The Museo del Prado, the art collection of the Spanish Royal Family, is one of the very best overall collections of European art. The collection is especially strong in the Spanish painters, particularly Velasquez (my favorite) and Goya. I also loved the great collection of Titian and Italian Renaissance paintings they had.
The collection is especially interesting in that it reflects the origins of the royal family as well. Carlos V was Holy Roman Emperor and King of a Spain that was suddenly a European and world power. Carlos was the son of Juana of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella- the Reyes Catolicos) and Phillip the Handsome (Hapsburg house, duke of Burgundy from Flanders). You see the increasing influence and presence of the artists from the Low Countries in the collection from this period. Why? well in this case, Carlos V actually spent very little time in Spain. He had grown up in the Low Countries and spent the majority of his reign there.
One of the really nice things about the Prado,other than the very high level of quality of its exhibits, is that the museum itself is not as enormous as the Louvre or British Museum. You can go through it at a relaxed pace and see most if not all of it without having to spend days or weeks there. Give yourself at least 4 hours to see the Prado.
This was my number one must-see for my trip to Madrid. As someone very interested in art, I was keen to see some of my favorite artists that are represented in Madrid along with seeing the best of the Spanish artists that are on display.
I had heard about horrible lines to get into the museum and we were going in the slow tourist season. But I didn’t want to be waiting outside and standing in long lines for tickets, so I purchased our tickets online ahead of our visit, allowing us to select the time we wanted to enter the museum (only a specific number of tickets are sold every half hour). I printed up our tickets and brought them with us at the specified time, allowing us to simply walk into the museum without waiting in line.
There are no photographs allowed in the Prado, so we left our coats at the cloakroom and were told that I would have to put my camera bag in a locker. However, the lockers were on the floor above us and difficult to find. This seemed a bit odd and I’m not sure why there are no lockers at the main entrance and near the cloakroom, especially since this is near the temporary exhibits, the shop, and the café. No matter, lockers found, bags stored, map in hand, we were on our way to see some of the best art in the world.
Before we began our tour, we declined a private tour from a gentleman that was very insistent that he knew better than me about what I was going to see (ha! Don’t get me started). I was very firm and explained that I was confident I could navigate around the museum and understand what I was looking at without paying for his services (and to see what he felt we should see). For Hubby’s sake, we did pick up an audio guide. I was a bit disappointed that with a €12/person admission the audio guides did not come with the ticket. So we only got one at €5 and shared it. One plus to this was when the audio guide was returned, our receipt for the guide would be converted into a ticket to one of the temporary exhibitions.
The Prado ranks up there with the Louvre and contains the best Spanish collections, especially Velázquez and Goya, but there are also a lot of Renaissance works, both Italian and Flemish. And the Prado has one of the best collections of Hieronymus Bosch in the world, primarily because King Philip II was a huge fan and collector of this Flemish Renaissance artist that created very unique paintings.
Some of my personal must-see paintings in the Prado included:
Velázquez: Las Meninas and The Surrender of Breda
Goya: Nude Maja, Family of Carlos IV, Third of May 1808, Saturn devouring one of his sons
Fra Angelico: The Annunciation
Mantegna: Death of the Virgin
Caravaggio: David and Goliath
Bosch: Garden of Earthy Delights
Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross
Patinir: Crossing the River Styx
Mor: Mary Tudor
Peter Brueghel the Elder: Triumph of Death
Rubens: Three Graces
Dürer: Self Portrait
I planned on three hours in the Prado and spent most of my time looking at the collections, but I admit that I spent most of this time only looking at the items on my list. You will need to spend more time at the Prado if you intend to look at everything and listen to a good bit of information on the audio guide.
We had a quick snack at the café which was a bit pricey and purchased a gift at the bookshop before we met up with VTer redang for our tour of Madrid.
The Prado, like the Louvre, is definitely a place that a person could revisit again and again and always see something new.
There are free admission hours on Saturdays from 1800-2000 and Sundays/holidays 1700-1900.
The best museum of the world about painting.
Important notice: As of 16th Janiary 2012, the museum will open 7 days a week.
- Monday to Saturday: From 18h to 20h (6pm to 8pm)
- Sunday and bank holidays: From 17h to 19h (5pm to 7pm)
Info about opening hours and prices:
- www.museodelprado.es/visita-el-museo (en Español)
- www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum (in English)
There's no point in writing loads about the Prado itself: it's a huge place stuffed ith artworks, some of which are indeed masterpieces.
I like art, but not so much that I was prepared to pay the 12 euro entrance fee if there was a way of avoiding it. And there is, especially if (like me) you choose a hotel in the nearby area.
The Prado is free every evening from 6pm-8pm. If you stay nearby you will be able to go on more than one evening, before you nip out for your evening meal/drink (as I did). Which is very pleasing. :-)
The queue at 5.45m, when I joined, stretched to the Velasquez atatue and I was concerned that I would lose a lot of time actually getting into the museum. But it turned out not to be so. On the do of 6 the queue began to move steadily forwards, with the ticket sellers ready with free tickets as you entered and the security scanners functioning speedily. So I was inside and ready to go by 6.05 both times I visited.
I've no doubt queues will be longer at busier times of year, so it makes sense to get there around, say, 5.30 or risk taking a bit longer to get in.
Once inside, people quickly dispersed around the huge building so I was able to see all the paintings close-up, with no problems at all.
One of Madrid's and Spain's biggest attraction is the Prado .... one of the best in the world no questions asked .... on par with the Lourve in Paris with some of the most beautiful art works in the world. Give yourself plenty of time !!! this place is huge !!!!! We came on Sunday afternoon when there is free entrance after 4:00 pm, but be warned the lines to get in free run almost a mile long ... so get there early and be ready to fight the huge crowds. The normal entrance fee is 12 euro's. A must do in Madrid !!!!!
This museum is world famous and we intended to visit until we saw the length of the queues outside!!! I was not waiting in that not even for Goya and Velasquez. The area round about is well worth visiting. I liked the statues around the museum.
The Museum presents the following collections:
The Spanish Collection, The Flemish Collection,The Italian Collection.
The Prado also holds important collections from the French, Dutch, German and British schools, as well as sculpture, prints, drawings and coins. All told, the Prado holds over 9,000 paintings, 7,000 prints and drawings and nearly 1,000 coins. The collection is so vast that only 1,500 works can be displayed on exhibit with the remainder of the collection rotated.
The Prado Museum is renowned as being the largest art gallery in the world.
It also exhibits sculptures, drawings, coins and other works of arts, but it is undoubtedly its large collection of paintings which has given it fame worldwide.
It houses more than 8,600 paintings, of which they exhibit less than 2,000 because of lack of space available.
Many museums throughout the world have less artistic riches in their halls than the Prado Museum has in storage.
The present day art gallery comes from the royal collections of the old Trinidad Museum, as well as acquisitions, donations and bequests.
Its history began during the reign of Charles III, when he tried to create a single art collection under one roof.
But it was not until the reign of Fernando VII when the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture was created, on 19th November 1819.
The kings death caused inheritance problems and endangered the unity of the collection, but with the disappearance of the monarchy in Spain the museum became national property and became known as the Prado National Museum.
From then to this date, the works of art have survived several challenges and were transferred several times during the Spanish Civil War, ending up in the Swiss city of Geneva and being returned to Madrid during the Second World War.
Nowadays, its treasures are exhibited in two adjacent buildings : the Villanueva Building where the majority of the works are housed, and the Cason del Buen Retiro.
When to come?
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9am-7pm
Sundays, holidays, 24th and 31st december: 9am-2pm
Closed 1st January, good Friday, 1st May, 25th December
One might be tempted to compare the famous MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO with the THYSSEN BORNEMISZA collection on the other side of the same avenue. I visited both museums several times and must say that my aesthetic pleasure was much greater each time at the Thyssen-Bornemisza than at the Prado Museum.
I confess that I am not a fan of the Spanish school with its painters such as El Greco, Ribalta, Ribera, Murillo, or Zurbaran. My taste or judgement has probably been "spoiled" by having grown up surrounded by Flemish and Dutch paintings.
Fortunately for those who might share my taste, the Prado has a large section of Flemish painters (1000 paintings) including Van de Weyden, Bosch ("the Garden of Delights") and Rubens and 200 works from Dutch painters.
Most spectacular is Jerome Bosch whose pictures have always fascinated viewers; Philip II, king of Spain, was a major art collector who liked the bizarre fantasies of this Netherlandish master.
If in his time Bosch was regarded as the inventor of monsters and chimeras, today his paintings still hold as an intriguing attraction reflecting mysterious practices of the Middle Ages.
I was surprised during my last visit at the Prado to notice that guides stopped their groups in front of his famous triptych " The Garden of the Delights " to explain at length its symbolism, while in previous years they would spend more time on Velazquez and other painters of the Spanish school.
Jerome Bosch seems a rising star in the world of the fans of the esotericism, the mysteries and the sects. Should we see here a collateral effect of the "Da Vinci Code" esoteric passion?
With the help of Google Earth it is now possible to see major works of the Prado such as the Garden of Delights in detail and high resolution. Fantastic!
On the other side of the Paseo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum was enlarged in June 2004 to display more than 200 paintings collected by Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. The collection of the Baroness is a natural continuation of the historical Thyssen-Bornemisza collection (located in Madrid since 1992) and includes 17th century Dutch painting, 19th century landscape, North American painting, Impressionism, Post-impressionism and Avant-Garde movements. It is a real pleasure to visit the new galleries which complement the historical collection. Quality and variety are the characteristics of this museum which now belongs among the Europe’s best museums of paintings.
To conclude: a visit to Madrid must include both museums.
One of Madrid's famous art museums and part of the "Triangle of Culture" together with Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia museums. It's not as big as the Louvre but it has a good collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures, including an interesting exhibition of Middle Eastern carpets, pottery, paintings, etc.
Minus points for not allowing visitors to take pictures inside the museum, even without flash (although I found out after I took the last 2 pictures of this tip).
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