Biblioteca Nacional & Museo Arqueológico Nacional
The National Library of Spain, together with the Archaeological Museum (Museo Arqueológico) are situated in the building known as the Palacio de Bibliotecas y Museos in Calle Serrano, close to
Plaza Colón. The neoclassical building was opened in 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas.
The National Library houses several million books in an ever-growing collection, but also an impressive archive of thousands of documents and over 20,000 newspapers. It holds one of Spain's most important collections of drawings and engravings, as well as 800,000 posters and over 2 million photographs.
The Library is currently closed during the renovation of the museum,
but its catalogues may be consulted online.
The collection is home to 134,000 maps and specialist cartographic works, as well as an enormous postcard collection. The Music section contains music-related documents, such as printed musical scores and sound and video recordings. Sculptures of famous literary figures such as Cervantes lead you into the library halls, and although all exhibits are labelled in Spanish, catalogues can be purchased in other languages.
The Museum of Archaeology in the other part of the building was founded by Royal Decree of Isabel II in 1867 to bring together archaeological collections from various institutions. It was transferred to the current building in 1895.
Important exhibits include the
Dama de Elche (Lady of Elx), a 4th-5th century BC bust of a woman which may have held relics or funereal ashes. The Dama de Baza, discovered in a necropolis in Granada Province, dates from the 4th century BC. The magnificent Tesoro de Guarrazar collection represents the religious treasures of the Visigoth Kings of the Iberian Peninsula and was discovered close to Toledo.
The Visigoths, of German origin, were Christians, and ruled the Iberican Peninsula from the end of the Roman period until the arrival of the Moors in the 8th century. The museum also contains the similar Visigoth treasure of Torredonjimeno, found in the Province of Jaén in Andalucía. These displays are complemented in other sections by Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi, as well as by Roman mosaics and Greek ceramics.
Just below the gardens of the museum, you can see reproductions of some of the oldest cave paintings in Europe, the Cuevas de Altamira (Caves of Altamira), in Cantabria in Northern Spain. The original paintings date from around 12,000BC and depict a herd of bison.
Address: Calle Serrano, 13, 28001 Madrid
Tel: 91 577 79 12
- Tuesday to Saturday, 09:30am to 8pm
- Sundays and public holidays, 09:30am to 3pm
- closed every Monday, 1st & 6th Jan, 1st May, 9th September, 24th, 25th & 31st December
Entry fee: Free during the renovation work, and also with
the Madrid Card.
Metro: Serrano (Line 4) & Retiro (Line 2)
Dama de Elche photo courtesy of Francisco J. Diez Martin