Prado means meadow and this great museum stands where the garden meadows for the city’s sustenance once stood, much like the nearby area of El Retiro Park. It was under Carlos III in the 18th century that the Museo del Prado was built.
A wonderful time to visit the Prado is in the late afternoon/early evening for the free admission hours. It is a relaxing time, and often city residents are here too to enjoy the grounds with their well-behaved dogs. In good weather, a few itinerant musicians might also regale you with classical Spanish guitar and song.
The Prado was Bourbon king Carlos III’s 18th century vision of transforming this part of Madrid into a great paseo and elegant confluence of society and the arts open to the public. He was successful and it remains so today.
The museum primarily houses works from the 12th to the 19th century.
If all you have time for is a few galleries and you want to take in the Spanish painters, then focus your efforts on the ground floor, the first and second sections where the Spanish School, from 1100-1850 AD are displayed. Here you will find many fine examples of medieval Spanish art and then Golden Age artists, such as:
El Greco (c. 1541-1614; gallery 8A-10A)
Velázquez (1599-1660; gallery 12, 14-16, and 18) and
Goya (1746-1828; gallery 32, 34-38, 64-67, 85, and 90-94)
Mixed throughout these galleries are also works by Juan
Bautista Marino (1581-1649), Bartolomé Murillo (1617-1682), Antonio de Pereda
(1611-1678), and Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).
With this remarkable foundation, consider exploring the rest of Artist’s Madrid in one of the world’s greatest art capitals.
If you are walking, your next stop is the botanical gardens, Real Jardín Botanico.