The best museums in Spain for art lovers

A guide to the best art collections in Spanish museums for art lovers to enjoy, when you make your next visit to mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands.

By Andy Stevens

Published 9 May 2024

Guggenheim Bilbao, museum modern art, Spain

On the Costa del Sol the stunningly-restored 16th century Palacio de Buenavista, in Malaga's historic central district, provides a suitable home for a museum dedicated to the life and works of the Andalusian city's most feted and famous son, the great Pablo Picasso.

One of the artist's wishes was that his work should find a permanent place for exhibition in his home city. And his museum is fittingly just a couple of minutes' walk from where the artist was born (look for the 'Museo Casa Natal') on Plaza de la Merced, which is also a popular place on the visitor trail for Picasso lovers to explore.

The museum's art collection itself is impressive thanks to the generosity of Picasso's family, and it now houses more than 200 of the prolific artist's works, plus temporary exhibitions.

It's as he envisaged it, and as he would have wanted it: Salvador Dali's museum in his small - and otherwise understated - hometown of Figueres on the Catalan coast is a suitably outlandish epitaph to the incomparable surrealist artist himself.

The Dali museum building is itself a monument to surrealism, and is housed on the site of the town's former municipal theatre, which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.

Inside, you will bear witness to the sensory overload of his greatest works, in a museum which houses the most extensive collection of Dali's art in the world under one roof.

The museum also includes a smattering of famous works by other artists from Dali's personal collection, notably El Greco and Marcel Duchamp.

Never knowingly upstaged, Dali is himself buried in a crypt in the centre of the museum.

The instant wow factor with Bilbao's Guggenheim, of course, lies in the design of the magnificent waterfront building.

A source of huge pride in this Basque Country city, the Guggenheim museum's art collection is housed in one of the world's most inspiring and universally-praised modernist structures, created by the great architect Frank Gehry.

As befits such a building, Bilbao's Guggenheim collection focuses on modern and contemporary art, from the post-war period to the present day.

Large art installations use and complement the scale of the museum, and many have been commissioned expressly by the Guggenheim foundation with the building's vast space in mind.

Many of Bilbao's Guggenheim acquisitions make more than a nod to modern Spain and its regional cultural heritage, with some of the best contemporary Spanish and Basque artworks on display in this powerhouse of modern art museums.

This fine old museum in the southern port of Cadiz is, like the city itself, packed with fascinating surprises.

Cadiz museum dates back to 1835 and its artistic acquisitions more than reflect this longevity.

It houses large and varied collections of fine art, spanning from the 16th to the 20th century, including superb Baroque and historical pieces, plus an archaeology collection with unearthed local artefacts which can be traced back to Phoenician and Roman influences in the region.

Visitors can also enjoy a quirky puppet collection, which documents the history of this vintage form of entertainment.

Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation, Palma, Mallorca Less a museum and more a living insight into the creative processes and mindset of one of the 20th century's most influential artists, the foundation is a set of studios, workshops and gardens where the Barcelona-born surrealist painter and sculptor Joan Miro worked.

Miro has another museum dedicated to his works in the Montjuic area of Barcelona, but the space in Palma devoted to his paintings, sketches, graphics and sculpture holds much interest, in a building designed with an organic style by the notable Spanish architect, Rafael Moneo.

The artist's trademark love of primary colours and dazzling light, inspired by the Mallorcan climate, is reflected in a collection displaying more than 100 of Miro's paintings, a huge selection of studio pieces and 25 sculptures, some of which can be enjoyed as a stately presence in the foundation's serene gardens.

See our Spain hotel holidays and tours for a taste of Spanish culture.

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