Of the three museums in Madrid’s “golden triangle” of art, the Reina Sofia is perhaps the most bewildering. That it hosts Picasso’s Guernica makes it an essential stop for any art lover in Madrid. But beyond that singular masterpiece, how should you approach the rest of its enormous collection of modern and contemporary art?
I’ve spent the past few months immersing myself in the museum developing Devour Madrid’s Reina Sofia Tour, where we’ll lead you through the museum’s collections, telling the story of Spain’s tumultuous twentieth century along the way. So today I want to share the fruits of my labour: my top tips for visiting the Reina Sofia Museum.
When should I visit the Reina Sofia?
Much like the Prado, the Reina Sofia tends to be the quietest first thing in the morning or during the lunchtime lull around three P.M. If you’re on a budget, entry is free from 7PM until closing (1:30PM on Sundays). You won’t be the only one with this idea, though, so get ready to wait in line. One more thing: unlike many tourist attractions in Spain which close on Mondays, the Reina Sofia is closed every Tuesday. It’s caught more than a few unlucky friends of mine off-guard!
If you want to make sure you won’t have to queue, you can book your tickets online through the Reina Sofia’s website. This is especially important if you want to see one of the museum’s blockbuster temporary exhibitions. At peak times, queues can go right round the block.
What should I see in the Reina Sofia?
You can’t leave the Reina Sofia without seeing Guernica. In fact, you should give yourself plenty of time to explore the collections explaining the context of Picasso’s masterpiece. Beyond that, most visitors focus almost exclusively on the first floor of the museum. This is where the artworks up to 1945 are on show, and where you’ll find the museum’s extensive collections of Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. Upstairs you can find post-war works from both Spain and abroad, while the newer Nouvel building hosts work from the 1960s through to Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 70s and early 1980s. Make sure not to miss the rooms on the Movida, Madrid’s explosion of creativity – and partying! – that followed the fall of Franco.
A lot of visitors don’t realise that the Reina Sofia also has two exhibition spaces inside the Retiro park: the Palacio de Velázquez and the Palacio de Cristal. They’re open every day, free, and often host immersive contemporary installations. The Retiro is handily just across the road from the museum, so it's an excellent next stop on your Madrid itinerary!
Where should I eat near the Reina Sofia?
Read More: Check out Lauren’s guide to eating in Madrid!
After gorging on modern art in the museum, you may find yourself in need of an ice-cold caña (the traditional Madrid small lager serving) or a glass of wine. Luckily, the Reina Sofia is just steps away from Lavapiés, one of the most diverse and exciting neighbourhoods in the city. On Calle Argumosa you’ll find a seemingly never-ending stretch of outdoor terraces to relax with a drink. That said, it’s not necessarily the best place to eat. As a cultural melting pot, you can find food from all over the world in Lavapiés, from Senegalese to Indian. My personal favourite is Tribuetxe, an innovative tapas bar that blends Andalucian and Basque classics, with an excellent wine list.
Reina Sofia Museum & Food Tour: Picasso, Tapas & Wine!
Bookings are now open on our new Reina Sofia Museum & Food Tour: Picasso, Tapas & Wine. I couldn’t be more excited! We’ll take you through the masterpieces of the Reina Sofia, explaining the fascinating and conflicted history of Spain’s twentieth century along the way. Then we’ll go on a tapas crawl through Lavapiés, one of Madrid’s most diverse and dynamic neighbourhoods. We’ll see both sides of this fast-changing barrio, from learning how to pull the perfect caña beer in a classic tavern to sampling hard-to-find wines in one of the new breeds of bars that make it Madrid’s most cutting-edge neighbourhood. Book your tickets in advance (groups are kept very small-- 7 max-- so we do sell out!).
Have you visited the Reina Sofia? Share your comments below!