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Art in Madrid: The pick of the Prado

Whether you pop in for an hour to tick off some of the big-hitting masterpieces or dedicate half a day to exploring the 170 rooms, Museo del Prado is a must for every visitor. 

Sunset Backdrop of Museo del Prado

Originally conceived as a house of science, the oldest section of the museum dates to 1785 and served as a military barracks until 1814, when King Fernando VII decided to use the building to store the enormous royal art collection. Since then, it’s expanded its footprint, with new wings added over the centuries, now encompassing more than 7,000 works of art dating from the 12th to the 19th century. 

Of course, the most popular exhibits focus on Spanish artists, with masterpieces by Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco–serving as a window to view the country’s rich, diverse, and turbulent history. Elsewhere, the museum features a significant collection of Italian Renaissance art, including works by Titian, Raphael, and Botticelli, plus Flemish and Dutch masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Rembrandt van Rijn. 

A Historical Painting Hanging in Museo del Prado

Every visitor leaves having favorites but try to tick off a selection of the world-famous paintings on display–it’s not every day you get to stand in front of such incredible and invaluable pieces by history’s most revered painters. To get you started, we’ve picked five must-see masterpieces:

Titian’s Venus and Adonis

Room 19 

The vivid composition of Venus and Adonis is one of the earliest surviving versions of the mythological scene created by Titian and his assistants between 1520 and 1550. They painted more than 30 versions using a technique employed by the Venetians to experiment with brushwork, color, and composition. 

Visitors Enjoying the Art of Museo del Prado

Set at dawn, Venus tries to stop Adonis from going hunting–knowing that he will meet his tragic end–the oil on canvas captures her desperation as Adonis' pack of hounds drag him out of shot. As many as 23 other Titian paintings are on display in the museum, including masterpieces such as Danaë, The Worship of Venus, and Charles V with a Dog.

Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights

Room 56

With 7,000 visitors passing in front of this magnificent triptych daily, the museum has recently improved the experience by creating new supports and adjusting the lighting to allow Bosch’s unique use of color to pop. 

The Renaissance masterpiece, painted between 1490 and 1510, depicts a surreal and fantastical landscape, with the left panel showing the creation of the world and the Garden of Eden, the central panel portraying an elaborate scene of hedonistic excesses, and the right panel depicting the torments of hell. It won’t take long to become absorbed by its intricacy.

Goya’s La Maja Desnuda

Room 38

In 1792, the Spanish Inquisition summoned Goya to explain the presence of provocative images in his artwork, such as the reclining nude of La Maja Desnuda, seeking to bring a charge of moral depravity against the painter. While the Inquisition ultimately cleared Goya of any charges, many believe the experience led to the creation of his harrowing ‘Black Paintings’–a series of haunting and macabre murals that he painted directly onto the walls of his home in Madrid. Not discovered until after his death, they’re now housed in room 69–don’t miss them.

Students Taking Tours in Museo del Prado

Raphael’s The Cardinal

Room 49

While art historians cannot determine the sitter’s identity, many regard Raphael's painting as one of the most remarkable examples of Renaissance portraiture ever created. Completed in 1510, this masterful piece depicts a cardinal wearing ceremonial robes, his right hand resting on a book, and his left hand holding a gold ring. Through the cardinal's serene expression, Raphael conveys a sense of nobility and importance emblematic of the High Renaissance style–and his stare will transfix you the moment you walk into the room.

Velázquez’s Las Meninas

Room 12

Spanish for "The ladies in waiting," the best-known piece by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez portrays a scene from the court of King Philip IV of Spain with the princess, Infanta Margarita, surrounded by her attendants. Notable for its deft use of light, shadow, and composition, the work became one of the most influential pieces from the Spanish Golden Age–and is now among the most studied works of art in history – not least because Velázquez mysteriously included himself in the painting. Whatever the reasons for his inclusion, the magnetic piece will draw you in with its enigmatic allure.

Planning your visit

The museum is perennially popular, so buying your tickets online and arriving close to 10 am can help you avoid long lines at security and have more chances of seeing the art without jostling for space.

The Entrance to Museo del Prado

The Prado is big and has five entrances. If you want to buy tickets on the day, you must head to the two entrances on Felipe IV Street in Plaza de Goya. The Puerta de Goya Baja entrance offers a range of concessions and discount tickets, though you can expect longer queues. Enter via Puerta de Velázquez, Puerta de los Jerónimos, or Puerta de Murillo to skip the queues after buying your tickets online. Once through security, grab a free map and spend a few minutes planning a route.

General admission tickets are priced at €15 for adults, with half-price concessions for those over 65 and free tickets for those under 18 and students. Free access hours for everyone are Monday to Saturday, from 6 pm to 8 pm, and Sundays and holidays, from 5 pm to 7 pm. For more information on bookings and guided tours, visit


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