30 Apr Visiting the Prado Museum, one of the world’s largest and most important art galleries!
It was thanks to the refined tastes of the Spanish monarchs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the Prado Museum came into existence. The Prado is quite a unique institution that is celebrating its double centenary this year!
Last year, the Prado attracted nearly three million visitors, 60% of whom were visitors from abroad. Many of these visitors come to learn more about the last two centuries of the country’s politically-charged history, from the Spanish Empire to the Civil War (1936-1939), and from Franco’s dictatorship (until 1975) up until modern times.
When its first stone was laid in 1785, the Prado was initially intended to be a natural science museum. Construction was interrupted however, by the Napoleonic wars and it wasn’t until 1819 that the museum was finally opened to the public. Ferdinand VII, who was king at the time, decided to keep the royal collection of paintings and sculptures there.
With over 1,300 works exposed over an area of 45,000m², the Prado Museum with its impressive collection of Spanish, Flemish and Italian masterpieces (among others) has established itself as one of the most important art galleries in the world. As you wander through the Prado’s extensive halls, you will be able to admire seminal works by European masters, ranging from Greco’s portraits to the “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch and various works by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, to name just a few of varying styles that await you. The museum also houses the largest collection of works by Velázquez, Goya’s famous Black Paintings, a hundred works by Rubens, fifty by Ribera as well as masterpieces by Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Raphael and Poussin.
Although the largest number of works by far are paintings, the collections, which are very much a reflection of Spain’s history, also contain exceptional sculptures, decorative arts and several written works, dating from antiquity all the way up to the nineteenth century.
What are the museum’s ‘must sees’?
If you’re not an art expert or don’t have a clear idea of exactly what you would like to see, it’s very easy to be quickly overwhelmed by the large number of exhibits.
To help avoid this and make your visit an enjoyable and rewarding experience, we have prepared a summary of some of the Prado’s most representative works that should be on everyone’s list.
- The Crucifixion by Juan de Flandes (1509-1519)
- The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest by Greco (1580)
- The Spinners (aka The Fable of Arachne) by Velázquez (1660)
- Jacob’s Dream by José de Ribera (1639)
- Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-waiting) by Velázquez (1656)
- The Patrician’s Dream by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1665)
- Agnus Dei by Zurbarán (1640)
- Still Life with Game Fowl, Vegetables and Fruits by Juan Sánchez Cotán (1602)
- The Nude Maja by Goya (1800)
- The Third of May 1808 byGoya (1814)
- The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (1500)
- And finally, one of the most popular exhibits: The second Mona Lisa.
It was recently discovered that the Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa is the oldest existing copy of this famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci. It is thought to have been painted at the same time as the original by one of da Vinci’s students!
It is possible to buy a copy of the The Official Prado Guide, a book written by art historians that will help you discover in more detail, one of the most important art galleries in the world.
Where is the Prado and how do I get there?
Address: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 23. Madrid 28014
The Prado is very centrally located and is only a short walk from Atocha train station, the Plaza de Cibeles and the Retiro Park. Madrid is quite big however, and if you are far from the city centre, you can always jump on the Metro and get off at the nearest stations to the Prado: Banco de España (Line 2) or Atocha (Line 1)
By bus, the museum is served by numbers 9, 10, 14, 19, 27, 34, 37 and 45.
Telephone: +34 91 330 2800
T2 Prices and opening hours
Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm
Sunday and bank holidays from 10am to 7pm
Please note that the museum is closed on the following dates:
1st January, 1st May and 25th December
Limited opening hours:
6th January, 24th and 31st December from 10am to 2pm
Check our website for all the latest offers and pricing.
Access is free to children under 18 years of age, students under 25, the unemployed and the disabled.
A reduced-price ticket is available to large families and anyone over the age of 65.
Entry to the Museum is free from Monday to Saturday between 6pm and 8pm and on Sundays and public holidays from 5pm to 7pm.
When and how to visit the Prado Museum…
No matter how much time you have, a little planning is a good thing to make sure you don’t miss anything that’s high on your list of priorities. If you plan on taking advantage of the free opening hours then this becomes especially true as time is more limited. Keep in mind that free access is limited to two hours and the queues can get quite long, so you might end up with very little time once inside. If you would prefer to spend more time inside without wasting time in queues then a skip-the-line ticket is the best option! Give yourself about 4 hours for a comprehensive visit. This will leave you with more than enough time to enjoy the most famous exhibits. To make the most of your visit, another excellent option is a skip-the-line ticket with guided tour. In the company of your expert guide, you will be given detailed explanations of the Prado, its history and its most important works. Your guide speaks both English and Spanish.
The museum and its toilet facilities have full wheelchair access.
Wheelchairs are available to borrow on request.
Photos and videos:
It is forbidden to take photos or videos in the museum.
A cloakroom service is available free of charge to visitors.
The entrance for tourist groups and individual visitors is at the Porte de Jerónimos and Porte de Goya located off the Rue Felipe IV.