This is the Madrid History Museum. It’s awesome (and it’s free).
You can find it at Calle de Fuencarral, 78. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00-20:00. It’s right in the middle of the city centre, so there are no excuses. It’s easily accessible on your way to or from shopping, cañas, a night out or a great meal.
For the non-history buffs out there, cringing at the idea of a history lesson during your free time, don’t stop reading! This is not your average go-in-look-at-and-read-for-three-hours type of museum.
At this museum you can find the usual, sure: the posters explaining key moments in Madrid’s history (why they chose Madrid as the capital, for example, or what happened on the infamous 2nd of May) and, yes, there are placards attached to everything (in excellently translated English and Spanish, yay!). But there’s more. In fact, there are four floors more, each divided into a different category. It’s not all about reading (we promise). It’s about stepping into Madrid at different times in history and feeling/seeing what they were like.
For example, in the basement, there are scale models and cartography (maps) for you to pour over from Madrid’s different ages and stages. What did your neighbourhood look like hundreds of years ago? Well, mine didn’t really exist. Neither did many others.
On the main floor, ‘Villa, Corte y capital de dos mundos’, there are also maps and models, along with paintings and artifacts exclusively from 1561-1700. This includes portraits of royals and an interesting insight into every day life in Plaza Mayor or Puerta de Sol. Spoiler alert: Only one of them looks quite different. Can you guess which one?
On the first floor, ‘Centro ilustrado del Poder’, the museums explores 1700-1814. You’ll find more references to Madrid’s social culture here, including gorgeous, wall-sized paintings of places like Retiro Park and a smaller, intricate replication of a bullfighting arena. You’ll see examples of manufacturing through a well-preserved selection of handmade fans, shotguns, crystalware and woodworking pieces.
The second floor, ‘El sueño de tuna ciudad nueva’, examines Madrid from 1814-1910. We, regrettably, didn’t have time to visit before they closed for the night, but according to the pamphlets this floor explores the reality vs. fiction of Madrid’s progress during this period, its culture, entertainment, women and industry.
Long story short, we love this place and think it’s more than worth a visit (or three). When you leave you’ll walk through Madrid differently, knowing that, for example, Puerta de Sol has changed and what it looked like before. We want to share those experiences with you!
One last thing: Consider a guided tour. We didn’t know they existed until we ran into one on our last visit and the tour guide was AMAZING. He was full of interesting facts and stories. So, we did a little digging and found out that you can sign up for these guided tours, and they are also free!! Click here for more information.