Prado in pre-pandemic 2019; a million more descended on the nearby Reina Sofía. These are world-famous bucket list destinations, with tens of thousands of hallelujahs on Tripadvisor.
But: most Tripadvisor reviews are written by tourists. (Or by scammers pretending to be tourists, at least.) Even a marginally sentient geriatric like me is bound to discover hidden treasures after nearly seven years of calling Madrid ‘home.’ And when I contemplate such treasures among city museums, I always think first of these three:
This nearly century old museum lives on the first floor of the Geological and Mining Institute. Harbor a yen to eyeball older-than-the-dinosaurs fossils and minerals as dazzling as the striated ruby bruiser below? In Spain’s capital, look no further. The Geominero offers thousands of samples from Spain’s far and wide, as well as former colonies.
Then there’s that wowser of an exhibition hall. I haven’t seen an other-than-religious-or-royal building interior that packs such a visual wallop since my last TransitPeople trip to L.A.’s Bradbury Building, and the Geominero has the Bradbury beat. (Fellow shutterbugs: bring the widest glass in your camera bag. I wish I still had my 8mm fish eye.)
The popularity sticking point for this, um, gem of an attraction may be its location and hours. Ríos Rosas is a nice neighborhood, but a couple of kilometers north of the tourist beaten track between the Royal Palace and Retiro Park.
Then there’s the 14:00 closing time. I can’t find a study to back me up, might be mistaken, but suspect that many vacationers are uneager early birds. Waking up to go some place in the a.m. is what you do when you’re anchored to the curro back home.
Admission: free! Transit access: the Ríos Rosas station on the metro line 1 is a half-block away.
Is any compliment as heartfelt as a compliment reluctantly given? I am loathe to publicize any attraction with an even faintly military theme, but also want to be fair, and couldn’t forgive myself for omitting the Naval Museum from this post.
I remember my shock when a fellow expat introduced me to the site in late 2020. How could such a superb museum slip under the radar, especially given its location: across the street from the Thyssen, two blocks north of the Prado.
The naval museum recounts Spain’s history as a maritime power from the fifteenth century to present. Visitors can see the 1500 map of Juan de la Cosa, with the first-ever representation of the New World, a 1688 globe, Prado-caliber paintings (including works by Vicente López and Joaquín Sorolla) and many, many exquisitely-detailed model ships that must have been years-consuming labors of love for their builders. All laid out in chronological order, so you can treat yourself to a Spain history lesson while strolling the galleries.
Admission: they ask a €3 donation. (But likely won’t unleash any of the museum’s cannons on a freeloader.) Transit access: two blocks from the Banco de España stop, on the metro line 2.
ONCE MUSEO TIFLOLÓGICO
Tiflológico, as in typhlology: certainly a new word for me, in both English and Spanish. ONCE is Spain’s national organization for the blind. The Museo Tiflológico is a museum for the visually impaired.
Not the world’s only such museum, but perhaps the best known. The sighted visitor can wander through several exhibition halls, one devoted to monuments of Spain, such as the Sagrada Familia, Segovia Aqueduct, Burgos Cathedral, the other to wonders found elsewhere in the world, like the Hagia Sophia, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty.
The models are large, exquisitely-finished, but were not built to be gazed upon, at least not as a first purpose. The visually impaired can trace and explore the models’ contours with curious fingers, to learn through touch what makes the monuments important to the rest of us.
Please see this review by a mother who visited with her nine year old son.
Admission: free! Transit access: the museum is about three blocks northeast of the Estrecho stop on the metro line 1.