Madrid bears its age well, but don’t let this city fool you: behind the shine of wisdom and cultural importance of the city that used to dictate its will to the rest of the world and today hosts The Golden Triangle of Art, you’ll be taken by the whirlwind of intense nightlife, tapas bars, football, music, festivals and celebrations - as soon as the sun sets, this side appears and keeps your heart bound with emotions and excitement. Madrid always has something new up its sleeve.
Here rules a stunning mixture of iberic heart-ease and big capital dynamism, be sure to appreciate both sides.
Which season to choose and which to avoid?
Summer is the peak season in Madrid, though it may be uncomfortably hot sometimes. Most locals leave the city in August, and it’s common to see half the shops and cafés closed despite the high tourist flow.
The best time to visit the city is in late spring and early fall - the weather is great, and its much less crowded. March, April and November would also be a good compromise.
In winter you won’t experience problems with queues and tons of visitors unless you arrive during the Christmas holidays - when the city is packed. Besides the holiday season (until the beginning of January), there’s plenty of hotel space and the lowest number of visitors at Madrid’s major attractions.
2.7 mln visitors in 2015
The biggest crowds gather at the Prado from 11:00 to 13:30. To avoid crowds you can either come about 10 minutes before the opening time or after 15:00. Give preference to weekdays, especially mid-week.
Photo credits to Jorge Láscar via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
You can purchase your ticket online on the Prado’s website by choosing a date and time for your visit. You’ll have to pay a commission of less than 1 euro when buying online, but during high season it’s worth it: you’ll be able to avoid long queues and will enter the museum through a special entrance reserved for those with tickets.
Tip: There are hours with free entry: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m, from Monday to Saturday and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Usually waiting lines are longer during these hours but if you come in low season it could be a good way to save money.
3.2 mln visitors in 2015
This museum, dedicated to Spanish art, tends to be at its busiest in the mornings. Give preference to coming in the afternoon to discover it at your pace. The most popular piece in Reina Sofia is Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, the biggest crowd inside the museum will be around it. We don’t advise you to visit the museum early in the morning, but if you do come before or by the opening time - it makes sense to start your visit from this painting to avoid crowds, as long as the museum hasn’t filled up with tourists yet. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, and therefore slightly more crowded on Wednesday mornings. The hours of free admission - from 19:00 to 21:00 on weekdays (exc. Tuesdays) and Saturdays, from 13:30 to 19:00 on Sundays. Sundays can turn out to be a nightmare in high season!
Photo credits to Ivo Jansch via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Tip 1: The best time to visit the museum is from 15:00 to 17:00 on weekdays.
Exhibitions taking place in Reina Sofia may attract enormous crowds, so we advise you to check in advance that your planned visit doesn’t fall on the first or last week of a popular exhibition (you can check this here).
Tip 2: We recommend you purchase the tickets online if you’re coming to Madrid during the summer, as it will save you lots of time.
Tip 3: Prefer a sunny day for Reina Sofia’s visit, there tend to be more visitors on rainy days!
Though this Museum is also part of Madrid’s “golden triangle”, it is usually much less crowded than the other two. The average waiting time does not exceed 20 minutes, but you can guarantee yourself a wait-free visit by booking your ticket online.
Tip 1: The best days to visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum are Wednesdays and Thursdays. On these days (especially in the afternoon, after lunch time) you will be able to enjoy the museum’s collection and exhibitions without crowds.
Tip 2: Try to avoid Mondays, the permanent collection is open from 12:00 to 16:00 and the entrance is free on this day, that evidently brings more people to the Museum.
The waiting line for the palace can get really long in high season (up to 2 hours). We advise you to come in the morning, if possible, about 10 minutes before the opening time.
In low season the longest queue can be seen before 11:00 on Wednesday, when the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard takes place. The official one takes place every first Wednesday of the month and attracts really big crowds of tourists and locals.
Tip: To avoid queues during low season, avoid Wednesday and come either at the opening time or at about 3 p.m. During high season late afternoon is a good option, especially if you arrive at 5:00 - 5:30 PM, before the start of free entry hours (those take place Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m).
The attendance here is quite moderate, compared to other touristic sites. Of course, it’s better to avoid visiting the cathedral on Sundays (day of liturgy) and on major religious holidays, that bring many more visitors than usual (Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Week, Assumption of the Virgin, All Saints Day and Christmas).
What could be better than strolling around the centre of Madrid? Here are a couple of our suggestions:
This card gives you access to more than 50 monuments and museums. You can purchase it for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. It also lets you skip the queue where it’s possible. Check the museum entrance fees to decide if it will be able to save you money: for example, while a Prado ticket costs € 15, the price of a 1-day Madrid card is € 47,00. You would therefore need to dedicate the whole day to sight-seeing in order for this card to pay off.
Keep in mind that many museums offer free admission at certain hours. During low season there are generally no queues, so it could be a good option to save money, and there wouldn’t be any need to purchase the Madrid Card.
For more information about the Madrid Card, click here.
We’ll be awaiting your postcards and ¡ buen viaje ! (have a great trip!)