This art connoisseur’s whirlwind tour ranges from High Gothic to Spanish Surrealism. Book 4 nights’ hotel in Madrid, because you’ll visit two great art towns as day trips.

Day 1: Madrid’s Museo del Prado & More

Hold your horses. Since the Prado is open long hours, start at the museum of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which is only open until mid-afternoon. The great artist Francisco Goya became the academy’s director in 1795 and arranged the permanent collection himself, showcasing Spanish, Italian, and Flemish masters. After that, move on to Museo del Prado, one of the world’s greatest museums. Besides Las Meninas, almost every court painting by Velázquez is here, alongside Goya’s troubling journey from pastoral frolics to the demons of the Black Paintings.

Day 2: Madrid’s Reina Sofía & Thyssen-Bornemisza

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía picks up chronologically where the Prado leaves off—the early 20th century, with works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and Juan Gris set in the context of the turbulent times that inspired them. Picasso’s Guernica is unmissable and haunting. Take a long lunch to clear your head before moving on to Madrid’s third great art museum, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Linger in the Gothic galleries assembled by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza or focus on his wife Carmen Cervera’s Picassos and American Abstract Expressionists.

Day 3: El Greco’s Toledo

A half-hour train ride whisks you to Toledo for a day trip to see the city that inspired El Greco. Start with the Museo del Greco house museum to set the painter in his 16th-century context, then discover some of his greatest paintings at the Iglesia de Santo Tomé, the Catedral, and the Museo de Santa Cruz, where you can get close enough to see every impasto brushstroke. Jump aboard the motorized tourist train for the same view as in El Greco’s famous View of Toledo

Day 4: Ancient Cuenca’s Modern Art

Another high-speed train will take you from Madrid to Cuenca in less than an hour—giving you a long day to explore this rocky citadel that inspired a modern art movement. Begin with the Museo del Arte Abstracto Español in one of Cuenca’s famous casa colgadas, the “hanging houses” cantilevered over the river gorge. The Fundación Antonio Pérez gives context to Spanish modern art, along with witty “found objects” from Pérez himself. The Fundación Antonio Saura holds temporary exhibitions of contemporary Spanish artists.

Day 5: Gaudí & Picasso in Barcelona

Catch an early train from Madrid to Barcelona so you have enough time to tour Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces—the basilica La Sagrada Familia and his apartment house La Pedrera (Casa Milà)—before visiting the Museu Picasso, with its insightful displays of the 20th-century master’s works.

Day 6: Gothic to Miró in Barcelona

Head up to the hilltop of Montjuïc to visit two more wonderful Barcelona museums. Catalan artists were among Europe’s finest in the 11th and 12th centuries, and their works from country churches across Catalunya are now displayed at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Nearby, the Fundació Joan Miró concentrates hundreds of paintings and sculptures by that singular Catalan abstract master. (Alternatively, fans of the surreal may want to zip north to Figueres, an hour by train from Barcelona, to delight in the loaf-encrusted Teatre-Museu Dalí.)

Day 7: The Guggenheim in Bilbao


Take a full day to enjoy the artistic attractions of Bilbao. Start by having a look at Philippe Starck’s design for the Azkuna Zentroa cultural complex and admire centuries of mostly Basque art at the Museo de Bellas Artes. Lunch on the riverside plaza, then give yourself the rest of the day to enjoy Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum inside and out. It’s open until 8pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.