El Prado, located in Madrid, is one of Spain’s most respected galleries. The magnificent collections are set in a grand neoclassical building adorned with statues and romanesque columns. It was designed by Juan de Villanueva in 1785 to house Spain’s National History collection. Later, King Ferdinand VII reassigned it to hold the country’s most esteemed works of art. The Museo del Prado opened to the public in the early 19th century, displaying only Spanish paintings. Today however, it includes Spanish paintings dated up till the 1700s, as well as early Italian and French paintings, Flemish works, and European masterpieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. It also features separate exhibition halls for prints, drawings and sculptures.
The permanent collection includes just under 50 of Velázquez’s works, including the famous Las Tres Gracias. The celebrated El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho by El Greco, among other dramatic masterpieces by Goya, can also be found here. Goya’s Las Pinturas Negras (Black Paintings), on the ground floor, express a dark tale of French repression. You’ll find the Museo del Prado a brush stroke to the west of the relaxing Parque del Retiro.
INSIDR recommendation highlights on our interactive map of the Museo del Prado area
Prepare your visit to Museo del Prado
When to visit Museo del Prado
Christmas Eve, New year’s Eve and Three Kings Day (January 6th) have reduced opening times. On Christmas day, New Year’s day and May 1st the museum is closed. You can enter for free on weekdays between 6pm-8pm. On Sundays and public holidays enter free between 5pm and 7pm.
How long is needed to visit Museo del Prado
It depends on how much of an art aficionado you are as to how long you spend in the Museo del Prado. An average visit should take between two and three hours. However, admiring each painting for a long time will push this up. If you’d like to whizz past to just the famous paintings, a visit may take between one and a half hours.
What should I wear to visit Museo del Prado
As when visiting any large art gallery, come in comfy clothes. You may be surprised how much ground you cover, so ensure you bring comfortable footwear. If you’re visiting during cold or rainy weather, don’t worry, you can leave your umbrella, coats and small bags in the free lockers.
What is there to see in Museo del Prado
Goya’s dramatic Black Paintings
In the early 19th century in Spain, riots were held against the French during the Napoleonic invasion and rebels against France were persecuted. Goya’s dark paintings, found on the ground floor, depict this turbulent period in Spanish history. Goya, born in Fuendetodos, Aragon, Spain in 1746 expressed this political unrest through black and brown pigments. El Dos de Mayo and El Tres de Mayo (1808) are major notable works by the Spanish painter. On the first floor you will find the La Maja Vestida (The Clothed Maja) and later La Maja Desnuda (The nude Maja), believed to be Goya’s lover.
Subtle yet impressive works by Velázquez
The Andalusian painter Diego Velázquez was born in 1599 in Sevilla. A king of the early Spanish art world, Velázquez painted for royalty in the early 17th century. One of the major popular works of Velázquez is Las Meninas, otherwise known as La família de Felipe IV, and delightfully depicts King Felipe IV and his family. ‘The Surrender of Breda’ portrays a snapshot of the moment Dutch conceding Breda to the Spanish. This turned out to be a major strategic accomplishment for the Spanish and a successfully expressive artwork by Velázquez.
Flemish masterpieces by Pieter Paul Rubens
Rubens was educated in Antwerp, southern Netherlands, which in the early 17th century belonged to Spain. Rubens was called upon to negotiate on behalf of Catholic Spain and was consequently made a gentleman of King Philip IV’s household. The King of Spain went on to commission many paintings from the Flemish artist. In Saint George Battles the Dragon, Rubens uses dramatic lighting to capture the legendary moment. The Christian Saint George sits abreast a majestic horse and wields his sword about to strike the dragon. Sight by Ruben combined with Jan Brueghel, depicts an art gallery within an art gallery.