Plan a visit to Madrid and you’ll hear a lot about the city’s renowned ‘Golden Triangle’, the three main art galleries (El Prado, La Reina Sofia and the Thyssen) all situated within a ten-minute walk of each other in the city’s beating heart.
What you won’t read or hear about much however are the sheer number of alternative spaces, free and open to the public, that the city boasts outside of these big three.
Truth be told? Forget the golden triangle. The following spots are where the real fun can be found. Where you’ll see just how much Madrid has to offer beyond the usual tourist trail and just how vibrant the cultural scene can get.
La Casa Encendida
One of the newer cultural spaces on this list, La Casa Encendida is a social and cultural space that features modern art exhibitions, concerts, workshops, classes and tons more.
Opened in 2002, La Casa Encendida’s main theme is multimedia and audiovisual art. If you get the chance to visit in summer also make sure you check out it’s free rooftop movie screenings too.
Ronda de Valencia, 2.
Nearest metro: Embajadores/Atocha
Staying in the neighbourhood, La Tabacalera is another intriguing cultural space based in the building of the former Tobacco Factory of Embajadores.
Now under the ownership of the Ministry of Culture, the space has been revamped into an artistic hotspot featuring photographic and multimedia art exhibitions while also functioning as a social centre designed to promote creative and social skills.
Calle de Embajadores, 51.
Nearest metro: Embajadores
It might not be free but at 3 Euro it’s a lot cheaper than any of the Golden Triangle locations and possibly better value for money too.
A true hidden gem, the Sorolla Museum is the former home studio of the 20th-century painter himself, situated inside a pretty Andalusian-Style garden and punctuated inside by Sorolla’s unique works and homely design.
Well off the beaten track but intimate and tranquil enough to provide the perfect respite from the capital’s chaos.
Paseo del General Martinez, 37.
Nearest metro: Gregorio Marañón
Situated in the heart of the city, in the Plaza de Cibeles, it’s surprising how often Centro Centro gets overlooked by visitors given its proximity to the Golden Triangle.
Normally home to Madrid’s postal headquarters, Centro Centro is free to walk around on the ground level and usually features photographic and contemporary art exhibitions next to the permanent collection of Juan Abello that has works from the likes of El Greco, Goya and Modigliani.
Also has a great space to work and study (with free wi-fi) as well as an amazing rooftop terrace bar and cafe.
Plaza de Cibeles, 1.
Nearest metro: Banco de España
Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid
Worth a visit alone for the stunning building this place finds its home in, the Círculo de Bellas Artes is one of the big daddy’s when it comes to Madrid’s independent art scene.
Established in 1926, the Círculo’s temporary and permanent exhibitions provide hours of entertainment but you can also drop by and take part in workshops and classes (usually in Spanish) or, depending on events, a concert or even theatre.
Make sure you stop for a coffee or a beer at the rooftop terrace for amazing views of the city too.
Nearest metro: Banco de España/Sevilla
A former slaughterhouse might seem an unlikely place for an exciting arts centre but the Matadero, based in the city’s Arganzuela district, is just that.
Constantly changing, go any weekend to the Matadero and walk around its surroundings and you’ll always find something different. Promoted by the city council’s Department for the Arts, the Matadero features site-specific artistic work, workshops, cinema, design centre and concert hall.
Plaza de Legazpi, 8.
Nearest metro: Legazpi
Espacio Fundación Telefonica
This four-floor exhibition centre doesn’t usually feature in most guides to Madrid but, especially given its location in the centre of Madrid’s shopping district in Gran Via, it really should appear more often.
A cultural and technological centre based in one of Madrid’s eponymous 1930’s buildings, Espacio Telefonica features seasonal exhibitions that make use of ample space and light. Permanent exhibitions include an Instagram gallery and the History of Telecommunications.
Calle de Fuencarral, 3.
Nearest metro: Gran Via
Sala Alcalá 31
Part of the Community of Madrid, Sala Alcalá is right on the doorstep of Círculo de Bellas Artes and, just like that centre, is part of the city’s old history, situated in the former office of Antonio Palacios, perhaps Madrid’s most emblematic architect.
Featuring around four different exhibitions each year, Sala Alcalá 31 features individual and collective exhibitions that showcase contemporary artistic creation in a range of media.
Calle de Alcalá, 31.
Nearest metro: Banco de España/Sevilla