The hottest destination on our radar for 2024, Madrid, Spain has a rich history deeply enhanced with art, architecture and culture.

Paired with this fascinating history is new, exciting art, unfolding in the streets, theatres, bars and art galleries of Madrid and its greater region. Travellers will find an impressive array of art and architectural wonders that beckon to anyone seeking out cultural experiences and artistic expression. From oil paintings to decorated chapels, Madrid is a mecca for art: neoclassical museums and famous galleries abound. Once night falls, admire the type of art that can’t be hung on a wall: opera, flamenco, ballet and theatre. Whether you’re an art collector or simply an admirer of beautiful art and places, Madrid enthusiastically promises a unique, unforgettable feast for the senses.

Below we offer just a few of the highlights that showcase this special city where you can feel like a local and enjoy a combination of experiences that can only be found in Madrid:

Art Museums

With a lengthy history of impressive art, Madrid's art scene is also constantly evolving. Start your exploration of Madrid with the Madrid Art Triangle, a collection of three intriguing museums that will captivate artistic souls for hours, if not days. First on the list is Museo Nacional Del Prado. Designed by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 and founded as a museum in 1819, the illustrious Prado houses a breathtaking collection of European art spanning from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. The collection counts more than 8,600 paintings with origins tracing to the Spanish Royal Collection. Consequently, the inclusions reflect the tastes of Spain’s monarchs who preferred to acquire as many pieces as possible from their favourite artists. Visitors can admire artworks by renowned artists such as Velázquez, Goya, Titian and El Greco.

Walking distance from The Prado is Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, housed in a handsome, neoclassical former aristocratic residence. Celebrated for its comprehensive collection of European art that bridges the gap between the Old Masters and contemporary works, it's a must-see for Canadian travellers interested in art and architecture. Visitors can marvel at familiar works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet and Dalí. Being surrounded by great artists' masterpieces from the past may give you much-needed inspiration to create your own artwork in the future.

Completing the Golden Triangle of Art is Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía which catapults museum-goers into the era of modern and contemporary art. Visitors flock here to view Pablo Picasso’s famous Guernica. You can feel the passion of the artist, and don't rush away—give yourself time to soak in the large black-and-white oil painting.

The Cerralbo Museum, located in the heart of Madrid, is a gem that offers a captivating glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Spanish aristocracy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Housed in the former palace of the Marquis of Cerralbo, this museum is a maximalist time capsule. He was the one to donate the full collection in his will. Visitors are welcome to wander through lavishly decorated rooms filled with paintings, sculptures and tapestries from Europe and abroad.

Find more art in Palacio de Liria. Housed in a spacious neoclassical palace dating back to the 18th century, this is the residence of the lineage of the House of Alba. Inside, visitors will find an impressive library with 18,000 historical tomes, including handwritten texts from Christopher Columbus and the first edition of Don Quixote. Acclaimed artwork onsite showcases Impressionist and modern paintings as a private European aristocrat collection. Guided tours last just over an hour.

Nearby is the Royal Collections Gallery. Step back into time and experience Spanish royalty as you tour this new museum. Featuring artwork from the collections of the Spanish Monarchy as well as the Royal Armoury once worn by knights, you can feel like a prince or princess while journeying through three exhibition rooms.

Fascinating Frescos

Crane your neck way back to fully admire San Antonio de la Florida’s decorated chapel—somewhat of a surprise considering its austere neoclassical exterior. The stunning frescos were created by the hand of Francisco Goya, a talented Spanish portraitist. His remains are also here (since 1919, after being moved from Burdeaux where he was originally laid to rest in 1900). Entrance and guided tours are complimentary.

Known as Madrid´s Sixtine Chapel, San Antonio de los Alemanes’s frescos are not limited to the ceiling. Rather, they wrap the baroque church’s interior like a vivid wallpaper. The frescos are the combined effort of many artists: Luca Giordano, Juan Carreño de Miranda and Francisco Rizi.

Performance Arts

Flamenco is so close to Spain’s heart that it has been inscribed by UNESCO as part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. With its guitar, tempo, singing, facial expressions and choreography, flamenco is more of an art form than a dance. And though it has roots in Andalucia, Madrid is often touted as The Flamenco Capital of the World. (Think of it as the show-biz destination for both professional and up-and-coming talent.) It’s also the origin of tablaos—small, intimate spaces where the intensity of flamenco reaches a fever pitch, much to the audience’s delight. Corral de la Morería, the only one offering Michelin Star dining, is the most famous tablao, but there are many options for enjoying an authentic flamenco performance, such as Tablao de la Villa, which is located in a 19-century house-palace, as well as theatre performances and multi-day festivals.

Next to the district of Los Austrias and opposite the Royal Palace sits Madrid's handsome Teatro Real (Royal Theater). It is described as a cultural jewel of Spain, Madrid’s most esteemed cultural institution and the country’s premier opera house. Feel like a local while admiring Teatro Real’s architectural grandeur, with a neoclassical facade and opulent interiors. This theatre provides a jaw-dropping backdrop for world-class opera, ballet and classical music performances. Attend a show or take a guided tour to better appreciate the 1752-seat Main Auditorium and the second-floor great halls. A Backstage Technical Visit reveals how cutting-edge technology gives this historic space (dating to the mid-1850s) superb acoustics.

Madrid is full of surprises, found in ancient artwork and the latest fashions. It’s a city that visitors never tire of, no matter how often they return. Whatever your itinerary, you’re sure to be captivated by the warmth, the beauty and the excitement that is unique to this special place. It’s why we’ve chosen it as our top destination for 2024.


This article was sponsored by Madrid Turismo by IFEMA MADRID

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