If you’re looking to explore Madrid’s museum scene beyond the famous Prado and Reina Sofia, I recommend starting with Los Cinco Museos, five former mansions that are all perfectly restored and house outstanding art collections: Cerralbo, Lázaro Galdiano, Artes Decorativas, Sorolla and Romanticismo.
These five museums take you on a journey to a different era, allowing you to see and feel what life might have been like when they were occupied. While each one is worth visiting, Museo Cerralbo is my personal favorite. I’ve been here twice – first on my own and then on a guided tour – and both times I was blown away by the museum’s special charm.
Tucked away on a side street near Plaza de España and Templo de Debod, this museum is one of the former residences of the Marquis of Cerralbo, who lived here with his family in the 19th century. Today, everything remains exactly in tact, from the furniture and art pieces to the wall colors and lighting.
As you walk through its many rooms and corridors, let your imagination run wild, picturing what life was like when this house was actually a home.
The Marquis was a well known archeologist and passionate art lover. He amassed a collection of art, furniture and objects from Spain and around the world that you can see in every nook and cranny. You’ll see beautiful paintings, mirrors, chandeliers and clocks dispersed throughout, and so much more.
The house has two floors. The first floor was where the family actually lived their normal lives, while the second floor is where you’ll find the extravagant ballroom and dining room, for example, that were meant to be shown off to guests.
Each particular room had a different purpose and decor, acting as a unique exhibition space. Here are a few examples.
The armor collection
After going up the gorgeous stairway (the house was actually designed to accommodate for a unique wooden banister), guests would step into the hallway displaying the Marquis’s armor collection. This is my favorite exhibit.
To the right of the armor collection you’ll find the stunning ballroom. I would certainly like to dance here one day…
As you can see, the Marquis was particularly fond of playing with lighting and mirrors to add as much depth to each room as possible. And not an inch of the house was left unadorned.
The library features British-style decor and houses an impressive collection of books in several different languages, some dating back as far as the 15th century. Here you’ll also find one of the largest coin collections in Spain.
The billiard room
Right off the dining room you’ll find the billiard room. In that time, women weren’t expected to join in on the game, so there was a seating area designed just for them to watch as the men played.
Snapshots of more rooms and objects
There are so many little rooms and corridors to check out, each one providing a window into another era and giving your eyes plenty to marvel at. I don’t want to give away too much, so here are just a few more images to give you a glimpse of the Cerralbo Museum’s collection. But please don’t pass up the chance to see it in person!
- Website, Facebook & Instagram
- I highly recommend booking a guided tour in English, Spanish or French
- Address: Calle Ventura Rodríguez, 17
- Hours: Tues–Sat 9:30am-3pm; Thursday also from 5-8pm; Sundays and holidays from 10am-3pm
- Metro: Plaza de España
- Los Cinco Museos pass: if you want to visit all five of these former mansions turned museums, you can purchase a €12 pass called Los Cinco Museos at any of their ticket offices. The pass gives you unlimited access to all five museums for 10 days, and after that you can enter on Saturdays with a plus one for the rest of the year.