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One of the most extensive and impressive art galleries in the world, Madrid's Prado Museum is a must see for anyone visiting the city. Even I have been there a few times and I am not really big on art. The museum represents more than a century of history and is one of the most visited and treasured in the world.
Carlos III (King Charles III) was the first to hear a proposal for a museum in Madrid, the idea was suggested by his court painter Antón Rafael Mengs. The idea was initially rejected by the king and was temporarily forgotten.
The first actual attempt to create a museum in Madrid was made by King Joseph Bonapart just after the construction of the world famous Louvre Museum in France but the project was niped in the bud in 1809 and the first brick was not even laid.
King Ferdinand VII finally brought the project to a mature stage at the ongoing requests of The Royal Academy of Fine Arts. What is today known as the Prado Museum was inaugurated in 1819 as the Royal Museum of Art and Sculpture. The actual founder of the museum is considered to this day to be Barbara de Braganza, the wife of King Ferdinand VII and an adament supporter of the project since it's conception. So, the Prado was born.
Today's Prado Museum is a vibrant and beautiful building that houses permanent as well as special visiting collections and exhibits.
You can find the complete history of the Museo del Prado (as well as loads of other info in both English and Spanish) at it's official website online at http://museoprado.mcu.es/prado/html/ihome.html.
Other: The general entrance fee is a very reasonable 500 pesetas (about $2.75 USD, 3 Euros) and entry is Free Saturdays from 2:30pm to closing (7pm) and Sundays from 9am to 2pm. There are also discounts on the general admission price for youths, students and seniors. The very informative (in both English and Spanish) and official website for the Prado Museum is online at http://museoprado.mcu.es/prado/html/ihome.html, there you can get ALL the info you need on the museum. A visit to their website is highly recommended before you go.