How to visit the Prado Museum in Madrid
1 Buying a ticket
Queues for tickets on the door at the Prado can be long. There are three ticket offices, but the Puerto de Goya is the best one to head to as the others often don’t give a full range of discounts for concessions.
If you want to skip the queues and don’t mind paying a few extra euros, you can book your ticket online in advance of your visit. The extra charge gets you free into some temporary exhibitions, so is often very good value. Be sure not to fold your printed e-ticket as they can get grumpy at the entrances with folded sheets of paper. And keep your ticket with you throughout your visit as the staff have a habit of asking to see it again once you’re inside.
Groups of more than six people must pre-book their tickets. Adult entrance is €9,50 (concessions available) and can be bought at http://www.museodelprado.es/en/ingles/
2 Get a good deal
If you are a bit of an art buff, or even if you’re not, and intend on visiting all three of the art museums on the Paseo del Prado (the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia National Museum Art Centre) during your visit you’d do well to buy the Paseo del Arte ticket. They don’t advertise it very well – because it’s such great value – but ask for it at any of the ticket offices. All three museums for €14,40.
You can escape the complicated ticket system completely by visiting on one of the free entry days: October 12 (Columbus Day), 19 November (Anniversary of the Museo Nacional del Prado), December 6 (Spanish National Holiday), May 2 (Official Holiday for the Region of Madrid) or May 18 (International Museum Day). Be warned, the Museum is very busy on these days.
Also, if you’re seeking good value, don’t forget that a regular ticket to the Prado also gets you free into the Cason del Buen Retiro, nearby. It’s where much of the Spanish art from the 1800s is displayed.
3 Choose your entrance
Getting into the Prado can be bit of a nightmare and the queues are often very long. There are three entrances:
Pueroto de Velasquez – the main entrance to the Museum
Puerta de los Jerónimos – enter here if you have tickets for temporary exhibitions.
Puerto de Murillo – officially for pre-booked groups only, but if you have individual tickets and smile nicely they’ll often let you in here as well. It’s worth it as it has much shorter queues. This entrance points you in the direction of the classical sculpture galleries and the Italian renaissance.
If you intend to bring a disabled vehicle to the Museum, they prefer it if you call in advance and let them know (+34) 91 330 2800
4 Get your bearings
This Museum is enormous. It’s well worth picking up a free paper map when you arrive. They are available at all the main entrances. All the rooms are numbered from 1 to 102. The rooms are all numbered in Roman numerals. You’d do well to swot up on your I, V, X, L and C.
5 A quick tour
There are many guidebooks to the Museum, available for sale in the two shops (upper and lower floors). The Prado have created a leaflet called the Quick Visit Guide – a selection of art objects to visit if you want to do the highlights of the Museum in a hurry. Alternatively, take an audio tour of the collection for €3,50. If you don’t want to pay for the leaflet, there is a tour of the top 15 masterpieces in the Museum available on their website, which you can look at in advance: http://www.museodelprado.es/en/en/welcome/15-masterpieces/
6 Expert knowledge
If you want more information about the major artists represented in the Museum and their works, you can buy inexpensive booklets in the main rooms dedicated to Valazquez, Goya, Titian, El Greco and Bosch.
7 Avoid the rush
In the summer, especially, the Museum can become awash with tour groups who get in the way of the art and block the passageways. Remember though that these groups are often on a tight schedule. If an organised group is blocking your view of an art work, just hang back a few moments and they’ll soon be out of the way.
In general, the Museum is busiest between 10h00 and 12h00 daily. Remember, everything happens much later in Spain, including museum opening times. The building is open until 20h00, so my advice would be to leave the queues to die down and head there in the late afternoon/early evening.
8 Watch art in action in the galleries
The Prado Museum is proud of the fact that it allows access to its collection to art students and professional painters, giving them the chance to copy the art on display. You’ll see people in the galleries painting their own copies of the masterpieces and perfecting their own techniques. This activity is carefully monitored by the Museum though, so don’t bring your easel and paint along unless you have permission. Some of their work is amazing and it’s quite fun to watch them, deep in concentration.
9 A bite to eat
The cafeteria is located on the lower ground floor and is open until 19h30. It gets really busy at lunchtimes, but at other times can be a great way to sit and relax if you’ve taken in too much art.
10 Check out the bling
It’s almost a crime to make a trip to the Prado and not visit the underground vault containing the collection of jewels that belonged to the Grand Dauphin Louis, son of Louis XIV and father of Felipe V (the first Bourbon king of Spain). The collection comprises all manner of bejewelled extravaganzas finely decorated in rubies, diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones. It’s a feast for the eyes.
The Museum del Prado is open 09h00-20h00 Tuesday-Sunday and public holidays. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing and the galleries are cleared 10 minutes before closing time.
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