Mineralogical museums of Spain

Mineralogical museums in the capital of Spain, Madrid.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a real paradise for mineralogical museum enthusiasts. There are not many capitals in Europe where you can visit three outstanding mineralogical museums, but in Madrid you can!

Each one has high quality minerals and the three deserve a visit for sure. But they are quite different, so I am going to start writing about each one.

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales

 Juan at the museum entrance back in 2005!
Juan at the museum entrance, back in 2005! I was just about to start my Geology degree at the University of Madrid….yes, time flies!

This is my least favourite out of the three, but still deserves time for a visit.  The museum exhibits some quality minerals from old Spanish localities, but also many specimens of average or low quality, giving a not great overall impresion for a specialist in fine mineral specimens. On the other side, it can be very educative if you travel with children.

Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid
Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid

The mineral exhibits are not very well cared: you can see some cabinets with dust, poor labelling, etc.

Poor example of fluorite with almost no existing labelling. Note the cleanliness and conditions of the exhibit.

Nonetheless, you can appreciate some excepcional minerals like a really large pyromorphite from El Horcajo, probably the largest I have ever seen. Or even a larger sulphur from Conil, both from true classic Spanish mineral localities!

Gorgeous very large pyromorphite from El Horcajo, Ciudad Real.
Very large pyromorphite from El Horcajo, Ciudad Real.
Very large sulphur from the extinct locality of Conil, Cadiz
Very large sulphur from the extinct locality of Conil, Cadiz

You will find information about minerals and their uses, clearly aimed for a student level visitant. This is probably the most appealing mineral museum for children. But don’t get me wrong, fine mineral lovers will find some great mineral specimens as well.

Hematites, Elba island
Hematites, Elba island, Italy
Galena pseudomorph of pyromorphite, France.

In my opinion, if you are short of time, this museum is the one you can skip. You can not miss the others because they are just great classic mineralogical museums. Continue reading!

Museo Geominero del Instituto Geológico y Minero de España

It is also known by “Museo del IGME”. “IGME” stands for Instituto Geologico y Minero de España, which could be translated as Geological and Mining Institute of Spain.

IGME museum, Madrid, Spain
Entrance of the museum. The address is 23 Rios Rosas, Madrid

The building itself justifies a visit. It was built between 1921 and 1940. The greatness of every hall takes you back to past times, when the Spanish mining industry was of great importance for the industrial development in Europe.

IGME museum
Interior of the IGME museum
IGME museum fossils
Entrance to the main hall
IGME main hall
Main hall of the museum
Celing main hall IGME museum
Ceiling of the main hall

The museum shows one of the best sistematic mineral collections of the country with some provinces extremely well represented, for example, Madrid. The collection exhibited at the time of my visit did not stand out due to a large number of fine and aesthetic mineral specimens, although there were some, but because of the wide amount of minerals and localities represented.

Let’s say that the collection had very valuable specimens from rare Spanish localities but few of them ranked high in aesthetics if you compared them with worldwide localities. See below some nice specimens.

Gorgeous example of Freieslebenite from Hiendelaencina, Guadalajara, Spain.
Octahedral pyrite
Very nice and large octahedral pyrite from Lillo, Leon
Bournonite cogwhell
Interesting bournonite from Chillon, Ciudad Real

Other Spanish localities famous worldwide for their quality could be much better represented.

Fluorite IGME museum
Low quality example of Spanish fluorite from Asturias

A visit to this museum is highly recommended. If you have enough time you will see hundreds of interesting specimens from Spain and overseas. If we add the quiet and classic atmosphere that surrounds the cabinets you will enjoy your visit for sure! Also, if you are lucky enough, you will see interesting temporary exhibitions which, from time to time, the curators of the museum assemble.

Another good point of this museum is its proximity to the next one…keep reading!

Museo Histórico-Minero Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia

This is a very classic, cosy and tidy museum. Indeed, it is probably my favourite one out of the three of them. It is located in the XIX century building of the School of Mining Engineers of Madrid. Awesome building again!

Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia museum
Building facade. The address is 21 Rios Rosas Street.

One thing to keep in mind before a visit to this museum is that it is not open everyday. I think it opens always by appointment and also the first Sunday of each month (not sure about August), but it is best to give them a call well in advance.

The mineral and antique book collections inside the building are of great quality and importance for the country. Regarding the mineral collection, it tends to be better if we focus on classic, long ago closed Spanish localities, like Almaden, El Horcajo, Hiendelaencina, etc.

Pyromorphite El Horcajo
Large cabinet pyromorphite specimen from El Horcajo, Ciudad Real.

The mineral collection is also of great importance when we realize the quantity and quality of mineral specimens from less well known Spanish localities. See a few examples below.

Pyromorphite Spain
Nice grass green pyromorphite from the rare locality of Campillo de Salvatierra, Salamanca.
Native copper Spain
Aesthetic native copper from Herreria, Huelva, Spain.

The mineral specimens are well exhibited. They are inside beautiful old wood cabinets  and lighting is good enough to enjoy the specimens. I remember two type of cabinets, some adjacent to the walls of the building and some free standing ones, all exquisitely made.  Hopefully, this will not change in the future as it is great to visit a museum that keeps the essence from past times. Of course, lighting could be better if new cabinets are set up but that would destroy the magic feeling it has now. Definitely you get the impression that the treasures of this museum are well cared!

Mineral cabinet Museo escuela de minas madrid
One of the wall cabinets showing some fluorite specimens from Asturias, Spain.

As I said for the IGME museum, this one doesn’t offer either the visitor a huge number of worldclass specimens.  Don’t forget that this museum was created, long time ago, with the main purpose of teaching. Is not an extremely showy museum to impress random people or to show just the most aesthetic and impressive specimens. It is more orientated to knowledgeable people who can appreciate rare mineral specimens, obscure localities from Spain and so on.

mineral cabinet madrid
Note the emblem of the School of Mines of Madrid

To finish this quick visit to this excellent museum lets show one of my favourite specimens. This is an exceedingly rare large cabinet  sphalerite specimen from the Picos de Europa Mountains, Spain. The label says “Aliva”, which is an area in the central part of Picos de Europa famous for having produced the world best gem sphalerites. This specimen shows very defined crystal faces and poor translucency, which makes me think that it is probably from a rare old mine of Picos de Europa and not from the famous Las Manforas Mine in the Aliva area.

Sphalerite Spain
Exceedingly rare large cabinet  sphalerite specimen from the Picos de Europa mountains, Spain.

To finish of the post, another great specimen. I hope you like it and stay tuned because more will come about mineralogical museums!

Superb freislebenite from San Carlos Mine, Hiendelaencina, Guadalajara, Spain


Juan Fernandez Buelga