No visit to Madrid is complete without going to the Prado Museum.
One of the world’s greatest art museums, it’s a highlight of many visitors’ times in the city. But with over 7,000 paintings, it can be an intimidating proposition—especially if time is short. If you’ve got a limited amount of time, planning ahead is key. That’s why we’ve put together our guide to visit the Prado Museum in under two hours!
Photo Credit: Brian Snelson, via Wikimedia Commons
When to Visit
If you want to avoid the queues and the crowds, try to arrive as soon as the museum opens at 10 am, or during the lunchtime lull around 2 pm. Buying a ticket in advance online means you can head straight through security without having to queue at the box office. While the free entry hours (6–8 pm Mon–Sat; 5–7 pm Sundays and holidays) can be tempting for travelers on a budget, bear in mind that many others will have the same idea. Show up at least 45 minutes before the free hours start to avoid spending precious holiday time in line!
Finding Your Way Around
Once you’re in the Prado, make sure to pick up a free map from the information point by the entrance. As well as a plan of the museum’s layout it also includes a handy guide to the masterpieces inside and where to find them. Take a moment to work out your route to make the most of your time inside.
What to See
If you’re getting in as soon as the museum opens, head straight to Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (Room 56A) and Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross (Room 58). These early Flemish religious masterpieces really benefit from being seen up close. Try to get ahead of the rush of tour groups for the best experience. Nearby on the ground floor, don’t miss Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (Room 56B) and an outstanding collection of Raphael. If we had to choose just one, it would be The Cardinal (Room 49), with its astonishing realism and penetrating gaze. Before heading upstairs, make sure to check out the revolutionary works by Albrecht Dürer in Room 55B: Adam and Eve, and his Self-Portrait of 1498, showing his masterful blending of the Northern and Southern European traditions.
After these Renaissance masterpieces, head upstairs to immerse yourself in the Spanish Golden Age. Start off in the huge central gallery (Rooms 25-29). Here you’ll find two foreign painters who had a huge influence on Spanish art: Rubens and Titian. You might be surprised to find that the Prado holds one of the world’s greatest collections of Titian, but the Venetian master spent much of his career working as a salaried court painter to the Hapsburg kings Charles V and Philip II. The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg is in the central hall, alongside his portrait of Philip II and just next to his mythological masterpieces Sisyphus and Tityus. Rubens, too, was another favorite of the Habsburg court who would prove a great influence—and friend—for Diego Velazquez. Wander down the great hall to see his late masterpieces The Three Graces and The Adoration of the Magi.
Double back and head towards Rooms 9B and 8B to discover one of the strangest painters in the Spanish tradition: El Greco. Never fully accepted by the Spanish court, many of his greatest works are in Toledo rather than here in the Prado. Nevertheless, Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest and The Holy Trinity (both in Room 8B) are fine examples of his secular and religious work. Now, it’s time for the big one: Diego Velazquez. Almost universally acclaimed as the greatest Spanish painter of all time, his impressionistic style, questioning of reality and the intimacy of his portraiture have inspired artists through the centuries. Starting in Room 9A with The Surrender at Breda, head through to Rooms 10 (The Triumph of Bacchus) and 11 (Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan) before finally arriving to his great masterpiece in Room 12, Las Meninas.
Rooms 15, 32, 36, 64–67
If you want to dig even deeper into Velazquez, continue to Room 15 to see his portraits of dwarfs and buffoons, and The Spinners in Room 15A. Otherwise, head to Room 32 to meet the final Spanish master of our visit: Francisco de Goya, and his famously ambiguous Family of Charles IV. Nearby in Room 36 are his scandalous Maja Desnuda and Maja Vestida. Finally, head downstairs to see his late masterpieces. The Second and Third of May 1808 (Room 64/65) are powerful, disturbing depictions of the horrors of war. The Black Paintings (Room 67), meanwhile, are some of the strangest and darkest works of art anywhere in the world, painted directly on the walls of Goya’s house in the outskirts of Madrid after the collapse of his public career.No need to say goodbye—add your email address in the form below to stay up-to-date on all things Devour Tours. ADD_THIS_TEXT