Madrid‘s Prado Museum is not only one of the city’s main tourist attractions, it’s one of the highlights of any trip to Spain. This amazing art museum houses some of the most famous paintings in the world, and one of the best collections of European art anywhere. And even if you’re not generally an art person, the Prado has thoughtfully put together quick tours so you can get in and see the most important bits without spending all day looking at art. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Originally built in the 18th century as a gallery to house the private art collection of the Spanish royal family, the museum was opened to the public in 1868 and given its current name – Museo Nacional del Prado. Almost immediately, the museum was too small to hold the impressive collection the royal family had acquired, and expansions began in the early 1900s. The museum still occasionally gets a little bigger, with the last enlargement taking place in 2007.
Even for those who are true art lovers, seeing the entire collection at the Prado Museum would be nearly impossible in one go – the museum boasts an inventory of more than 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, 700 sculptures; and more than 1,300 paintings are actually on display on the museum’s walls. Some of the more famous works at the Prado are:
- Las Meninas, by Diego Velazquez
- The Third of May, by Francisco Goya
- The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymous Bosch
- The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico
- The Three Graces, by Peter Paul Rubens
Other artists whose work is on display at the Prado include El Greco, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, and Durer. Pablo Picasso’s famous Guernica was once at the Prado as well, but was moved in 1992 to its current home of the Museo Reina Sofia.
Now, here’s where we get to what I think is the cleverest part. The Prado website has listed three tours for visitors who have a limited amount of time – or patience. You can choose from a 1, 2, or 3-hour tour of the museum, each of which will lay out exactly the works to pay attention to. This gives you the freedom to skip the rest without worrying that you’re missing the big stuff, which is exceptionally cool in my book. You’ll find links to the tours here.
Location: Calle Ruiz de Alarcon 23, Madrid 28014
telephone – +34 91 330 2800
official website – http://www.museodelprado.es/
How to Get There: The Prado is on bus lines 9, 10, 14, 19, 27, 34, 37, and 45 or can be accessed from Metro stops Atocha or Banco de Espana.
The museum has three entrances – Puerta de Velazquez, Puerta de los Jeronimos, and Puerta de Murillo. The first is where most people will go, as it’s for individuals with or without reservations. The second entrance is for some tourist groups, and the third is for other groups with reservations. See the details here.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday & public holidays – 9:00am-8:00pm
December 24, December 31, & January 6 – 9:00am-2:00pm
Closed Mondays (including Mondays that are public holidays), December 25, January 1, Good Friday, & May 1
Last entry is 30 minutes before closing time
Galleries are closed 10 minutes before closing time
Admission: You can buy tickets in advance to the Prado, or walk up and buy them directly from the ticket office. There are also some free days and times when you can visit without paying a thing. This page on the Prado’s website has all the details, but the basics are:
General admission at the ticket office – €6
Reduced admission at the ticket office (students, EU citizens of large families, etc.) – €3
Free admission at the ticket office – children under 18, EU citizens over 65, EU students over age 25, people on permanent disability, etc.
Advance ticket sales – €9
Advance group ticket (8 people or more) – €7.50/person
Advance tickets for children under 6 – Free
Free Admission Days: The entire Prado Museum is free on the following days – October 12 (Columbus Day), November 19 (Prado anniversary), December 6, (Spanish National Holiday), May 2 (Madrid region holiday), May 18 (International Museum Day)
In addition to those days, the museum is also free Tuesday-Saturday between 6:00-8:00pm and every Sunday from 5:00-8:00pm. It’ll give you less time in the museum, but it won’t cost you anything!
Ticket Offices: There are a few places you can buy tickets to the Prado. At the Goya Sales Points, you can buy same-day tickets, advance tickets without a reservation, or tickets for special cardholders. The other sales points (Murillo and Velazquez) are for special group tours, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to get your tickets anywhere but the Goya Sales Points.
Good to Know: If there are temporary exhibits in the museum when you visit, there may be additional admission fees to see those. The prices above are only for the permanent exhibits.