Art in Madrid on a Budget

Art in Madrid on a Budget

Contributed By: Alissa Gamberg

The great thing about being in Madrid — especially in the summer — is that you don’t have to search hard to find amazing art to look at or cultural events to attend. The city itself is a work of art; it’s Europe, after all! You’ll be surrounded by centuries-old buildings with beautiful balconies, bright red and pink flowers hanging over the wrought iron railings, not to mention plenty of statues, sculptures, gardens, palaces, fountains, and parks. Of course, these outdoor charms are free to feast your eyes upon, but what about actual museums and other tourist hot-spots? While you might think it would be expensive to enjoy the best of Madrid’s arts and culture scene, it is surprisingly easy to accomplish on a student budget. Just don’t forget to bring your valid student ID.

Pablo Picasso’s Gernica at the Reina Sofia

An absolute must-see is the Golden Triangle, which consists of the three most prestigious fine art museums: El Museo del Prado, El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and El Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Each of these possesses an impressive collection of fine art in varying mediums. Although the Prado has a high general admission fee, students ages 18 through 25 get in for free and the last two hours every day are free for everyone. Free admission to the Prado is a beautiful thing, because this massive institution is not just another museum – it is truly an experience not to be missed. The Reina Sofía also offers free admission for students 25 and under, and it’s certainly worth visiting even if modern art isn’t your cup of tea, because who can pass up an opportunity to see Picasso’s Guernica? Lastly, the Thyssen-Bornemisza is an elegant collection somewhat between the Prado and the Reina Sofía in terms of breadth: you’ll see works from between the 13th to the 20th Centuries. Admission to the permanent collection is free to all every Monday between noon and 4:00, but outside of that time slot students will have to pay for their tickets, although at a discounted rate. Keep in mind that prices vary depending on what you want to see: permanent collection, temporary exhibits, or a combination of the two.

Perhaps some of the lesser-known places to view art include the Museo Cerralbo, Fundación Mapfre, and Fundación Juan March. The Cerralbo is a beautiful 19th Century palace-museum that will instantly dazzle your eyes with its chandeliers, paintings, sculptures, suits of armor, and lavishly decorated rooms. Fundación Mapfre offers outstanding visual art exhibits that are always free and often highlight international artists. The other Fundación, Juan March, is located in the Salamanca district and offers an array of fine art exhibits, concerts, seminars.

Madrid boasts of many other museums, but if you can’t hit them all, or if you want to see more art forms besides visual art, definitely visit some of the cultural centers. You can watch a play, a concert, see an art exhibit, a comedy show, take a painting class, attend a workshop or conference, all under the same roof (just maybe not at the same time). Many events are free or relatively inexpensive. Cultural centers even have their own libraries and resource centers. Some popular ones are Centro Cultural Conde Duque (free shows in its library are not advertised on the web site), Matadero Madrid, and Círculo de Bellas Artes. The Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa is conveniently located near the National Library, which, in addition to housing a copy of every book published in Spain, also has its own free art and history exhibits that are worth checking out. In the classic Retiro Park itself you can find the Centro Cultural Casa de Vacas, which holds visual art exhibits as well as a salón de actos for plays and other theatrical events.

Finally, don’t forget to stop in as many beautiful churches of Madrid as you can see some amazing art for free (or almost free). La Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida in Príncipe Pío, for example, has a small museum (one room) covered in frescoes by Goya. Photography is prohibited, so make sure you snap some great mental photos! Another opportunity you might not see in your travel books is a 3€ guided tour (2€ for students), offered in Spanish or English, of the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which is also covered in stunning artwork. All of the old churches in Madrid will astound you upon entering, so don’t forget to include them as you plan your visit.

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