The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) houses one of the finest art collections in the world, specializing in European art from the 12th to 19th centuries. Thousands of European paintings, sculptures, and other works of art are on display throughout its halls, and they represent merely a fraction of the total collection. Highlights include works by Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and El Greco. Perhaps the most famous paintings are “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honor), an inventive self-portrait by Velázquez, and The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych from Hieronymus Bosch.
The Prado is to Madrid what the Louvre is to Paris, and that means just about every visitor to the Spanish capital makes a stop here. Travelers have plenty of buy-ahead options for touring the collection—everything from a basic entrance ticket or skip-the-line access to a private guided tour. Choose a standard admission ticket or a city attraction pass that also offers entrance to Almudena Cathedral, the Fine Arts Circle (Círculo de Bellas Artes), the Madrid cable car (Teleférico), and the Barcelona Wax Museum (Museu de Cera). The museum is often included as a stop on guided city sightseeing tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This museum is a must-see for art lovers.
- The museum offers a free locker and cloakroom at all entrances.
- Nearly the entire museum, with the exception of areas in the Villanueva building, is wheelchair accessible.
- If you’re looking for later works of art, Madrid's Reina Sofia Museum features a post-19th century art collection.
How to Get to the Prado Museum
Travelers visiting the Prado Museum independently can get there by taking the Madrid metro to Banco de España (Red Line 2) or Atocha (Light Blue Line 1). The latter is about a 10-minute walk from the museum entrance.
When to Get There
As one of Madrid’s most popular attractions, the Prado Museum often has long ticket lines, especially on summer weekends. Lines are much shorter or nonexistent in winter. To beat the crowds, especially during the peak summer season, buy a skip-the-line ticket. You can also plan to arrive a few minutes before the ticket office opens or in the late afternoon when most crowds have departed and Spaniards are enjoying their afternoon siesta.
A Short History of the Prado
In 1785 King Carlos III commissioned the Prado as a natural science museum to accompany the neighboring botanical gardens. When it opened in 1819, however, its purpose had shifted to displaying an extensive art collection gathered by Spanish royals.