If you feel the need to escape the busy urban life of Madrid, El Parque de Buen Retiro, or simply, “Retiro” is one of the world’s great parks. There is so much to be discovered that indeed, it is easy to loose oneself and spend an entire day exploring. Here are some of our favourite features.
The park boasts numerous monuments, ornamental gardens, and fountains. Among the best is the Statue of the Fallen Angel, a dramatic and controversial statue, the only public artwork in Madrid dedicated to the devil. Curiously, it stands at 666 meters above sea level! Wandering along the Paseo de la Argentina, one can find dozens of 18th-century statues of kings from the Royal Palace. Perhaps the most impressive monument is the Monument to Alfonso XII, with 30 meter high colonnades topped with impressive statues, it’s a great place from which to view the sunset across the lake in the evenings.
Eat & Drink
At all times of the day, locals and visitors can take advantage of the spacious lawns and bring a picnic. Why not bring your own lunch from home, or buy some crusty bocadillos from one of the surrounding bars.
Dotted throughout the park are eleven cafe/restaurants, offering drinks, coffees, hot dogs, and pizzas. On a hot day, it’s the perfect place to find a cooling ice cream. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more special, one of Madrid’s best cafe/bakeries is on the border of the park, at Puerta de Alcala. Harina offers handmade pastries, sandwiches and some of the finest coffee in Madrid. For a treat, try bringing one of their fantastic chicken baguettes and a cappuccino to eat leisurely in the Park.
The beautiful neoclassical pavilion of Palacio de Velázguez dates from 1881, and now hosts exhibitions of modern art from international artists. It was renovated in 2010, and is worth a visit just for the impressive tiling and glass ceilings, allowing natural light to illuminate the exhibits.
The Crystal Palace is the most beautiful building in the park. Originally a 19th-century glasshouse, it now displays exhibitions and installations from the Queen Sofía National Museum Centre of Art.
Facing the pavilion is an ornamental lake with fountains and cascades. Watch out for the unusual Bald Cypress trees which grow right out of the water, and the family of tortoises sunning themselves on the water’s edge.
Music lovers should check out the bandstand close to the Calle de Alcalá end of the park, which every Saturday between May and October, is host to free concerts from the Banda Sinfónica de Madrid. Be sure to arrive before midday in order to reserve a chair. For something more casual, along the paths of the main lake, buskers are abundant. You can while away some time seeing the musicians, fortune tellers, and for the children, large crowds gather to watch puppeteers give their shows.
The open spaces and miles of trails make Retiro the perfect place for sports. Joggers and cyclists can find endless tracks and trails, whilst the smooth, wide surface of Paseo Fernán Núñez is the best place for rollerbladers and skaters. Bicycles can be rented at the main entrance to the park using Madrid’s public bike rental system, BiciMAD. For those with a more active bent, locals can be seen flexing their muscles at the outdoor gym close to the Fallen Angel statue. Another popular and beautiful way to spend an afternoon is boating on the lake. Boat hire costs €5.80 Mon-Fri, and €7.50 on weekends.
There’s a whole world to discover in Retiro Park. Let us know some of your favourite spots in the comments below!