El Museo del Prado (the Prado Museum) should be at the top of any traveler's to-do list when visiting the Spanish capital of Madrid. With its extensive collection of Spanish, Italian, Dutch and German Renaissance masters, the Prado, along with the Louvre in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, is one of the three most important Renaissance museums in the world.
Completed in 1785 in the Prado (meadow) de los Jeronimos, the Palacio de Villanueva was originally planned as a natural science museum. During Napoleon's occupation of Spain, the Palacio, like the Alhambra, was used as a barracks for French cavalry soldiers. It wasn't until the reign of Fernando VII that the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture was created to display Spain's artistic wealth. Five years later, el Museo del Prado opened with a total of 311 Spanish paintings.
Today, the Museo del Prado is the largest art gallery in the world, housing an estimated 8,600 paintings, with no more than half of these on display at any time. The gallery is a combination of royal collections from the Old Trinidad Museum and acquisitions, donations and bequests.
The Collection of art in the Museo del Prado constitutes some of the best tourism Spain has to offer. Serious art lovers should leave themselves a day or two in order to really enjoy the museum. If you visit Spain you can see the Prado on the your first day, tour the rest of the country, and then return before you depart from Madrid and look at the works you missed, or those that you just can't get out of your mind. If you visit Spain, you'll want to make sure to spend at least a day at the Prado. The entrance fee is 500pts. The museum is free on Saturday and after 2:30 pm on Sunday. Below is a (very) short list of the must-see artists in the Prado Museum.
The entire southern wing of the second floor is devoted to the works of Fransisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes. The Spaniard captured the extremes of hope and misery during and after the Napoleononic invasion with his works El Dos de Mayo and El Tres de Mayo.
Visit room 56A for Hieronymus Bosch's perplexing The Garden of Earthly Delights. It is rumored that Bosch had a painful skin disease, and that the cream used to ease the condition had hallucinatory side effects. A close look at the fantastical Earthly Delights and you wonder not if, but how many, drugs the artist was doing.
Though The Prado Museum is primarily a Spanish affair, the Italians are well represented by Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian.