The Prado Museum is the jewel, not only of Madrid but of all of Spain and a good part of Europe. The names that are associated with one of the most famous art galleries in the world are Velázquez, El Greco, Rafael, Goya, Rubens, and Bosch.
Buying tickets in advance and online is the best way to ensure the best experience, as you will skip the queues and avoid entering the museum already tired after a long wait. These are the best options to get your tickets online to visit the Prado:
This two-hour tour of the Prado Museum will allow you to see the most important paintings of the museum accompanied by an expert guide. Of course, you can appreciate the quality of the art on your own, but you might be missing what is conveyed by each work. When you are in front of works such as Las Meninas, El Jardín de las Delicias or Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo, don't be in a hurry to move on to the next one.
You will see that I have put this option ahead of the individual ticket because in a place like El Prado, with so much history and symbolism behind its corridors and each of its works, I believe that an introductory guided tour of about two hours is the best way to get to know the museum and make the most of it. The group will have a maximum of 30 people.
Why I like this option: I think a guided tour of the Prado is essential due to its size and the large number of works it houses. With this option, in addition, you will do it at the best price.
Recommended if... you want to take a guided tour of the Prado without investing too much time or too much budget to see the most essential works of the museum.
The essentials of the Prado with an expert guide just for you
Tour the Prado in the most intimate experience with an art expert who will accompany you and your companions exclusively.
If the guided tour option at the Prado appeals to you, don't rule out taking a private tour of the Prado Museum. The price is somewhat higher than the usual guided tours, but the guide will be dedicated exclusively to you and your group.
In addition, the tour begins with a brief tour of the Paseo del Prado and its main points of interest, such as the Casa de América, the Cibeles Fountain, and the Neptune Fountain. The guide will explain the details of the essential attractions of the center of Madrid and then move on to the guided tour inside the Museum. The tickets included in this tour will also allow you to skip the queues at the ticket office, which makes the tour much more enjoyable and fluid.
Why I like this tour: Although it has a higher price than the other options, this guided tour offers a more premium and complete experience, since in addition to the private visit to the Prado, the guide will take you on a brief tour of the surrounding area.
Recommended if... you would like to get to know the surroundings of the Museum a little better and enjoy the intimacy and exclusivity of having a guide just for you.
In summary, we compare the options:
Buy tickets for the Prado Museum at the ticket office
In front of the imposing building of the Prado Museum, you will see gardens dotted with classical statues and bounded by cobblestone paths. All this would be very nice if there weren't queues of visitors that can reach almost a mile at some times of the day... If you still decide to buy your tickets at the ticket office, I recommend you do it early in the morning to avoid the crowds of tourists.
Organize your visit to the Prado
When to go
The Prado Museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm and on Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 5 pm. The best time to go and not find many people is any weekday morning because in the afternoon begins the free hours and the influx of people is much higher.
How to get there
The Prado is located on the Paseo del Arte in Madrid; between the Botanical Garden and the Cibeles fountain. The nearest metro stop is Atocha and on any map you will easily find its location. The entrance door is located at the end closest to Cibeles and is preceded by double stairs.
Visiting the museum with an audio guide for me is a must, at least on the first visit. It is available at the entrance for $ 5 in several languages and, although some explanations can be somewhat dense, it is worth it. Of course, you will always enjoy a guided tour more.
The Prado with children
The Prado museum is one of the best adapted for children; they have an audioguide with video for the visit in which animated characters will explain the paintings in a language they can understand. Be sure to take them to see the museum during their visit to Madrid.
Where to eat
Near the museum you will not find many restaurants, although on the sidewalk in front you have a Starbucks and a Museo del Jamón (here you can get all sorts of subs and sandwiches to take away). If you walk towards the city center you will find many more restaurants to eat at although the most typical taverns are usually in the Barrio de las Letras or other areas further away like Lavapiés or Malasaña.
The surroundings of El Prado
The Paseo del Arte is a beautiful place to walk, when you go to visit the museum you can get off at Atocha and go up the slope of the booksellers locally known as Cuesta de Moyano; there you will find street stalls with hundreds of art books, novels, and real treasures if you know how to find them. Leave the visit to the Retiro Park for another time and go up the Botanical Garden towards the museum (past the station).
Behind it, up the stairs, you have the fabulous church of San Jerónimo el Real; the views of it from the museum are breathtaking. When you finish your visit you can walk to Cibeles and from there down Gran Vía towards the Metropolitan building, one of the most emblematic buildings in Madrid.
Very close to the Prado is also the Museo Reina Sofia, highly recommended for art lovers. I leave you here the practical guide to organize your visit to the Reina Sofia: Museo Reina Sofia Tickets.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you visit the Prado Museum with children there is an audio guide with video adapted for them and that will make them approach art in a fun way.
What works to see at the Prado
You can see the Prado Museum in two hours (if you go with a guided tour and are oriented to the most relevant paintings in the museum) or you can spend five hours touring the galleries. The length of your visit depends on you and your interest in art. In any case, there are works that you can not miss.
Making a selection of the works to see in the Prado Museum is very difficult; as you add one to the list you will remember two others that you cannot miss. Take this as a very small personal selection:
Las Meninas by Velázquez.
This is a family portrait in which the painter captures the moment in which the Infanta Margarita accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting (the meninas) enters the room in which he himself (self-portrayed in the painting with the cross of Santiago) is working. You will find different legends and secrets behind this painting so be sure to activate the audio guide or document yourself a bit about it before going to see it.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch
This is my favorite painting and I keep visiting it every time I go to the museum. Heaven and hell are portrayed in this triptych that does not let you look away from its many details. From my point of view, it is impossible not to feel anything in front of this painting, so my advice is that you first get to recognize it carefully and then listen to its story.
The Firing Squad of May 3rd by Goya
If you have already passed during your visit to Madrid by the temple of Debod, surely you have admired the views from that hill. What you may not know is that it was on that spot that the leaders of the revolt against Napoleon of May 2, 1808 were shot. The painting is an excellent recreation showing the soldiers as faceless men and the leaders of the revolt in agony.
The 3 Graces by Rubens
The ideal of baroque beauty was far from today's, perhaps that is one of the reasons why Rubens' painting has been vindicated over the years. Chastity and mythology are themes that converge in this painting.
The Annunciation by Fran Angelico
Many painters have depicted biblical scenes in their paintings. In fact, if you do a little research you can discover the messages that were said to be hidden behind many of these paintings; you have at your disposal a whole range of secrets and conspiracies. This religious painting is one of the most famous in the museum; ask your guide for its meaning if you go on a guided tour... you might be surprised.
The Descent from the Cross by Van Der Weyden
Everyone feels something different in front of every painting, but without going into the story behind it, this painting has always caught my attention because of the level of detail and a range of colors that seem to pop out of the painting. Take your time to observe the details of folds and shadows of the clothing and then put the audio guide to work to identify the characters that appear in the painting.
Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya
Goya's black paintings are quite a shock for those who only know the author's most classic work. Placed in a separate room, it is inevitable to look at them and feel some of the anguish that surrounded the painter during the last years of his life. This is one of the best known of the collection and its expressiveness is overwhelming.
The Maja Desnuda by Goya
Little would they have imagined a few centuries ago that a painting requisitioned by the Holy Inquisition and subsequently kept in a dark room would today be one of the most visited paintings in the Prado Museum. Along with La Maja Desnuda you can also contemplate La Maja Vestida. The big question about this painting is who inspired Francisco de Goya to paint it; one of the most widespread theories says that it could have been the Duchess of Alba.
The Fable of Arachne by Velázquez
Maybe the name of the painting doesn't ring a bell, but if it's named The Spinners, you're more likely to know which work it refers to. This is one of the most enigmatic paintings by Diego de Velázquez as historians do not agree on what the painter wanted to convey with the painting.
The Forge of Vulcan by Velázquez
In Madrid, there is a well-known bar that bears the name of this painting that for years has been one of the most studied in schools. In it, Velázquez represented a mythological scene between the God Apollo and the God of Fire (Vulcan) who made all the metal objects of Olympus. The former is going to tell the latter that his wife Venus has fallen in love with Mars, the God of war.
Frequently asked questions
Are all experiences at Museo del Prado guided tours?
No, some experiences only include a ticket to the museum and maybe an audioguide, so if you are specifically looking for a guided tour of Museo del Prado make sure to select the right experience to avoid any surprises.
How much time will I need to visit Museo del Prado?
Most tours of the museum will last for around 1 hour 30 minutes, but keep in mind that you are allowed to stay at the museum afterwards to explore at your own pace. A good idea might be to check the exact location of any specific works of art that you want to see to avoid missing them and also save time.
Can I combine a visit to Museo del Prado with other experiences?
Yes, some experiencies in our site will let you combine a tour of the museum with a visit to Retiro Park, private tours of Madrid and tours of Reina Sofia Museum.