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Prado: less busy times?

The Prado's web site says mornings are busier and recommends afternoons (starting at 14:00). Google's Popular Times function says opening is less busy, then it gets busier until noon, then less busy until 15:00 then busier towards closing. I usually trust Google on this, since I believe it actually tracks people who use its apps, but I wonder why the museum says something different.

If Google is correct, I'd go at opening, get lunch around noon when it gets busiest, then return. Does that make sense?

How would you recommend spending lots of time there and avoiding the busier times?

Having checked recently, tickets seem to be available on short notice. For example, there's availability tomorrow morning at every time other than the first time slot. Is that unusual?

Also, can you still re-enter? I've seen lots of posts that say you can, but they are not very current.

Posted by
5811 posts

As a general rule, tour groups everywhere tend to visit sites during the morning hours, leaving those on the tour afternoons to wander on their own. Hence, morning hours are normally busier. My wife and I are not huge museum people, let alone art museums, so the free evening hours was more than enough for us.

Posted by
25535 posts

I went to the Prado twice in May 2016. I expect it will be noticeably busier in 2023, because reports indicate people are swarming to the most popular cities and attractions. However, I had very pleasant visits at the Prado in 2016. I'm sure I was never there as early as opening time, because I do not get started early in the day. I ran into clots of people in just two places in the entire museum: in front of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" and Velazquez's "Las Meninas". It was easy enough to simply go on to another room or two and then loop back when I could see those paintings easily. I bet those are still the two most popular paintings; you might make a point of seeing those areas early in your visit so you have plenty of time to return to those rooms if you need to do so.

I don't remember running into tour groups on either visit, but I may have been lucky about that. What can be annoying in art museums is encountering a tour group that camps out in a small room for 10 or 15 minutes. Even 5 minutes is long enough to be irritating. But just moving on to a different room for a few minutes can solve that problem.

Posted by
372 posts

Richard, I think you are very wise to think this through. I visited the Prado in June 2019 on the Rick Steves Barcelona/Madrid tour. We'd already seen the royal palace that morning so by the time we arrived at the Prado it was around 11:00. There were so many people there that it was difficult to get close to the key works of art. I ended up enjoying the Thyssen Museum on my own much more (I even had 15 minutes alone in a room with a Caravaggio).

If I ever visit Madrid again, I will arrive at the Prado when the doors open.

Posted by
4429 posts

November 2017 I spent my birthday in the Prado. I arrived before opening to by a ticket and was one of a number of people waiting. I tend to get tunnel vision when I am in these places...focusing on the art and tuning out those around me. I remembering even more focused as it is a no photography museum. If one paint g was busy, I crossed the room and waited for the tour paced folks to move on. Afternoon was certainly quieter as tours and school kids had moved out. Other than a short lunch break I was there 7 hours....not Intentionally, but it takes that long to see the main building. I guess that's why RS has a priority recommendation list.

Posted by
220 posts

We were in Madrid last fall and, of course, spent the day in the Prado. We are museum devotees, especially art museums of which the Prado is world class. Lunch at the cafe - good food, decent prices. We were told at the museum that if you leave the museum, you are out. If you can avoid the busier times, you are probably there with the janitors. There were constant tours with some of them parking in front of "majors" too long, so try to work your viewing between the groups by looking at the other art nearby until they move on - then JUMP. Walking against the flow on the main floors did not work well at all. If you get there early enough, you can bypass a lot of art near the entry, enjoy smaller crowds, then return to the parts you bypassed. Definitely having a list of "must sees" helps but we found lots of really good art not classed as "majors". Tolerate the mobs, enjoy the art.