15th April 2023: Madrid for Sweet Space Museum (Spain)

My friend D****e and I met for a fast day packed with activities. We reached Madrid at 10:40 and had tickets to visit an interactive museum called Sweet Space. It markets itself as a “colourful experience which mixes sweets and modern art”. I just thought it would be a fun thing to do with a friend that would give into quirky pictures and a couple of hours of giggles. It actually fulfilled both. If you take the place seriously, it’s plainly not worth the visit – modern art in general is questionable at best, and this could be seen like a bit on the childish side – and regular tickets are 18 €. The place’s best-selling point is “get cool pics for your social media”, and we had decided to just be silly about it and enjoy ourselves.

The “museum”, located in the ABC Serrano shopping centre, gives the vibes of an oversized (maybe overpriced) playground, and just like Monasterio de Piedra, the number of people you encounter weighs a hugely in your experience. Although we had an 11:30 ticket, we were lucky enough to be admitted at 11:15 with a family that lost us on the third room, so we had quite a lot of time on our own, until the group that came afterwards caught up. We did take a lot of pictures, to be honest, and missed no opportunity to fool around – which was the mindset we had.

Since the museum’s flagship idea is mixing sweets and modern art, when you enter some of the rooms you are given a treat – a gummy or a piece of chocolate or a tiny bit of ice-cream. You cannot backtrack, so the route gets a bit weird at points – you go up to the second floor on stairs, but down using a slide… The museum has nine different rooms and a few of them are refurbished over time. Unfortunately, I forgot to track down the artists because it was stupidly fun – I mean, at one point I got to ride a carousel-style flamingo. Back in the day in the day, I would have never dared do such a thing, but I guess I’ve changed a little in the last ten years.

  • Room 1: Palm trees with marshmallow trunks (Antonyo Marest). This was a fun way to start the whole thing and set the mood. It is literally a room with tree trunks that look like colourful marshmallows, with leaves on top.
  • Room 2 (corridor): Flowers in the dark – a dark room with bright plastic flowers. It was pretty, but probably the less surprising room.
  • Room 3: Mirrors and hanging pink balloons, inspired by Tokyo’s TeamLab. It was hard to take a good picture that did not catch anyone’s reflection!
  • Room 4 (corridor): Mirrors and neon graffiti (Álvaro Linares) with Star Wars inspired references. This was one of the coolest areas (though I’m not sure how… legal that Darth Vader painting would be). One of the sides had a throne-like chair you could sit on and feel like an evil mastermind.

Collage. Sweet Space museum. Palm trees whose trunks resemble marshmellows, neon-coloured flowers and grafitti, pink balloon-like lamps hanging in a mirror-wall room

  • Room 5: Ice-cream parlour “Töto Ice Cream”, including little kart and refrigerator you can step into, giving off a strong 1950’s aura. A lot of pink, I’d say – I did not dare walk into the fridge (for some reason it gave me the creeps), but D****e did; I “drove” the little kart instead. We took silly pictures there with the installed iPad camera, just for the hell of it.
  • Room 6: Fairytale landscape (Christian Escribá and Patricia Schmidt), a-la Hansel and Gretel or Alice in Wonderland (though it was officially inspired by Wizard of Oz), with a swing and flamingo that you can ride. When I saw that one online, I really, really hoped that it was not only one of those things that only influencers get to do. I got to ride the flamingo. I don’t know why it drew me so much, maybe it was the pure surrealism of it all, but it made me giddy. The rest of the room was fun too – oversized mushrooms, teddy-bears, and colourful decoration.
  • Room 7 (upstairs): Sky with clouds (Agatha Ruiz de la Prada) painted and carved into sliding doors, a starry rocket (Ivanna Gautier), a bouncing area, a mural where you could take a 3D video for TikTok, and a “planetarium”, with tiny lamp-robots and tons of stars made from light dots. I liked this last one a lot, too. In order to leave the floor and go back to the lower floor, you have to go down a spiral slide, which I was not a fan of – it was difficult to get into it without putting weight on my bad wrist. However, I managed to go down unscathed.
  • Room 8 (Misterpiro): It held a ball pit with a “staircase to heaven” (or to nowhere). We did not go into the pit, but we climbed the stairs for pictures too.

Collage - fantasy worlds from Sweet Space museum. Overgrown mushrooms, a flamingo, a cloud, a universe made out of green neon dots with a little robot peering out, a cartoonish rocket in front of a starry background, a colourful ballpit full of white balls.

Finally, we reached the shop, where we purchased the pictures we had taken at the ice parlour (8 € for two magnets with four photographs, the downloadable version, and a gif). We were supposed to get a sweet in each room, and we ended up with three or four gummies, a chocolate, and a tiny scoop of ice cream. My favourite was the skull-shaped sweet&sour gummy we got upstairs, but they did not have it at the shop (though it is advertised online). The whole experience was a bit on the expensive side, but I had a discount that helped knock 10 € off the official price. The recommended time I had seen recommended for the museum was an hour and a half, but even if we took a long time, we were done in about an hour.

I had reserved lunch at 14:30 based on the time I expected us to be in the museum (and the availability of the restaurant), so we had some time to kill. We walked by the open-air museum of modern sculpture Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre de La Castellana, but it did not catch our fancy. Too much modern art in one day?

The place we would invest most of that extra time was the museum of Natural History Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales to see some dinosaurs and the gabinete de curiosidades, the 18th and 19th century collection of taxidermy specimens. I’d been there before, and it mostly has replicas (and holy molly, prices have gone up). This time there was an exhibit on the Moon landing, and the gardens had been open. The taxidermy collection is not as good as other museums, but at least it got us out of the heat.

Collage. Dinosaur fossil casts and reconstructions, both carnivores and long-neck herbivores. A flying reptile with some mammooth fossils in the background. Rocks. The old collection dating from the 19th century - a number of glass cases with people looking at them and a painting of king Carlos III overlooking the place.

We left the museum and headed for lunch at one of the franchised establishments of New York Burger, which markets itself as a “gourmet burger” place. It was all right, and the servings were huge. After lunch, we hung around the area known as Nuevos Ministerios, a complex originally designed by Secundino Zuazo Ugalde around 1930. We hung out under the eastern archway for a while.

The archway in Nuevos Ministerios, built in reddish brick and white plaster

Afterwards, we took the train to Alcalá de Henares. We stopped at one of the shopping centres just outside town, Quadernillos, where the comic event Krunch! 2023 was taking place. We did not stay for long as most stands sold bootleg and plagiarised stuff, and I did not find any legit shop, but we had ice cream and D****e did take the chance to do some shopping in the mall before we headed home for the evening.