Every year thousands of tourists come to Madrid to visit its world-renowned art galleries. There are few cities that can match the combined punch packed by Madrid’s big three – the Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen. But outside of this triangle of museums, all located along the Paseo del Prado and within a fifteen-minute walk of one another, Madrid boasts a number of smaller, less well known galleries. One such hidden gem is the Sorolla Museum.
Though born in Valencia in 1863, Sorolla spent most of his life in Madrid and it is his home – the palace where he painted, sculpted and literally pottered about (the museum has a large display of his ceramics) – that became the Sorolla Musuem a number of years after his death. Even if you never even heard of Sorolla or have no interest in art, the Sorolla Museum is worth a visit. Set in a magical garden with ornate fountains, pergolas and rambling roses, the palace has the air of an oasis of old-world serenity in a modern, hectic city. The house itself is built and furnished in the typical Andalusian style of the nineteenth century and oozes romance, sensuality and joie de vivre.
And then there’s the paintings . . . No one captured the searing Iberian sunshine as truly as Sorolla. You can nearly feel the sea breeze on your face as you stand before his beach paintings while his portraits of his children, whose eyes dance with mischief and joy, seem to come alive as you study them. As the thought hits you that you’re treading the very staircase and the very tiles those children toddled and danced on, you realise you’re in a very special and magical museum; it’s almost like you’re a privileged guest of the Sorolla household.
One of the wonderful things about the museum is that it can be “done” in a couple of hours at most. This and the fact that it has so many nooks and crannys means the kids wont get bored. While not as central as the Big Three, it is located just off the Castellana and within a ten minutes’ walk of the Gregorio Marañon, Iglesia and Ruben Dairio Metro stops. It’s open from 09:30 to 20:00, Tuesday to Saturdays and from 10:00 to 15:00, Sundays and holidays. Entry costs just €3 (but on Saturdays from 14:00 onwards is free!). Check out the museum’s website before going as they often have workshops (especially for kids) on weekends. The only complaint I’d have about the museum is that the security is a bit heavy: I was asked several times not to stand too close to the paintings!