The Prado Museum in Madrid is one of the world’s greatest art museums with a permanent collection consisting of more than 5000 drawings, 2000 prints and almost 2000 works of art. Whilst it is mainly acclaimed for its collection of paintings there is also a formidable presence of other art including over 700 sculptures and more than 1000 coins and medals. No matter what your interest in art you will not be disappointed when you visit the Prado.
The Museo del Prado has a well-deserved reputation for being a cornerstone in the history of world art. When it opened its gates in 1819 it was one of the world’s first public art galleries. Originally the Prado was meant to be a Natural History museum but as the size and variety of its collection grew it soon became recognised on the world art stage.
Prado Museum Building
Even the building itself has a charm that will enchant any history buff. For a while the structure was used as a headquarters for the cavalry when the Napoleonic troops were based in Madrid during the War of Independence. That wasn’t the end of the excitement for this historical building or its precious storehouse of art. During the Spanish Civil War the museum’s collection was transferred several times. Many paintings and other priceless artefacts were moved to Valencia then to Girona and finally to Geneva in Switzerland. The collection was returned to Madrid and the Prado Museum during the Second World War where it has been ever since.
The Prado Madrid is divided into two buildings: the Villanueva building which is the older of the two; and the Casón del Buen Retiro. In both buildings there is a great deal to see so it’s a good idea to plan what you’d like to see in advance.
Plan your Visit to the Prado Museum in Advance …
The Villaneuva building, named after the architect Juan de Villaneuva, features part of the Prado museum’s extensive Italian collection on the ground floor. Be sure to enjoy the quiet and airy peace of this hall as you look at works like Fra Angelico’s “The Annuciation” and Raphael’s “Holy Family with Lamb.” The ground floor of the Villaneuva building also houses the Prado museum’s sculptures. Of special note are are the Greek bronze-work and the Roman carvings.
The paintings of the Prado Museum’s collection are divided into collections based on country of origin and era. While other collections are excellent in terms of variety and fame, the Prado really shines with its collection of the Spanish schools of painting dating from 1100 to 1850. Artists represented in this collection include El Greco, Luis De Morales, Murillo and many others.
Some notable works that you can see at the Prado Museum include Albrecht Durer’s “Self-Portrait” and Peter Paul Ruben’s “The Three Graces” which represent the German and Flemish schools respectively. Titian’s “Venus with an Organist and a Dog” are important examples of early Renaissance art.
- If you’re planning on visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia galleries as well as the Prado then buy a combined ticket for the three. You can get these at the entrance to each gallery.
- There are floor plans of the vast Museo Prado available at the entrance. It’s well worth planning your route through the museum before you enter.
- There are two entrances: If you’d like to see the exhibits in chronological order take the Puerta de Goya entrance on c/Felipe IV. The other entrance is at Puerta de Murillo on Plaza de Murillo.
- There is a restaurant and café in the Prado museum so if you’re making a day of it there’s no need to leave the building.
Diego Velázquez Collection
One of the places in the Prado Museum that you should not skip is the collection of work by famed artist Velázquez. Diego Velázquez, the king of Spain’s court painter, has an entire room devoted to some of his most important pieces. Directly off of the main gallery, you can find some of his most impressive works, like “The Drinkers,” “Jester Portraits,” and “The Surrender of Breda.” His single most important work is “Las Meninas” which is a painting of Velazquez himself whilst he is painting the Infanta Margarita and her two ladies-in-waiting.
Francisco Goya Collection
Francisco Goya also has a strong presence in the the Prado’s galleries and you can find his work off of the main gallery in room 32. This eighteenth century artist had three distinct periods of art, those being his court painter period, his political period and his dark period, and all three are amply represented in this gallery. Be sure to find his celebrated “Maja Desnuda” and “Maja Vestida” (clothed and naked belles) as well as his masterpieces, “Dos de Mayo” and “Tres de Mayo” which depict reprisals against Napoleonic troops in Madrid in 1808.
One thing to remember while touring is that the Prado is constantly under renovation and the pieces you’re looking for might not always be where you expect them to be. Don’t be afraid to flag down the museum staff and ask for directions!
From Monday to Saturday: 10am – 8pm
Sundays and holidays: 10am – 7pm
Museum Closed: January 1, May 1, and December 25.
Reduced opening hours (10am – 2pm): January 6, December 24 and 31.
The galleries are cleared 10 minutes before closing
Official Website: Prado Museum
Telephone: +34 902107077
General price: 12€
General admission + official guide: 22€ – Reduced price: 6€
The ticket allows the holder to visit the museum collection and temporary exhibitions on the same day.
Prado Museum Private Tours
A private tour of the Prado is the ideal way to gain an insight into the fascinating evolution of art over several centuries. Some of the Prado’s most celebrated exhibits are works by Goya, Velazquez and El Greco but you’ll also find the great works of Rubens and Titian.
Seeing all the major works of the Prado in one visit is impossible so it may be worthwhile considering which area of its art is of most interest to you. You could concentrate on a tour of the works of Goya and Velazquez or extend this to include the works of other great Spanish painters such as Ribera and Murillo.
Alternatively you may prefer to take a tour of art’s evolution through the Flemish Paintings of the 15th century, the work of the 16th century School of Venice, the Spanish Baroque period of the 17th century and the Goya era of the 18th century. Here you’ll discover the major works of Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Caravaggio as well as the Spanish greats.
The private art tours listed below are guided by an official Madrid tour guide. As well as visiting the Prado you can choose between a visit to the Royal Palace or the Reina Sofia (home of Picasso’s Guernica):
- Private Tour of the Prado Museum and Royal Palace
(Tour Ref: 1067).
- Private Walking Tour of the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums
(Tour Ref: 1206).