Retiro Park in Madrid, whose name in Spanish means “good privacy”, is one of the most important and perhaps the most famous cultural heritage of Spain. Unusual fountains, alleys with strawberry trees and the remains of ancient architectural structures annually attract tourists from all over Europe and make El Retiro one of the most visited objects in Spain.
Park Buen Retiro, one of the best attractions of Madrid, is located in the center in the same area. This place, which is in demand both among the local population and among the guests of the city, has a pleasant and eventful pastime. In addition, many interesting objects are concentrated on its territory, introducing tourists to the historical and cultural heritage of not only the city itself, but the whole country.
One of the largest parks in the Spanish capital, covering an area of 120 hectares, is replete with unique plants, fancy trees, magnificent fountains, sculptures and buildings dating from the middle of the 17th century. But even if you are not at all interested in architecture and history, you can come for a walk in its shady alleys, have a picnic and watch your children frolic in one of the many playgrounds.
History of creation
Buen Retiro, founded in 1630 and one of the oldest parks in Madrid, was founded at the initiative of Count Olivares, who served in the court of the then King of Spain Philip IV. At that time it was just a small garden, in the middle of which a magnificent royal palace towered. Being the second residence of the ruling family, it was for a long time closed to ordinary people and was used only for theater shows, festive balls and other court events.
The situation changed only with the advent of Charles III, who opened El Retiro for public access. That’s just to enjoy the beauties of the park, the locals did not have long. Already in 1808, in the midst of the Spanish-French war, both the garden itself and most of its structures were completely destroyed. Despite the large-scale reconstruction, which began almost immediately after the end of hostilities, it was not possible to restore all the historical buildings. That is why the modern look of Parque del Buen Retiro bears little resemblance to that royal garden as it was in 17-18 centuries.
In 1935, El Retiro Park entered the register of the artistic and historical heritage of Spain. Nowadays, many sculptural, landscape and architectural values created in different time periods are stored on its territory.
What to see in the park?
Madrid can take you all day to explore the Buen Retiro Park. If you have only 2-3 hours at your disposal, pay attention to the most popular tourist sites.
The rose garden, founded in 1915, is a small piece of land on which neat flower beds planted more than 4 thousand species of rose bushes. Along the perimeter of the rosary, designed according to the example of French flower beds, there are arches and fountains, and there are signs with flowers describing each flowerbed. The ideal time to visit Rosaleda is from May to June, but on other days the garden remains no less well-groomed and beautiful.
The crystal palace, built in 1887 and timed to coincide with the Philippine exhibition of tropical plants, became not only a real decoration of the Buen Retiro park, but also its most important attraction. The magnificent building erected from glass and iron is considered the brightest example of architecture of that time. At the base of the castle is a strong metal structure holding a transparent shell with a huge 23-meter dome, and the central entrance to the building, made of ceramic tiles, brick and stone, was designed by Daniel Zuluaga, a famous Spanish artist.
To date, the premises of the Palacio de Cristal, which heads the rating of the most beautiful buildings in Madrid, houses an exhibition of contemporary art by the Museum of Queen Sofia.
The famous Avenue of Statues, which is also called the Avenue of Argentina, is a long street, on both sides of which are sculptural images of absolutely all the Spanish kings. Paseo de Argentina, considered the best place for an informal acquaintance with the history of Spain, begins at the gates of Alcalá and follows to a large lake, from the banks of which there is a beautiful view of the monument to Alfonso XII.
Initially, all 94 statues made by the best Spanish sculptors were to decorate the cornice of the Royal Palace. However, due to the constant nightmares that haunted Queen Isabella, it was decided to transfer them to the park of Buen Retiro.
The magnificent building, named after the architect who designed it, was built at the end of the 19th century. for the National Mining Exhibition. According to its architectural features, Palacio de Velázquez is very similar to Crystal Castle. It is characterized by the same glass domes that provide natural lighting, and a solid base. Only in this case it is not made of metal, but of ordinary brick. There is nothing surprising in the similarity of these famous park structures, because the same architect worked on their projects. Today, Velazquez Palace is a branch of the Reina Sofia Museum.
The Galapagos Fountain, installed in Buen Retiro in honor of the birth of the future Queen of Spain, Isabella II, consists of several elements filled with a special metaphorical meaning. At that time, it was next to the main street of Madrid and performed not only a decorative, but also a practical function, supplying water to the whole city.
The granite palm became the base of the fountain. The very last bowl contains figures of dolphins and babies, and the multi-tiered pedestal is complemented by sculptural images of frogs and rare Galapagos turtles, thanks to which this fountain got its name.
The huge natural lake, stretching in the central part of Retiro Park, was cleaned and ennobled in 1639. Since then, one or another entertainment is regularly held in its waters. But if in the 17th century-18th century it was trips on royal ships and rehearsals of sea battles, now we are talking about rafting, rowing and renting various river transport. Once in the middle of the lake there was a small shred of earth, which served as a stage for theatrical performances. Now in this place stands a monument to one of the Spanish kings.
Royal Observatory, founded in the middle of the 18th century. by order of Charles III, became one of the first research institutions in the world. In a neoclassical-style building, they studied not only astronomy, but also other natural sciences – geodesy, meteorology, cartography, etc. Since then, many valuable objects remained in the walls of the planetarium, among which a scientific library, telescope, Foucault pendulum deserves special attention. and a collection of unique watches. Nowadays, the Real Observatorio de Madrid has the headquarters of 2 observatories at once – astronomical and geophysical.
When planning to visit Retiro Park in Madrid, listen to the following recommendations:
- On weekdays, people in the park are much smaller than on weekends, but on Saturdays and Sundays a book fair is organized here, where you can buy many interesting publications.
- The territory of Buen Retiro is quite large in order to move around on foot – it is better to take a bicycle (rental point near the entrance).
- You can have a snack and a drink in one of the many cafes located among the trees. True, the prices are quite high, so both tourists and locals prefer to have picnics right on the lawns. This is allowed here.
- Bring food for gulls, fish and ducks with you – you can feed them.
- Walking along the alleys of the park, do not forget to carefully monitor personal belongings. Thefts in El Retiro happen quite often, but despite the frequent complaints of visitors, there are no police officers or surveillance cameras.
The most beautiful places in Retiro Park:
Posted by: Olga Sheyko