One of the largest parks in Madrid, Buen Retiro Park, with its 350 acres of lush land in the heart of this buzzing metropolis, is often considered to be the green lungs of the city. Created in 1640, the park became available for public use in the late 19th century, and with its colorful gardens and serene ambience, is definitely taking a couple of hours to stroll through when in the city.
The Retiro Pond
For those who begin their walk at the park’s northern entrance, the first feature that you will come across is the park’s large artificial lake, known as the Retiro Pond. This, coupled with the huge ornamental Monument to Alfonso XII and the elegant marble lions, is most definitely the focal point of the park. From the bongos and dancing around the lake’s edge in the summer evenings to the row boats that can be rented to explore the lake, this is a great area of the park in which to spend some time soaking up Madrid’s environment.
Palacio de Cristal
Arguably the most impressive architectural element of the park, the Palacio de Cristal is a stunning glass and metal structure that was built in 1887. While its original purpose was to be a winter garden for the park’s exotic flowers, it is today used by the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia for temporary exhibitions.
Home to over 4000 roses, Buen Retiro Park’s Rose Garden was designed in 1915, borrowing elements from rose gardens in other European cities. With a wide range of roses in multiple shades, this garden is at its best during the late spring and early summer months, as this is when the roses are in full bloom.
Ermita de San Isidro
Situated in the northeastern corner of the park, the Ermita de San Isidro is a small country-style chapel, and is notable as being one of the few examples of Romanesque architecture in the city. While the chapel is at the heart of the city today, when it was first built, Madrid was only a small village situated two kilometres away, providing you with a unique insight into how much this city has grown over the years.
Bosque del Recuerdo
While it may seem unassuming to the average tourist, the Bosque del Recuerdo is actually a memorial dedicated to the train bombings on 11th March 2004, in which 191 lives were taken. In honor of each victim, an olive or cypress tree was planted in their name.
While taking a leisurely stroll through Buen Retiro Park, you may want to stop off and enjoy a few of the park’s activities. As mentioned above, rowboats are available to rent for those who want to row around the lake, and, if you do not like the idea of rowing, there is a solar powered boat that you can travel on instead. Horse-drawn carriages are also available for touring the park, although walking is really the best way to enjoy the atmosphere, while seeing the street performers from up close. Every Sunday at noon, the park hosts a free concert, and there are also plenty of other special events throughout the year, from fairs and festivals to cultural events to firework shows. For those bringing their children to the park, there are several different playgrounds for them to run around in, as well as ponds with ducks that can be fed.
Buen Retiro Park is a spectacular public park that is much loved by the locals of Madrid. From the serenity of the beautifully landscaped gardens to the buzz of activity surrounding the lake, there is always plenty to see and do here, no matter when you choose to visit.