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If you’re ever in Madrid for a frustratingly short period of time and are wondering how to make the most of your almost non-visit, allow me to recommend the Prado. Now if art by the masters— Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Raphael, El Greco, and Bosch (among others) — is not your thing, then by all means find something else to do. But if you like this type of painting, can get to the Prado, and have a minimum of two to three hours to commit to the expedition, then trust me, it is well worth the effort.

So taking my own advice, the Saturday afternoon before the start of TQ’s Expressions tour, I headed to the Prado. I’d pre-purchased a ticket online before I left home, and it was well worth the extra €1, because I bypassed the long box office lines and walked straight in. I had three hours.

The Prado is huge. It has more than 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 2,400 prints and 6,300 drawings — and is rightly considered one of the finest museums of European art in the world. So unless you want to spend a couple of hours aimlessly wandering and randomly sampling artists and their works, you have to have a plan.

Mine was simple. I had to see The Garden of Earthly Delights and anything else by Hieronymus Bosch. I wanted to see Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. There were a few famous Raphaels and El Grecos on my list. And I wanted to check out the Black Paintings of Goya. Simple enough, but that occupied more than an hour because I wasn’t interested in drive-by sightings…I actually wanted to seriously look at them, even though I’m no artist.

The rest of the time I just wandered. And there is joy to be found in doing that, because you’ll never know what (or who) you’ll stumble across. More times than I can remember I said: “Hey, I recognize that, and I can’t believe I’m seeing the original!” (There was even a Mona Lisa, albeit by one of da Vinci’s pupils.)

Madrid has many splendid sights on offer, but if you have even the slightest appreciation of the art of the old masters, the Prado is not a museum you want to miss.

Written by: Paul Deans – TQ Editor

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