The Museo Geominero - rocks, fossils and minerals - is one of Spain's least well known museums, but it happens to be one of it's most spectacular ones. It is definitely worth a visit, especially if you feel let down, like me, by the much better known Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, which is only 700 metres away. And it's free.
Set in the new city of Madrid, it is easily accessible by bus and metro and, depending on your level of interest in the natural beauty of the subject matter, you could spend well over an hour here.
I have to say that it is the best of its kind that I have visited, including the Natural History Museum in London, with thousands of well presented specimens laid out in traditional display cabinets. It is a throroughly traditional museum whose contents speak for themselves and there are no "interactive" experiences to be enjoyed here; this didn't stop a young school group, who were also there, from having a very enjoyable time.
If rocks, fossils and minerals aren't quite your thing, the museum is worth a visit for its architectural value alone. Set in the centre of the Spanish Institute for Geology and Mining (IGEM), the exhibition space comprises a large rectangular main floor, above which rise three levels of balconied galleries, and which is topped by a spectacular, semi domed stained glass false ceiling, with a variety of ornamental crests. All of the materials are of the finest quality - wooden parquet flooring, ornamental plaster work and cast and wrought iron safety rails on the balconies - and typical of the time (1921-1925).
I took a couple of hundred photos and could have stayed for hours. As both a geologist and an architectural photographer, I am undoubtedly biased, but the Spanish are passionate about their geological and mining heritage and, at Museo Geominero, this clearly shows. Go and take a look for yourselves - I'll certainly be going back there again.
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