Prado Museum (Museo Nacional del Prado)#3 in Best Things To Do in Madrid
One of Madrid's most famous museums, the elegant Museo Nacional del Prado is consistently touted by travelers as a must-see. Opened in 1819 at the encouragement of Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza (King Ferdinand VII's wife), the museum contains 8,600 paintings and more than 700 sculptures, featuring Spanish, Italian and Flemish styles of art. Among the most famous works featured include Velazquez's "Las Meninas," Goya's "The Third of May 1808," El Greco's "Adoration of the Shepherds." Travelers note that sometimes it can be difficult to get close to these famous paintings, recommending that visitors come early or late for the best chance of seeing these works without hordes of others.
There are often lines outside the Prado, so plan on getting there early and make sure to wear comfortable shoes. The Prado charges an admission fee of 15 euros (about $17.50) for adults (visitors younger than 18, and students 18 to 25 get in for free with a paying adult). If your itinerary allows, try to visit during the museum's free hours (usually the last two hours of the evening). However, if you consider yourself an art aficionado, heed the advice of past visitors and allot at least half a day to tour the museum.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can find the Prado adjacent to Retiro Park, and reach the attraction off the Atocha or Banco de España metro stops. Along with a gift shop and cafe, the museum also offers lockers and audio guides (for an additional charge). For more information, visit Prado Museum's website.
More Best Things To Do in Madrid
#1 Plaza Mayor
This square, located in the heart of Madrid, is more a must-experience attraction than a must-see one. Surrounded by cafes and bars, Plaza Mayor practically begs passersby to take a seat, order a coffee or glass of wine (depending on the time of day) and people-watch. Not only do throngs of tourists pass through, but multiple street performers plant their feet here to entertain. The square starts getting busy around 2 p.m. and will grow increasingly busy as night falls. If you find yourself in Madrid during the holidays, locals recommend visiting the holiday markets held in the plaza.
Recent travelers acknowledge the touristy nature of Plaza Mayor – the souvenir shops, the less-than-gourmet yet overpriced restaurants, for instance – but for most travelers, Plaza Mayor still affords a lovely ambience. If you want to learn more about the history behind Plaza Mayor, which dates back to 1617, reviewers suggest you sign up for a walking tour. One of the city's most emblematic pieces of public art, the statue of Philip III on horseback, can also be found here.
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