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Take a trip into the past as you explore the collections of this vast museum. Find prehistoric cave paintings, Roman mosaics and Greek vases under one roof.

Make sure you set aside several hours for your visit to the National Archaeological Museum (Museo Arqueológico Nacional) of Spain. There’s an enormous amount to explore here. The exhibits contained within this gorgeous neoclassical museum span thousands of years and are drawn from multiple countries.

The museum was founded in 1867, its creation ordered by Queen Isabella II. However, it didn’t move to its current beautiful premises until 1895. Take time to look at the outside of this building and study the incredible level of detail in its many statues and carvings. It is hard to resist being drawn to its grand entryway, topped by a balcony with magnificent columns. The interior space is equally impressive in scale and splendor, although more modern elements have been integrated into the design.

View the immense array of religious art on display here. Statues and other prominent features of monasteries, churches and religious buildings have been transplanted in perfect condition to the museum. Look for the ornate 14th-century choir stall taken from the palace of Palencia. Many smaller items of great spiritual significance are also displayed alongside these big, impressive pieces.

The collections within the museum are very diverse. After viewing sacred exhibits, move onto something entirely different, such as a display of ancient fossils or a collection of Visigothic votive crowns. Be sure to see the marvelous Dama de Elche, a wonderfully well-preserved bust of an Iberian woman that is believed to be more than 2,000 years old.

Another high point of the museum is the replica of the famous Altamira cave paintings discovered in 1868. The prehistoric originals must be carefully looked after, so the caves which house them are closed to the public. See this precise reproduction instead, which captures their exquisite beauty and archaeological significance.

The National Archeological Museum of Spain dominates Serrano Street, near Colón or Serrano subway stations. Enter for free, but check opening times beforehand, as public holidays can affect them. Once inside this fascinating tribute to the past, it can be hard to return to the present.

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