Standing at the heart of Madrid is the Museo Nacional del Prado, renowned for its array of masterpieces by Velázquez and an unrivaled collection of Goyas and El Grecos. Nearby, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia displays works by Miró, Dalí and Picasso, including the latter’s “Guernica.” To the east of the great central thoroughfare, the Paseo de la Castellana, lies the chic residential district of Salamanca, which not only contains much of the city’s most desirable real estate, but also a majority of its upscale boutiques and galleries.
Confronted with the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, many people overlook the smaller Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. This royal academy and museum houses works by masters such as Goya, Murillo and Zurbarán, but my favorite is the joyfully surreal “Spring” by Arcimboldo. Closed Mondays.
Calle de Alcalá 13.
Like the Louvre, the Prado cannot be digested in one visit. I always try to focus on a few highlights and to leave the rest for return trips. Among other masterpieces, I unfailingly visit Velázquez’s celebrated “Las Meniñas,” and the enchanting “Portrait of Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress.” The Prado has the finest collection of works by Goya, including “The Family of Charles IV,” “The Third of May 1808” and his terrifying Black Paintings. It also contains an outstanding collection of paintings by El Greco, who was born in Crete but spent much of his working life in Toledo. Open daily.
Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23.