A Local’s Guide to Madrid is part of a series collaboration with Spotted by Locals Madrid.

Madrid needs few introductions; great nightlife, tapas bars (and more outlets for fantastic food), huge parks, timeless regal architecture and must-visit galleries and museums. You probably know all that, of course, but when it comes to the cultural side of things, a quick visit to the big guns and a less-than-careful look through what the visit has to offer might rob you of an opportunity to experience the Spanish capital’s characteristic quirkier side — its underground offbeat personality that less perceptive visitors will probably miss. Let locals Andrea and Jillian guide you through the beginning of this exciting exploration.

A Local’s Guide to Madrid

Meninas Madrid Gallery

You probably know Las Meninas by ‘the painters’ painter’ Velazquez. This masterpiece from back in 1656, whose true meaning remains mostly unclear, is probably the prime reason to visit the Prado. As an extra tribute to this seminal piece, you can discover 80 fiberglass Meninas placed around the city, each decorated by one famous artist, designer, singer, actor or creative celebrity, to represent what Madrid means for them. The city-wide art installation of the Meninas Madrid Gallery, created by Venezuelan artist Antonio Azzato will be there until July, so be sure to ‘catch ‘em all’ while they’re still out in the wild.

Museo Geominero

Here’s a museum with a concept that’s straightforward to put across: in the Museo Geominero you’ll find pretty much everything that’s ever been dug out of the ground in Spain, from precious stones and minerals to human skulls, fossils and dinosaur bones. It’s not just the vast collection and the beautiful building with its four floors, corkscrew staircases and stained-glass ceilings; even most madrileños have never heard of it, so you can go there and enjoy it crowd-free. The cherry on top? It’s free to enter!

Desperate Literature

Desperate Literature is a cute, romantic, international bookstore hidden on a quiet street not far from Opera. What’s special about it, you might ask. Well, as far as we know, few bookstores have small reviews written by the staff for their recommendations, and even fewer, if any, have a “booze section”, where each purchase is rewarded with a shot of whiskey. Be sure to check out their events — J.K. Rowling fans (we know you’re out there), listen up — one of the most popular is their Harry Potter trivia nights, which last time awarded the winner with a bottle of home-made fire whiskey.

Sala Canal Isabel II

The Sala Canal Isabel II water tower in the Rios Rosas neighbourhood was turned into an art gallery in 1986. Its beautiful space, laid out on four levels, has hosted photography and contemporary audiovisual exhibitions ever since, its dome having even been converted into a small auditorium where films are projected. Need more reasons to check it out? It’s cool inside during the summer and, just like the Museo Geominero, free to visit.

Museo Cerralbo

Museo Cerralbo might be less than a 5-minute walk from central Plaza de España, but it feels like a hidden gem. It used to be the house of the Marquis de Cerralbo, Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa. The marquis passed away in 1922 and left behind collection of rococo items such as clocks, sabers, knives and drawings, a huge bathtub, giant mirrors, even an Oriental room with opium pipes. The whole place is completely fascinating and over the top, and if you’re lucky you might get to learn some juicy, utterly scandalous details about the life of the marquis himself – just ask the attendants!

A Local’s Guide to Madrid photos courtesy of David Melchor DiazAndrea RobertsJillian Meyer, and Introducing Madrid

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