I have created another tip on this page about the wonderful Jardines del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park) in Madrid and I indicated there that I was going to write seperate tips about various specific things to see there. Perhaps the most stunning thing of many I saw in the Park was the Palacio de Cristal which you can see here.
I would never count myself as a good photographer and the images here were all taken with a fairly inexpensive compact camera on automatic setting but to be honest it would be difficult to take an image of this place that was not pleasing. There were certainly plenty of others there indulging in shutter frenzy, many of them with huge amounts of kit, tripods and all the gear. With the cloudless sky and the sun shining brightly, the leaves on the turn and the natural beauty of the place it really was photo Heaven. I hope my images reflect this as it was quite magical.
So what exactly is the Palacio then? Well, it is not really very much of anything other than a lovely structure. It was completely empty when I visited although I believe that it is occasionally used for art exhibitions and the like. It is modelled on the Crystal Palace that once stood in South London and still lends it's name to the local Premiership football team. It was built in 1887 to the design of Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and was originally used to exhibit the flora and fauna of the Philippines which, of course, Spain occupied at the time. It is interesting that it started life as such a space as the original Crystal Palace was built to the design of Joseph Paxton who also designed the famous hothouses in Kew Gardens in Southwest London.
Even if there is nothing in it to see as such, the building itself is the star here and it really is worth a visit.
I have created another tip on this page about the wonderful Jardines del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park) in Madrid and I indicated there that I was going to write seperate tips about various specific things to see there. This was the first such that I encountered, the Casita de Pescadores (Little House of the Fishermen). In truth, it was never occupied by fishermen and even to this day the only pescatorial activity you could indulge in, if permitted, is a bit of carp fishing in an artificial lake adjacent to the building which is not really my idea of fun.
What this actually is is what we in the UK is called a folly or carpicho in the Spanish and was built purely for the amusement of visitors. It was constructed in the early 20th century during the restoration of the entire area after it had been laid waste by the French during their occupation of the city. It appears Napoleon's men had absolutely trashed the entire place which seems like a completely wanton acto fo destruction to me. However, it is said that good comes out of evil and the entire park is now beautifully laid out and adorned with such little foibles as this.
There is an artificial small hill behind the casita which apparently provides a cascade normally but when I visited this entire section was closed to the public for maintainance work so the reader will have to content themselves with my "ground level" images here. Even if it is not possible to go into it, the Fisherman's House still provides a wonderful introduction to this excellent leisure facility if you enter from the Northern end and the Puerto de Madrid as I did.
the best thing is that, like the rest of the park, it is completely free!
My first full day in Madrid was an absolutely glorious autumnal affair albeit pretty cold and looked positively ideal for walking and sightseeing which was exactly what I determined to do. I had perused my guide book and decided that the Retiro Park or Jardines del Buen Retiro (to give it it's proper name) looked like an excellent place to start and so it proved.
After a brief stop at the Casa del Arabe (see seperate tip) I approached the Puerta de Madrid (Madrid Gate) which is to the North side of the park, and entered to be greeted with the quite wonderful view you can see in the main image for this page. Not a cloud in the sky, sun shining and life was indeed very good. The question therefore was which way to go. I had looked at the map at the gate and also at my guidebook and decided to go left to see the "Fisherman's House" which I did with a considerable spring in my step.
I should make a point here about how I propose to present my tips on the park. Ordinarily I am not a fan of splitting up tips on one location here on VT, for example I would not go to a theme park and write one tip about the rollercoaster, one about the water flume, one about the ghost train etc. However, in the case of this extensive place (some 350 acres in total) I feel it is justified as there is just so much to see here. For features that do not merit a seperate tip, I shall construct a travelogue for the purposes of displaying some of the images of this hugely photogenic open space.
I walked and I walked and I walked some more and saw some fascinating sights including more than one art gallery, the magnificent Crystal Palace, the boating lake, the Fisherman's House, numerous pieces of statuary, fountains and Heaven knows what else. With time always a factor I did not even make it to the South end of the Park, it really would have taken me all day.
So how did such an aesthetically pleasing and extensive open space come to exist in the middle of a busy modern capital city? Well, as you might imagine, it is all to do with Royalty. After the Moors had been expelled from Spain, there was a monastery on this site which also provided a place for religious retreat and hence the modern name. The Royal religious retreat quarters were gradually converted to a proper palace and when the Alcazar, the original palace in Madrid, burned down the Court moved here temporarily whilst the new and still extant Palace Real (Royal Palace) was constructed.
In 1767 King Carlos III allowed the public to use the park on condition they were "washed and suitably dressed". Well, we don't want to annoy the nobility, do we? The hoi polloi were segregated from the aristocracy in a situation which obtained until the 1860's when the seperation fencing was torn down. In the intervening period all had not been rosy in the garden, if you will forgive the pun. In 1808 the French invaded and occupied spain, including Madrid, and effectively destroyed both palace and gardens. Once Napoleon and his men had been expelled by the Spanish, British and others the work of restoring the place had begun and it seems somewhat perverse to me that much of the restoration was done in a French style! There is no accounting for taste I suppose.
Whatever the history of the Retiro, as it is locally known, it really is an excellent place to visit on a fine day and I was certainly not alone. I was there in the early afternoon of a late November day and there were plenty of people cycling round, jogging, power-walking and a lot, like myself, busy taking photos. It really seems to be a haven for photographers and although I would not say that mine were any good it does seem to offer endless opportunity to get the lens working. I even saw the local police exercising their horses there.
I really cannot praise this place highly enough, it is immaculately kept, well signed and obviously safe and I really do recommend it.
Sorry but I was dreaming about something different.
When we were walking to the park, with about half day reserved only for this, we thought that we are missing the point.
I was expecting for a quiet place, with clean alleys and playgrounds for my son.
Instead of this I found beggars, thieves and dirt. A “magician”, doing nothing else that begging for money, dust and gypsies eating seeds…
I thought that it could be a good idea to take a boat on the lake.
The floating papers and plastic and food leftovers was awful as seen closer.
So... we’ve reduced out time to one hour only and I still consider it a waste of time.
I don’t like making bad assessments about the places I am travelling to but… this time I have to say it, as I was disappointed.
Maybe...was not a good idea to visit it on Sunday afternoon.
Anyway, as a final statement, it is looking much better on wikipedia :(
My hotel was just walking distance from the El Retiro Park and I was awake at 0430 AM because of jet lag --- so I braved walking into the park even during the dark! I walked fast and actually, all I saw was just a person "fixing" the garbage can.
But by the time I reached the large artificial lake called “El Astanque del Retiro", it was already brighter. There was somebody canoeing on the lake and there was nice semicircular colonnade with King Alfonso on a horse.
This park exudes the grandeur that you would expect from the time when Spain was colonizing countries (my motherland included, the Philippines). The 12-hectare park (built by King Felipe IV in 1632) was declared in 1935 a Garden of Historic-Artistic Importance. The gardens were destroyed during times of war, i.e. during the French Invasion of 1808 --- But then restorations were made by later kings ---- so today the public can enjoy the park in all its majestic glory!
You can access the park through the main entrance beside the Alcala Gate, at the Plaza de la Independencia.
Also, don’t forget to visit a new addition to the park ---- The Forest of the Departed (Bosque de los Ausentes) is a somber memorial monument to remember the 191 victims of the March 11, 2004, train attacks on Madrid.
This is an activity I did as a young boy living in Madrid, and never cease to use; my sons did it too, and the tradition continues. You have rowing boats now, and pedal boats before in my timetoo .
Very nice for the entire family, nice romantic ride with your other half, and just marvelous views. You can rent a boat for 4,65€, and gives you 45 minutes of usage. There is a max of four persons per boat,and those under 14 needs to be with an adult.
Hours are from 10h to 20h10
a bit of history on how it was created, the most accepted opinionis that during the reign of king Felipe II (1556-1598),there was alreadya lake here. During the 19C works done by king Fernando VII (1784-1833) change the setting of the lake or embalse. THen a mini port was done at the place that today you see the monument to king Alfonso XII. With queen Isabel II (1833-1868) the lake was converted into a place of leisure for the public that began to make the boat trips on the lake.
Its a wonderful time no matter the age, just great, I encourage you to do it.
You can’t help but see this monument to King Alfonso XII as it is extremely large and sits on one side of the large artificial lake in Retiro Park. It is a semicircle of columns with a very large equestrian statue of the king in the middle of the monument. Steps leading to the lake are in the front of the monument making it a beautiful location to sit and read or watch the people on the lake.
The monument is 86 meters (282 feet) long and 58 meters (190 ft.) wide. Built by José Grases Riera out of marble and bronze, the monument was dedicated in 1922. Riera was chosen from a contest to find a designer for the monument commissioned by the royal family.
In addition to the statue of Alfonso XII, there are four lion statues, four bronze mermaids (located under the lion statues), and several other statues and reliefs by various artists.
I found the area near the Crystal Palace to be the most beautiful of all Retiro Park. Historically, the palace was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco for the Philippine Islands Exhibition. It is a rather large glass pavilion which used to be used for flower displays from the Philippine Islands during this initial exhibition. It has a striking resemblance to the Crystal Palace built in London in previous years.
Today is houses rather unique art displays in its large open room that is free to the public. On the day we visited the exhibit was string wrapped all over the columns and from one column to another, creating a spider web like feel to the building. Hubby remembers his previous visit to the Crystal Palace that the art display was a sculpture of some sort made entirely out of plastic food containers.
In front of the Crystal Palace is a very beautiful spot – a small lake with cypress trees growing in it and ducks leisurely floating around. The pathway takes visitors all around the lake and through a tunnel that goes under the small waterfalls.
We strolled through the Retiro Park on a sunny Sunday morning, just us and a number of joggers and dog walkers as well as a couple crew teams practicing in the lake. Even with all this action, it was a peaceful and relaxing place to visit with more than 350 acres in the middle of Madrid. Along the way, we stopped to enjoy some of the many sculptures and buildings that have been constructed in Madrid’s version of Central Park.
Historically, the area used to be part of the royal palace and was not accessible to the public. In the 18th century, this changed and people were allowed to stroll through the grounds as long as they were dressed formally, befitting a stroll in a palace park. Times have changed and we witnesses people in just about any kind of clothing walking and jogging through the park. I was surprised at how many dogs were not on leashes, although they were well behaved and stayed near their owners (well, except for the dog that belonged to the lady frantically looking and calling for her dog!). As we got closer to some roads within the park, we found people on roller skates and bicycles enjoying the morning.
We stopped into the Crystal Palace to look at the current exhibition and enjoyed walking around the small lake with cypress trees in front of the Palace, complete with waterfall.
I know we didn’t see everything in the park so we’ll simply have to go back again and walk Retiro Park another time.
Located ever so close to the Prado Museum, Retiro Park reminded me of Central Park in New York. It is huge both in dimensions and things to see. The area is particularly popular on weekends when the park appears to be taken over by the residents of Madrid.
The park contains many interesting features. There is a large lake in the middle of the park for boating. There is a gorgeous building called the Crystal Palace that was built long ago. There are spots with cool grass and tall trees for relaxing. There are countless areas to walk and jog around in and be sheltered from the warm sun. There are also an extremely large number of book stalls at the edge of the park selling books of all kinds.
Retiro Park just like it was some 200 years ago when it was opened by King Phillip IV is still a place to relax and forget about the pressures of life for a few hours.
I loved this park. We visited twice bringing a picnic with us on our second visit. We got there from Retiro metro station, though you could also visit from Atocha. We first walked past the lake with its spectacular colonnade containing a monument of King Alfonso XII on horseback. Around this area were buskers, a guy dressed as Edward Scissorhands, stalls, a puppet show. We visited the lovely Crystal Palace and the beautiful Palace of Velazquez. Both are now owned by the Reina Sofia Museum. There was an exhibition of the work of Dutch artist Rene Daniels on in the Palace of Velazquez during our visit. We had our picnic lunch in the Rosadela - Rose Garden which still contained a surprising number of blooms. The Prada Museum and Reina Sofia Museums are near this park. There is a clean public toilet near the Retiro metro station. Whatever you do - don't even think about using the portaloos in this park - I've only just recovered from the shock of looking inside!
Here's a glass house you may not mind living in! Located within Retiro Park, it's an architectural beauty.
So if you visit Madrid, check it out. While we visited, there was an interesting sculpture inside. A series of plastic household objects, multi-colored along the bottom, but then white for the main part.
When you are all cultured out and you can't take another Velasquez or Goya what do you do that doesn't cost money (you have had lots of coffees, tapas, beers and cold drinks) ? YOu head for the park and chill out under a tree, that's what you do!
This park is right in the centre of town up from the Atocha station and near to the Prado. It is green ,huge and full of locals to look at.
You can get yourself an ice cream (if you still have any money left!) and eat it on a bench, watch performers entertaining the kids or take a boat out on the HUGE lake in the middle.Or just do nothing. The park is enormous and easy to get lost in and full of great statues and young people eating sandwiches or just hanging out.
Great fun and free!
Retiro Park is HUGE! My friend, Ana and I spent about two hours one afternoon. This was not enough time to get through the entire park.
You may find of interest:
- "Angel Caido" - Or "Fallen Angel" - This is the only statue in the world dedicated to the Devil.
- Paddle boating.
- There are so many nooks and crannies to explore with fountains and statues of all sorts.
- Try an horchata at one of the terrazas. They're delicious!
For further info, you may want to visit the site below:
NOTHING BEATS RETIRO PARK!
The Retiro was originally built for the Spanish king Phillip IV and was opened to the general public in the 1800's. Situated behind the Prado museum. Retiro is also a central meeting point for all sorts of people fromroller skating youngsters io older men playing 'petanca' to football players and joggers of all ages. The park has a number of 'terrazas' where you can sip a beer or enjoy an 'horchata'. The central focus of the park is the large lake where you can go boating. Especially on a Sunday afternoon it is worthwhile to visit the park.