Retiro Park is one of the top places I visited when in Madrid. With around 125 hectares of grounds to explore and numerous routes and walkways around the park, you will not get bored here. Many of the roads around the park are named after Latin American countries. I visited one Monday evening and spent around 2 hours walking around the park in a refreshing light drizzle leaving at around 9.30 pm. The area felt safe with many people around and the atmosphere was perfect.
The Retiro used to belong to the Spanish monarchy but now has definitely been claimed by the people of Madrid. On Sundays, it gets very busy with families as child-friendly activities such as puppet shows go on. On the Monday evening that I visited, the majority of people were partaking in exercise whether it be jogging, in-line skating, aerobics, tai-chi or stretching. People were also rowing on the Estanque, a large pond near the Alcala Gate entrance. There were also people like me who were just there to look around and take in the surroundings.
I entered the park at the Alcala Gate entrance and walked to the Estanque. From there, I walked to the Velazquez Palace and the Crystal Palace, two late 19th century additions to the park. The latter has a lovely lake outside. Unfortunately the Rose Garden had closed earlier in the day so I was only able to take some photos over the hedge! It did look very nice though.
The park has no entrance fee and is open in high season between 6 am and midnight. In low season it closes at 10pm. The nearest Metro station is Retiro or its a 10-15 minute brisk walk from Gran Via or Sol (downhill going, uphill on the way back!).
I just have so many photos of this park that I really like, I wanted to add more. I found it surprising to see mso many roses still alive in December. When you look closely at the details on the fountains in this park, they are really very beautiful and imaginative. What can be cuter than little kids sitting rapt in front of a show.
I have mentioned in other tips on tis page that I spent a most relaxing morning wandering round the Retiro Park away from the hubbub of central Madrid and one of the things I stumbled upon was the Estanque or boating lake. In my experience, boating lakes tend to be about the size of a decent jacuzzi and you basically end up going round in such small cirlces that one oar is really all that is required! Such is not at all the case with the Estanque here as it is as huge. Indeed, I have fished in loughs (small lakes) in Nothern Ireland that would esily have fitted into this body of water.
The lake is one of the earliest parts of the park, dating to 1631 when the entire area was a royal garden and is so large that in the reign of King Felip IV it was actually used to stage mock naval battles which must have been something to see. Nowadays there are no mock battles but if you fancy a touch of the nautical you can hire rowing boats from the jetty. You may just be able to pick out in the images that there were a few hardy souls rowing about on what was a glorious if somewhat chilly November day (we had snow that night) but I thought I would give it a miss. I am sure it is delightful in warmer weather.
If you are exploring the Retiro Park it is hard to miss the Estanque and I suggest that you take a moment or two, as I did, to sit and contemplate this rather tranquil and beautiful place.
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. This tip deals with the monument to King Alfonso XII which towers majestically over the Estanque (boating lake) and is certainly worth a look. To be honest, it is difficult not to look at it as it completely dominates this portion of the Park.
It is somewhat obscure as to why this was erected as it was first mooted in 1898, when they had lost control of Cuba to the Americans as codified under the Treaty of Paris of that year. It is true that the monument was not actually erected until 1922 to the design of Mariano Benllure and perhaps King Alfonso was much-loved but I still find it a little odd.
Whatever the reason for the erection of such a monument, it really is very impressive. My guide book mentioned that it was a haven for sun-worshippers but I can only presume they were talking about the summer months as it would have indeed been a hardy soul that would have risked sunbathing in the biting cold of a glorious autumnal day. The summer bikini brigade appeared to have been replaced in late November by many young lovers taking the air and I can understand the reason as it is a delightful setting. This in itself led to a few problems for an amateur photographer like myself as I did not wish to be perceived as some sort of voyeuristic middle aged man and so I had to pick my camera angles fairly carefully. I do hope I have done the place justice in these images.
I had approached the place from the side and only found my favourite part of the monument as I was leaving and as you can see in one of the images. Flanking the central entrance are two statues representing sailors and soldiers on the left and right respectively. It did reinforce my already held belief that it is such men that make and keep Kings and gave me some cause for thought as I continued my wander round this excellent park.
the reader really should spend a little time there, it is a lovely place.
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.
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.