The Prado Museum is finalizing their plans for their big bicentennial in 2019, when it will turn 200 years old. But it's hard to imagine how it could get any better; it already houses the world's best collection of Spanish art, from the 12th – 20th centuries, and has one of the world's best collections of European art overall. In 2012, the museum hosted about 2.8 million visitors.
The building that houses the Prado Museum was commissioned in 1795 from Juan de Villanueva by King Charles III to serve as the National History Cabinet. However, Charles' grandson, Ferdinand VII and his wife Maria Isabella chose instead to use it as a Royal Museum of painting and sculpture. It first opened to the public in 1819 to show the collected works of the Spanish Royal Family. The building was first enlarged in 1918, and a new building, the Hall of Realms is part of current expansion plans.
The current collection contains over 8000 drawings, over 7000 paintings, 4,800 prints, and over 1000 sculptures, as well as other works of art and historic documents. It is prized for its spectacular collection of works by Francisco de Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Pieter Paul Rubens, Titian, Diego Velazquez, and more.
One of the most famous paintings in the Prado Museum is Las Meninas by Velazquez. This enigmatic painting is one of the most important and influential in the history of Western art, engendering centuries of discussion, debate, and reflection in the worlds of art and philosophy. Other notable masterpieces in the collection are The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, a self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer, and The Three Gracesby Rubens.
Visiting the Prado Museum
The sheer size and scale of the Prado can be somewhat daunting to those visiting it for the first time, or those who may have other things in mind during their visit to Madrid. But the Prado has thought of that, with a selection of recommended tours for those on a schedule, or to view the collection along certain themes. The Prado Museum website has curated a list of self-guided tours for those who only have 1, 2, or 3 hours to spend in the museum, as well as self-guided art tours devoted to mythology, fashion, festivals, and other subjects. These tours are a great way to make sure you see the essentials in the vast collection.
Consider combining a recommended 2 hour tour with the museum's hours of free access. Monday through Saturday, from 6-8pm, and Sundays from 5-7, the museum doesn't charge admission. People under 18 can enter for free at all times. Clients who book through Bella Vita Travels can also enjoy private guides to help navigate the museum and digest the information with ease.
During normal hours, Monday–Saturday from 10-6, Sundays from 10-5, general adult admission is 15€, while admission along with an official guide book is 24€. They also have special packages: a ticket for admission on 2 different days is 22€, or you can beat the crowds altogether and pay 50€ to enter the museum an hour before it opens to the public.
Peak hours are from 11–1:30, when the museum is most crowded, and it's best to come much earlier or later if you plan on seeing the most prominent works. And taking photographs or video is always prohibited.
The Prado Supreme has a place of supreme importance in the history of Spain, the history of Madrid, and the history of Western Art. Let's hope that its first 200 years are just the beginning.