Tourist’s guide to Prado Museum – one of the best art galleries in the world

The Prado National Museum, one of the twenty most popular galleries in the world, will be interesting not only to true connoisseurs of fine art, but also to ordinary tourists who want to get acquainted with the works of world famous artists.

Prado Museum

General information

The National Museum, which is one of the most famous attractions not only in Madrid, but throughout Spain, is not inferior to the Louvre, or D’Orsay, or the Hermitage. Now in the halls of the complex, which occupies about 60 thousand square meters. m., exhibited a huge number of unique paintings belonging to the outstanding masters of France, England, the Netherlands and other European countries.
The main characteristic feature of Prado is the absence of any pomposity and pretentiousness. However, this does not prevent him from being included in the list of the most popular art galleries in the world – every year millions of people come to admire her paintings.

Short story

The history of the Prado National Museum in Madrid began long before its first art connoisseurs let its doors in. As early as 1775, about 45 years before this moment, the Spanish king Charles III ordered the architect Juan de Villanueva to construct a building that could house the Museum of Natural Sciences. The will of the monarch was fulfilled, and a few years later a new two-story panopticon towered on one of the streets of Madrid.

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True, very soon, in 1811, the building was captured by the Napoleonic army and turned into stables. They managed to restore its former appearance only 8 years later. Then the gallery was opened to a wide audience.

Hall at the Prado Museum

Initially, her collection was very small – there were about three hundred paintings in it, mainly owned by Italian painters. However, by 1843 this figure increased by as much as 6 times, which made Prado one of the largest panoptices of its time.

After the overthrow of the ruling queen from the throne, the gallery was nationalized and supplemented by several completely new halls. It is rumored that P. Picasso himself led its restoration. In 1979, the museum building underwent another reconstruction, during which they added the Monet Cube, an additional wing, named after its developer. Currently, there is an underpass between the new and old buildings, decorated with lush greenery.

The Prado National Museum itself is a magnificent building, made in the style of neoclassicism. The main entrance to the building, overlooking the alley of the same name, is decorated with 6 snow-white columns, and in front of the panopticon itself is a monument to Diego Velazquez, one of the founders of fine art in Spain.


All exhibits of the National Prado Museum in Madrid are divided into several separate exhibits dedicated to the painting of a country. Let’s consider each of them.

Italian hall

The creation of the famous royal collection began with paintings by recognized masters of Italy, the first of which was Titian. This choice played a huge role not only in the formation of the collection itself, but also in the development of all Spanish architecture. Art historians claim that it was precisely Titian that the Spanish artists learned sensuality and passion. Following him, other talented Venetians appeared – Rafael, Correggio, Botticelli, Parmigiano, Tintoretto, Veronese, Mantegna and other Renaissance masters.


Following the first canvases of Italian artists, the exposition of the future panopticon was supplemented by the works of Rubens, Bosch, Brueghel, Van Dyck, Van der Weyden. The reason for this popularity was the fact that in the middle of the 16th century. The Netherlands belonged to the Spanish Empire, and therefore the cultural heritage of this people was of the same interest to the king as their own. True, fierce debate is still underway about the authorship of some of these canvases, but they do not detract from the importance and scale of the work.

Spanish hall

The next section of the Prado Museum in Madrid is Spanish painting, formed under the influence of two previous movements and headed by the legendary painter Diego Velazquez. Being one of the most significant figures of his time, he left behind a lot of interesting paintings, including the notorious “Menin”, written from the royal infante.

The other Spanish authors deserve no less attention, whose paintings occupy as many as 3 floors and cover a huge time period – from paintings of the 12th century to the works of Francisco Goya, dating from the first half of the 19th century. Unfortunately, there is not a hint of Miro, Dali or Picasso. The reason for this is that at that time Spain was losing its global influence, so many creative people simply had to leave for other countries. But their place is occupied by the works of other equally famous Spaniards – José de Ribera, Murillo, Zurbaran and others.


At the end of 17 – the first half of 18 tbsp. friendly relations arose between Spain and France. The calm political situation between the two countries was reflected in the field of art, adding to the collection of King Ferdinand several dozen paintings written by Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. Both studied in Italy and were influenced by Vecellio Titian.

German hall

Despite the fact that German works in the Prado Museum are not shown as widely as the art of the previous 4 countries, there will also be something to see. The works of A. Mengs, L. Cranach and A. Dürer can be called without exaggeration the true masterpieces of the fine art of Germany. In addition, some of these paintings (for example, Dürer’s self-portrait) can only be seen in Madrid.


Description of sections of the National Prado Museum in Madrid is completed by English painting, represented by canvases of three painters – Alma-Tadema Lawrence, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Such a modest choice is due to two reasons. Firstly, diplomatic relations between Spain and Great Britain were just beginning to emerge, and secondly, English painting of those times was much more modest than French or Flemish.

Other collection items
Pictures of Flemish artists

In addition to landscapes, still lifes, portraits and watercolors, the Prado collection has a great many pencil sketches and engraving prints, most of which belong to the “pen” of Francisco Goya. In addition, in the cellars of the complex you can see an exhibition of sculptures and decorative art objects created by the best world masters.

The most famous paintings of the museum

Of the 20 thousand exhibits collected in the walls of the National Prado Museum in Madrid, slightly more than one quarter are on display. The remaining samples are in special storage facilities and are offered for inspection only at temporary expositions. But even despite this, seeing all the paintings in 1-2 visits will still not work for you. In order not to miss the most interesting, check out the top 8 of the most famous works written by legendary world artists.

Menin, Diego Velazquez
Menin, Diego Velazquez

The picture, the second name of which sounds like “The Family of Philip IV,” impresses with its secret meaning and complexity of construction. The viewer is presented with the moment of writing portraits of the royal couple, the ruling Spain in the first half of the 17th century. At the same time, both the ruler and his wife remain behind the scenes, yielding the “palm” to little Margarita and the maids of honor surrounding her (from the Spanish meninas). Present on the canvas is Diego Velazquez himself, who at that time worked as the chief court painter.

Adoration of the Shepherds, El Greco
Adoration of the Shepherds, El Greco

Among the things to see at the Prado Museum is the work of a famous Greek artist, written especially for the monastery in Toledo. A painting dedicated to a favorite biblical storyline looks simply magical. Her disproportionately elongated figures, the complex layout of the composition and the masterful play of light once again emphasize the divine destiny of the child who was born through the immaculate conception. The Adoration of the Shepherds was one of El Greco’s latest works. It is believed that the image of a man kneeling in front of little Jesus, the master wrote off from himself.

The Three Graces, Peter Paul Rubens
The Three Graces, Peter Paul Rubens

When looking at this work, a modern person cannot hide his amazement, because instead of subtle and slender creations, three full-bodied antique goddesses appear in his gaze, moving in a smooth dance. Their naked bodies are relaxed, but not vulgar, erotic, but not vulgar. And most importantly – every centimeter of this canvas is imbued with great love, because one of these graces is the young wife of the painter.

The Triumph of Death, Peter Brueghel the Elder

The Triumph of Death, written by a well-known Dutch graphic artist, also belongs to the list of the best paintings of the Prado Museum in Madrid. The canvas, which has a clear allegorical implication, perfectly conveys the then ideas of believers about hell and those torments that are destined for every sinner. The central figure of this story is the dying king, on whose eyes all the wealth accumulated by him is plundered, and the skeletons carrying a cart filled with skulls. Death and chaos reign everywhere, violence and murder, scenes of torment and torture.

The Triumph of Death, Peter Brueghel the Elder

Garden of Earthly Delights, Jerome Bosch

The famous triptych created by the hereditary Dutch painter is one of the most controversial works created in the middle of the 16th century. The left wing of the painting shows Adam and Eve, who live in a biblical garden of paradise. The central part of the composition represents ordinary worldly life with all its inherent elements. Well, the last, right, leaf evokes the thought of hell.

Garden of Earthly Delights, Jerome Bosch
Family Portrait of Charles IV, Francisco Goya

This work attracts visitors to the Prado National Museum in Madrid for 2 reasons. The first is the extraordinary luxury of royal costumes, regalia and jewelry, drawn with amazing accuracy and scrupulousness. The second consists in the opportunity to consider the psychological profile of each family member and their dislike for each other. Interestingly, this was the first and only painting painted by Goya for the royal family – the artist did not receive more orders from her.

Family Portrait of Charles IV, Francisco Goya
Crucifixion, John de Flanders

The greatness and monumentality of this canvas can be traced not only in the predominance of straight lines, but also in the presence of a huge number of precious stones scattered at the feet of Jesus crucified on the cross. In order to attract the attention of viewers to the latter, the author of the work surrounded him with figures of disciples, and hid the firmament over the Messiah behind a huge cloud.

On a note! A map showing the 15 most famous masterpieces of art is installed at the entrance to the gallery.

Practical information

The opening hours of the Prado Museum, located at Calle Ruiz de Alarcon 23, 28014 Madrid, Spain, depend on the day of the week:

  • Mon – Sat: from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sun and holidays: from 10 am to 7 pm;
  • 06.01, 24.12, 31.12 – from 10 a.m. to 2 days.

Important! 12.25, 01.01 and 01.05 the complex does not work!

Painting Hall at the Prado Museum

Ticket price:

  • Total – 15 €;
  • At a discount – 7.50 €;
  • Free admission – people with disabilities, students under 25 years old with a student ID, visitors under 18 years old.

In addition, free admission to the Prado Museum is available during the following hours:

  • Mon – Sat: from 6 to 8 pm;
  • Sun and holidays: from 5 to 7 in the evening;

Important! Look for more information on the official website of the complex.

Useful Tips

When planning to visit the Prado National Museum in Madrid, listen to these helpful tips:

  1. To view the exhibits, you should take an audio guide (there is Russian among the languages), and even better, use the services of a professional guide. To do this, join an organized tourist group.
  2. Given the large number of exhibits, a walk through the museum halls will take at least 4-5 hours. If you are determined to inspect most of the works, get ready to devote to them not 1, but 2-3 days.
  3. Sculpture at the Prado Museum
  4. The dressing room, designed to store umbrellas, bags, outerwear and other personal items, closes half an hour before the gallery ends.
  5. In addition to souvenir shops located on the ground floor, there is a cozy cafe in the complex, which is well-fed.
  6. Photography and video are not allowed in Prado, so don’t even try to bring your camera with you.
  7. Having decided to see the collection during the hours of free visits, come an hour earlier – there will be fewer people. In addition, you still have to look at the cashier and take a special ticket.
  8. To avoid long lines, buy e-tickets online.
  9. Going out for a smoke break or just breathing in fresh air is not recommended – they may no longer be allowed back.
  10. It will be quite difficult to navigate the vast museum territory, so do not give up the detailed scheme issued at the entrance.
  11. Do not bring water, sandwiches and sweets – this is prohibited here.

Interesting facts about the paintings of Velazquez:

Posted by: Olga Sheyko

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