Madrid’s Paseo del Prado
The Paseo del Prado is one of Madrid’s most central, most historic thoroughfares. It transverses the southern part of the city centre, beginning at the central Plaza de Cibeles, and it proceeds southward through the Plaza de Cánovas del Castillo. It comes to an end at the Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, also called the Plaza de Atocha, where Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha train station is located.
Despite its central location and its many attractions, the Paseo del Prado is a place of serenity and beauty. Through most of its length, it is divided into two sections, one leading in each direction, with a wide and beautifully landscaped median for pedestrians. The centre of the Paseo del Prado is a formal garden, thick with shade trees and flowers, and it widens into a lovely, formally landscaped botanical garden just before reaching the Plaza del Emperador.
The Paseo del Prado is often crowded with traffic and it is really best experienced on foot. Besides charming cafes and stunning historic architecture, what can a traveller expect to find? The Paseo del Prado is home to some of Madrid’s best museums and, at the northern end, it is anchored by the iconic Plaza Cibeles, home of the Cibeles Palace.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is the home of the formerly private art collection of Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, his son Hans and Han’s wife Carmen Cervera. Before it became public, it was one of the largest private collections in the world, with more than 1,600 paintings.
The works featured were purchased between the 1920s and the end of the twentieth century. The collection includes examples of nineteenth century Romanticism and modern, twentieth century art, as well as European art from as early as the fourteenth century. Rather than a comprehensive collection of European art, the collection focuses on the artists and periods that interested the collectors.
Museo del Prado
The Museo del Prado is Spain’s principal national art museum. It has the most comprehensive collection of Spanish art in the world, and it began as the Spanish royal family’s private art collection. The Prado Museum’s collection is vast, with over 20,000 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and other works of art. Many works are on display at the main museum in Madrid, and many are lent out to other institutions.
Those with a serious interest in art, and especially in Spanish art, should plan to spend as much time as they can in the Prado. On the other hand, an hour or two spent in the Prado as part of a day on the Paseo del Prado can be a wonderful experience. The museum itself is a gorgeous historic building, constructed beginning in 1785. Check their website for special exhibitions and other events.
Plaza de Cibeles and Cibeles Palace
If the Paseo del Prado begins at the train station, then it peaks at its northern end: The Plaza de Cibeles. Cibeles is at the centre of the city of Madrid, and the Cibeles Palace is now Madrid’s City Hall and the headquarters of the Post Office. The plaza is also home to the beautiful eighteenth century fountain of Cibeles. Other historical buildings in the plaza include the headquarters of the Bank of Spain, the Ministry of War building and the Linares Palace, which is now a museum of Latin American art. The museum is worth a look, as are the interiors of these impressive public buildings.
Many visitors arrange a car hire in Madrid before travelling, and having a car is absolutely essentially for exploring the areas outside the centre of the city. However, the Paseo del Prado is best experienced on foot. Park the hired car and enjoy a day of art and culture on the Paseo del Prado.