Museo Del Prado

On our last day in Madrid we decided to venture to a museum row just north of Puerta de Sol. We both had no idea what to expect and simply walked up to the vicinity of Prado to see what was being shown. At first we stumbled into what I now know is City Hall. From the exterior it was covered in banners about different art exhibitions in the city. So I had her use her Spanish to figure out where to go next. We were told to keep east on the same street and we finally found an epic building with a ton of gothic columned entrances. Just beyond it was a botanical garden and quite a few high end hotels. It was clear we were in a way different part of town. We decided that we would go into Prado to cool off and then consider the gardens.

When we finally found the main entrance there were tons of people queuing for tickets. We paid for ours and entered going through a brief security check. The front included several desks for information, audio guides, a coat check, an open concept gift shop and two cafes. There is a general admission and one with a more detailed printed guide. The normal program for Museo Del Prado provided a fluid map for several floors of paintings, sculpture and relics. Having been to other museums in France just to be kicked out in a few hours we figured we better plan our viewing. Prado features an expansive collection of Spanish paintings and decorative arts. Their largest permanent collection is mostly comprised of Goya and Velazquez. We decided to seek these out first then stroll other works and temporary exhibits.

Before we started we did visit the cafes. There is a short order counter that has a variety of drinks, pre-made sandwiches and wraps and snacks. Just past that counter is a queue for a self-serve cafeteria experience. There were stations of cold items like Russian salad, fresh fruit and gazpacho. There were also stations of various sandwiches and plated appetizers. Just behind those was a chef preparing small plates of hot items. There were stuffed tomatoes, frittata and steak. Everything looked absolutely beautiful in comparison to other museum offerings. We only stopped to cool off after that long walk to the museum. If I had known they had such decent food I would have saved an appetite. 

I can't be certain if we went upstairs or downstairs first. I do know that we attempted to go in the numerical order of the galleries nearest to our must sees. We ran into the unexpected "Garden of Earthly Delights" by Bosch. Both of us not too familiar with religious and medieval works, we were drawn into the one colorful image in the middle of too many God's and disciples. There was also a small crowd in front of the triptych which caused us to wait to see each section up close. We both keep peering at it and reading the forward to explain the light, evil visual explanation of humanity as we now know it. We had already seen Picasso's tantrum like effort to refute "Las Meninas" by Velázquez. So to see the original version and ponder upon it was worth the ticket price alone. We then spent a lot of time finding differences between the nude and later clothed Maya by Goya. There was also long galleries of tapestry and sculpture. An entire church was built back up for viewing in a lower gallery. There was a vault of sorts in the basement full of jeweled goblets and things no one can afford. 

After seeing more then what we wanted we did view the temporary exhibit, "Captive Beauty", on the opposite side of museum. I have never skipped a temporary exhibit because most are the star of lackluster galleries and museums. This particular exhibit was well worth the visit. The curator created a wonderful guide where you could interact with pieces that are otherwise ignored in the permanent galleries. There were sculpture and paintings including Durer and Rubens. In essence, it was a very visceral experience with plenty of information and space to reflect. There was also an impressive gift shop nearest at the exhibits exit which offered plenty of items based off its works.

Overall, Prado was absolutely beautiful. I came in with no expectations and left impressed and honored. I can now say I've graced the halls of some of the most beautiful art in the world. This was also the first unique experience where I didn't feel rushed. We were able to see everything, not sense a closing time or be hurdled in with curated groups. Also, when leaving Prado the art doesn't stop. There is so much in the general area be it topiary, architecture, gardens, statues - you can get in the art and experience without even going inside. Also the cafe has a terrace that can be entered without admission. If you can only do one thing in Madrid make it Museo Del Prado. You can make a day of it and even if you don't get to go inside just explore its epic surroundings. 

I'll post more on how to get the most of your museum and gallery experiences - what to plan, what to do and what to avoid.

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