From old-world art to thoroughly modern shopping, not to mention a tasty tapas trail (or three), Madrid makes for a fun getaway for culture lovers. Patricia McCrossan shares her experience in one of her favourite cities. 

I have always loved Madrid. In recent years, the city has seen significant additions, including five-star hotels like The Four Seasons and the luxe shopping centre, Galería Canalejas. The recent opening of The Royal Collections Gallery, adjacent to the Royal Palace, last summer provided me with even more reasons to go back to explore the vibrant offerings of Spain’s capital city.

Nestled beside the iconic Royal Palace of Madrid, The Royal Collections Gallery is Spain’s most noteworthy cultural addition in decades. Carved into the rock, this three-floor modernist building takes you on a captivating journey through Madrid’s vibrant history. Our guide highlighted the most exciting pieces in each collection and wove together the stories of a long line of monarchies, making for a very educational and enjoyable morning.

The first floor unfolds the era of The Habsburgs, while a large ramp takes you to the second floor, dedicated to The Bourbon dynasty. It would take several visits to fully appreciate and understand the colourful history of Spain’s monarchy, but this museum does a great job of bridging the past with the present.

If you want to experience contemporary art, Museo Grand Via 15, located and named after Madrid’s busiest and most famous street, is worth a visit. The historic building is now a cultural space that provides visitors with a different way to approach the world of contemporary art.

The highlight of my three days in Madrid though was the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum. There are three floors, and I recommend starting at the top and working your way down to the ground floor. With nearly a thousand works on display, it showcases significant periods and schools, from the Renaissance to Pop Art as well as underrepresented movements like Fauvism, German Expressionism, and 19th-century American painting. Our knowledgeable and charming guide swept us from one art movement to the next, and rather than trying to cover too much, we focused instead on one painting in each room, a novel and rewarding approach.

A 20-minute walk from the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, between Calle Alcalá and Calle Sevilla, Galería Canalejas is the home of luxury shopping in the heart of Madrid. Housing over 40 boutiques, including Hermès, Cartier, and Rolex, the Galería Canalejas is located behind the original facade of seven historic buildings, several of which were former banks. One of the planning stipulations was that as much of the original interior architecture was to be repurposed within the designer outlets. Interestingly, two original bank safes are used, one as an imposing display cabinet housing a stunning pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. The other is the door you enter the shopping centre from the adjoining Four Seasons Hotel. While my holiday budget didn’t stretch to the Jimmy Choos, I thoroughly enjoyed lunch in Garelos (, one of the 30 bars and restaurants of different specialities and nationalities, located in the basement.

Our last night in Madrid was spent strolling the streets on a mission to find the best tapas. Founded in 1827, Casa Alberto was our first stop and my favourite. Like the Madrid I first visited in my 20s, I was delighted to find the city has grown and evolved but retained its warmth and charm. With daily flights from Dublin, it makes the perfect getaway.

STAY Vincci Soho Hotel (C/ del Prado, 18),

EAT Lamucca de Prado (C/Prado, 16),

GUIDES Teresa de la Vega, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum; Florentino Sanchez, Royal Collections Gallery.

Images of the Royal Collections Gallery courtesy of Patrimonio Nacional.