April 17, 2009

Madrid for art and design lovers

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Madrid is one of Europe’s most interesting cities for art and architecture lovers, with renowned art museums, notable contemporary architecture and beautiful historic sites.

The first stop for many international travelers arriving in Spain is Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas International Airport. A stunning complex of glass walls and undulating rooftops designed by British architect Richard Rogers, it’s one of the most beautiful airport terminals in the world.

From there, our travelers are whisked by private car to The Ritz. Madrid’s best luxury hotel and the ideal spot for art and architecture lovers, the Ritz is just off the Paseo del Prado and in the middle of the so-called “Golden Triangle of Art.”

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Within walking distance of the hotel are the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art, Reina Sofia Museum and CaixaForum, each of which is notable for both its art collection and architecture.

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The Prado is one of our favorite museums in the world and reason enough for art enthusiasts to visit Madrid. The outstanding collection, the core of which was amassed by the Spanish royalty, features masterpieces by Spanish artists such as Goya, Velazquez and Zurbaran, as well as by other European artists such as Bosch, Durer, Titian and van der Weyden. A 2007 extension by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo created additional exhibition space and expanded the Prado’s services to include an inviting new cafe and shop.

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The Reina Sofia Museum is a must for travelers interested in modern and contemporary art, especially by Spanish artists. A highlight of the vast collection is Picasso’s Guernica, a landmark painting of the 20th century that refers to an important moment in Spanish history. A bold 2005 extension by French architect Jean Nouvel provides an interesting contrast to the museum’s main building, a converted 18th-century hospital with a courtyard garden.

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The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is a perfect complement to the Prado and the Reina Sofia, with a collection spanning more than 700 years from the Gothic to 20th-century Modernism. Architect Rafael Moneo designed this museum, which is inside a 19th-century palace, before working on the Prado.

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The newest addition to Madrid’s cultural hub is CaixaForum, a privately run cultural center that hosts a broad range of exhibitions and cultural events. It’s housed inside a striking building by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron–a historic brick power station topped with a contemporary steel addition that seems to float above a plaza. A vertical garden by Patrick Blanc on the wall of an adjacent building provides a beguiling green contrast. The restaurant and bar inside CaixaForum are also a stylish place to take a break.

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For interested travelers, we arrange in-depth private art tours of Madrid with art experts who reveal the most interesting and significant artworks, explain the context of the artworks and collections, and help travelers learn how different works illuminate Spanish and world history.

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Our private guides also take travelers to other interesting historic sites around Madrid, such as the Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor, as well as other recent additions to the urban landscape such as Hotel Puerta America (each of the hotel’s 12 floors was designed by a different well-known architect or designer) and the Cuatro Torres Business Area (featuring new skyscrapers designed by Norman Foster, Cesar Pelli, Henry Cobb, and Carlos Rubio Carvajal and Enrique Alvarez-Sala Walter).

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Madrid is also the perfect base for private day trips to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial and other highly recommended nearby destinations that are home to some of Spain’s most spectacular historic art and architecture.

Destinations:  Europe, Spain

Tags:  architecture tours, art, art experts, art tours, Artisans of Leisure, contemporary architecture, design, guides, historic, international art tours, luxury Spain tours, luxury tours, luxury travel, museums, palaces, private, private Madrid tours, private Spain tours, Spain experts, Spanish, tour operator