Guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery in Madrid

As I tell in my guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery, this is a recent museum but at the same time full of history, where the content is as interesting as the container. If you want to organise a tour with an official guide and discover this spectacular new exhibition centre, take a look at this page for more details.

What is the Royal Collections Gallery and where is it located?

The Royal Collections Gallery is a new museum, located in a privileged area of the city: between the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral, exactly on the foundational site of Madrid: the ancient fortress that the Arabs built here in the 9th century, as the remains of the wall preserved inside remind us.

The Royal Collections Gallery and the Cathedral of Madrid | Photo: Héctor Gómez Herrero

The building is another attraction on the guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery. It is a new building, designed by the architects Tuñón and Mansilla, with more than 40,000 m2 and 7 floors high. Their project brings a touch of modernity and symmetry to the so-called ‘historic cornice’ of Madrid, for which they have received numerous important international architecture awards, such as the 1st Prize COAM 2016 from the Official College of Architects of Madrid. In addition, both professionals have received awards of the highest category, such as the Spanish National Architecture Prize in 2003 and the Mies Van Der Rohe in 2007.

Museum or Gallery? The importance of the name

The Royal Collections Gallery is a museum belonging to Patrimonio Nacional, the state body that manages the former assets of the Crown. Therefore, what is exhibited here are art objects that for centuries belonged to the kings of Spain and which are still linked in some way to the country’s Royal Sites: the Escorial Monastery, the Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso in Segovia, the Monastery of Yuste… and a long etcetera.

After several decades of construction and the choice of the museographic idea, shortly before the inauguration it was decided to change the name of this space: the Royal Collections Gallery was chosen instead of the Royal Collections Museum. The reason for this was the fear expressed by the various Royal Sites that they would be ’emptied’ of works of art in favour of this new exhibition centre. Therefore, an intermediate formula was arrived at: in this Gallery, the works will be exhibited for a limited period, after which they will be returned to their place of origin. 

In this way, this museum will not only not harm the Royal Sites, but will also help to promote them, as the objects on display here will serve as a lure or hook to make themselves known to visitors. This is why, after an exhaustive study, the name Galería de las Colecciones Reales (Royal Collections Gallery) was chosen, as this term has a connotation more closely linked to the temporality of the works.

What can you see on a guided tour of the Royal Collections Gallery?

As with any museum of this size, the visitor cannot stop at all the works on the tour, but only at a selection of them: the number of pieces on display is around 650, at least in the inaugural exhibition (June 2023), including paintings, sculptures and many other artistic objects, from carriages, furniture, jewellery and a long etcetera.

They have opted for an exhibition discourse that is as simple as possible, dividing the rooms and floors according to the historical periods and dynasties that have reigned in Spain in past centuries: 

  • Floor -1. The origins of Madrid: remains of the 9th century city wall.
  • Floor -1. From the Trastamaras to the Habsburgs: from the 14th to the 17th century.
  • Floor -2. The Bourbons: from the 18th century to the present day
  • Floor -3. Temporary exhibitions 

Spread throughout these floors, especially in the rooms dedicated to the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, there are 10 key pieces, which often form part of the guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery in Madrid:

  • Polyptych of Isabella the Catholic, by Juan de Flandes
  • White Horse, by Diego Velázquez
  • Feather mitre, a 16th-century Aztec manufacture
  • Salome with the Head of the Baptist, by Caravaggio
  • Chest of Drawers of Charles III, by Mattia Gasparini and other artists
  • The Archangel Gabriel vanquishing the Devil, by Luisa Roldán
  • First edition of The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha (1605)
  • Mühlberg armour and celadon, belonging to Charles V
  • Horse-drawn carriage, from the late Hapsburg period
  • The Swing, tapestry from the Royal Tapestry Factory after cardboard by Goya

Practical information for a guided tour

As for the free visit or guided tour of the Royal Collections Gallery, the conditions are very similar to those of the nearby Royal Palace, also managed by Patrimonio Nacional. They can be summarised as follows:

  • Private visits (less than 9 people): the cost of individual admission is €14 in general, €7 for visitors with reduced admission (students, children aged between 5 and 16, over 65s, etc.) and free for teachers, journalists, the unemployed and children under 5, as well as all European Union citizens at certain times of the week.
  • Group visits (open or private): groups of between 9 and 30 people, which is the maximum limit per group, will be considered as a group. In this case:
    • The group must have an official guide
    • The group must use a guide system (radio guides with microphone and headphones).
    • Reservations must be made in advance, in a specific time slot. 
    • Tickets cost €12 for general admission, €7 for reduced admission and free for the groups listed above.

In any case, conditions and prices are subject to change, so it is advisable to consult the museum or the guide who will be conducting the guided tour at the Royal Collections Gallery beforehand.

How my guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery are

Every official guide is different. And so is every group. Therefore, I try to adapt to each case. But in general, my guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery can be like this:

  • Visit to the Gallery: duration of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, including the time needed for preparations (putting backpacks in the luggage room, going to the toilet, trying out the radio guides, etc.). The tour will take us to see the aforementioned key works (depending on availability) and other works of artistic or historical interest. 
  • Visit to the Gallery + Royal Palace (half day of 3.5 hours): this is a great option to learn about the past and present of the Spanish Monarchy, through its works of art, its symbols of power and its former residence.
  • Visit to the Gallery as part of a wider tour that I call the Royal and Original Madrid (full day of 7.5 hours, including lunch break). In addition to a guided visit to the Royal Collections Gallery and/or the Royal Palace, the other half of the day can be spent visiting other nearby and emblematic places in the area, such as the Almudena Cathedral and the Plaza de Oriente, among others. 

But these are just a few suggestions. You can contact me with any other suggestions or doubts, or to book one of these guided tours of the Royal Collections Gallery in Madrid, either group or private (less than 9 participants).