Visiting museums and galleries is a forever-favourite activity when travelling around Europe. And the Museo Nacional del Prado is one of Madrid’s best. The Prado Museum is the main Spanish art museum, conveniently located in the heart of the capital city. Whether you’re an aesthetic enthusiast or just searching for a splash of culture, there are few better places to spend an afternoon.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado. From how to get there from other parts of Madrid to the most notable paintings and sculptures to see, you’ll be totally prepared for your trip. We’ll also look at the history of the Prado’s collections, and some of the best restaurants, bars, and shops nearby. Prepare for a perfect day at the Prado starting right here.
Getting to the Museo Nacional del Prado by train
Getting around Madrid couldn’t be simpler. Thanks to the city’s fast and efficient public transport network, which includes trains, trams, buses, and metros, locals and visitors can fly around the capital all through the day and night.
If you’re within walking distance of the Prado, we recommend you walk to the museum. Getting around Madrid on foot is the best way to see more of the city. With so much beauty around every turn, you never know what you might stumble across. Still, chances are, you’re based a little further out. The easiest way to get to the city centre will likely be by metro.
Which station is nearest to the Museo Nacional del Prado?
The Prado museum is set right next to El Retiro Park, one of the most beautiful green spaces in Madrid. Hop off the metro at the stop called Retiro, and enjoy a picturesque stroll through the park. You can also jump off at Ibiza, and walk through the park a different way.
If time is of the essence, get off the metro at Estación del Arte, which is on line one (turquoise), or Banco de España, on line two (red). From either of these stops, it’s just a short walk to the museum.
When it comes to choosing your travel ticket, this will depend on the type of trip you have planned. If you only need to use public transport once or twice, you can pick up a single fare for a couple of euros. Or, buy a Tarjeta Multi card (a local multi-day travel card), and use any public transport for the entirety of your time in Madrid.
What to see at the Museo Nacional del Prado
The Prado’s history dates back nearly two centuries. Its unique collections are thanks to the tastes of 16th and 17th-century Spanish monarchs, whose personal collections make up much of what you’ll see on display here.
We’ll dive into the museum’s history a little later on. First, let’s look at some of the masterpieces you can expect to see when you visit the National Prado Museum.
The Prado Museum’s themes
The collection at the Prado is split into several themes. These include:
- The New Testament and the Apocrypha
- Royal portrait
- Secular portraits
- Trades and professions
- The iconography of the Virgin
- Mythological gods and deities
- Social realism and everyday life
- The Old Testament
You might want to spend more time exploring one of these collections over another, particularly if you’re an art enthusiast. However, most people prefer to stroll around the museum and discover everything that’s on display at leisure.
Featured artists at the Prado Museum
There are lots of artists’ works featured at the Prado. Let’s look at some of the most notable.
Rogier van der Weyden
Weyden was born in Belgium in 1399 and lived in Brussels for much of his life. Lots of the artist’s masterpieces were moved to Spain, France, or Germany by the 1560s, which saved them from destruction in an unsettled Belgium at the time.
You can see four of his religious paintings when you visit the Museo Nacional del Prado. These include The Descent from the Cross, The Virgin and Child, Pietà, and The Crucifixion.
Fra Angelico was an Italian painter working in Florence and Rome during the early Rennaissance. He’s considered one of the greatest artists of the 15th century. Angelico’s works are strongly religious and classical in style, so expect all manner of saints and biblical figures in recognisable scenes. His most notable pieces at the Prado include The Virgin of the Granada, The Annunciation, and Funeral of Saint Anthony the Abbot.
Most visitors to the Museo Nacional del Prado have heard of Raphael, even if they aren’t familiar with the Italian artist’s work. Raphael is one of the greatest artists of the High Renaissance and was a respected painter, designer, and architect while he was alive.
Best known for his Madonnas and immense compositions in the Vatican, Raphael’s most notable works include The School of Athens and Transfiguration. You’ll need to visit Rome to see these. Still, at the Nacional del Prado in Madrid, you can see some of Raphael’s lesser-known but just as impressive pieces, like Madonna dell’Impannata, The Cardinal, and Fall on the road to Calvary.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you’ve probably heard of Rembrandt. The Dutch painter and printmaker is a national treasure. And although most of his famous works remain in the Netherlands, you can see Judith at the banquet of Holofernes when you visit the Prado in Madrid.
Museo Nacional del Prado History and Facts
The Museo Nacional del Prado opened its doors in 1819, which means the institution celebrated its bicentenary in 2019. Let’s take a walk through two-hundred years of this Spanish national gem.
The Prado Museum building
The monumental building which houses the Museo Nacional del Prado is worth visiting in itself. Designed by Juan de Villanueva in 1785, the building was intended as a home for the National History Cabinet under the orders of King Charles III.
Two generations later, Charles’ grandson King Ferdinand VII decided to use it as a new Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures. The name was changed to the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, before becoming the Museo Nacional del Prado we know today.
The royal collections
When it first opened, the Museo Nacional del Prado was home to just over 1,510 artworks, which came from different royal collections. The royal collection grew in the 16th century, during the reign of Charles V and the monarchs who followed.
This royal selection still makes up the foundation of the Prado collection today. It includes The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, The Nobleman with his hand on his Chest by El Greco, Death of the Virgin by Mantegna, among others.
Did you know? The monarchs responsible for the Prado’s foundation pieces would tend to buy as much as possible from their favourite artists, rather than aiming for a comprehensive collection. Because of this, the Prado Museum is home to the largest known collections of Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez, and Goya.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Prado Museum’s collections expanded and the number of annual visitors increased. The building has been developed as much as possible to accommodate this growth. When there was no room left, the only solution was to build a second building, which is located just east of the original Prado and connect the two from inside.
The museum today
Today, the Museo Nacional del Prado is one of the most visited and acclaimed art museums in the world. Over three million guests visit each year! Join them by heading to this spectacular spot while you’re in Madrid.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near the Museo Nacional del Prado
Like most major art museums, the Prado is home to a sleek, treasure-filled gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs and gifts to take home. Browse books, prints, stationery, accessories, clothes, and homeware – you’re sure to find something you love.
If you’re looking for the best restaurants, bars, and shops near the Prado Museum, you’re in luck! Thanks to its central Madrid location, the institution is surrounded by excellent spots.
The best restaurants near the Museo Nacional del Prado
Whether you’re looking for lunch or dinner, head to one of these spots near the museum for great food and vibes to boot.
Lamucca de Prado
Visit Lamucca de Prado for traditional Spanish dishes like jamón platters bursting with cured meats. Or order something international like pizza, salad, or a burger. Everything is excellent, while the cosy underground aesthetic and atmosphere is second to none.
For food to remember, choose TriCiclo, a Michelin Guide restaurant just a short stroll from the Museo Nacional del Prado. TriCiclo is the offering of three young chefs, who work hard to plan and prepare contemporary cuisine based on seasonal ingredients. Order half-portions or tapas for family-style eating.
Not a restaurant as such, but this gourmet food hall has everything you need to satisfy your hunger. This gastronomic mecca sits inside a former cinema building. Today, the five-level space sets the stage for live music and cabaret performances, which mean the place really comes alive at night.
Flit between 23 restaurants and shops, ordering menu highlights then moving on to the next spot. With everything from Spanish and Italian to Mexican, Asian, and even Michelin star cuisine, you’re sure to please everyone here.
The Spanish Farm
This small gourmet Spanish spot is another excellent choice for lunch or dinner after you’ve visited the Museo. Enjoy beautiful food from the well-thought-out menu here, not to mention fantastic wine. This charming restaurant is ideal for couples or smaller groups.
The best bars near the Museo Nacional del Prado
All that art can be thirsty work. A handful of the best bars near the Prado include:
- La Dolores
- Del Diego Cocktail Bar
- 1862 Dry Bar
- Salmon Guru
- La Coquette
- Café Central
The best shopping near Museo Nacional del Prado
If the gift shop hasn’t satisfied you, you’re in luck! Thanks to its central location, the Museo Nacional del Prado enjoys proximity to lots of Madrid’s best shopping spots.
Head to Gran Vía for well-known Spanish brands and one of the city’s best department stores, El Corte Ingles. Or explore Cortes, the neighbourhood right next to the museum, for plenty of arts and literary independents to keep your cultural day going strong.
Museo Nacional del Prado Opening Times and Ticket Prices
Planning your itinerary for a trip to Madrid? You’ll be pleased to know the Museo Nacional del Prado is open every day of the week. From Monday to Saturday, the Prado is available between 10:00 to 20:00. On Sundays and holidays, visitors are welcome between 10:00 and 17:00.
Remember: last entry will be half an hour before closing time.
How much does it cost to visit the Museo Nacional del Prado?
These are the most recent prices for the Museo Nacional del Prado. But be sure to double-check online before your visit. You can also book your tickets online, which will mean no waiting in line outside the museum.
Reduced hours 10:00 to 14:00
Monday to Saturday 18:00 to 20:00
Whenever you visit the Museo Nacional del Prado, and wherever your interests lie, we’re sure you’ll have a memorable time from the moment you arrive.
Taking the train to Madrid
Thanks to the efficient service run by Renfe – Spain’s national train company – it’s easy to reach Madrid by train. High-speed AVE trains can get you from Barcelona to Madrid in 2h 30m on the fastest services, Valencia to Madrid in 1h 40m and Seville to Madrid in 2h 30m. Trains to Madrid arrive into one of the city’s two main stations – Madrid Atocha or Madrid Chamartín; look out for the botanical garden if you arrive into the former!
Want to learn more about travelling by rail in Spain? Read our guide to trains in Spain, your one-stop-shop for all things rail. Our Renfe page also gives you the lowdown on Spain’s national train operator, including how to find the cheapest tickets.