The Retiro Park, the green lung of Madrid
The Retiro Park
This true haven of peace situated in the heart of the city is composed of multiple fountains, gardens, sculptures and even a large lake where you can sail.
It is also known as a cultural place since it hosts many museums such as the great palace of Velázquez and the crystal palace. If you come to visit Madrid it will surely be part of your to do list!
Where is the Retiro Park located? How do I get to the Retiro Park? What to do at the Retiro Park?
Discover in this article all the answers to your questions. If you’re planning to visit Madrid for a weekend or during your future holidays then feel free to check out our blog.
The history of Retiro Park
Called by the people of Madrid “parque del Retiro” or “parque del buen Retiro“, it was so named because it was once the spiritual retreat of the kings of Spain.
The construction of a second home for the king and his court began there, giving rise to the Palacio del Buen Retiro.
The gardens, formerly places of entertainment and recreation for the royalty, make up the park that we know today. In fact, the palace was destroyed, as it deteriorated over time due to poor quality materials and the Napoleonic attacks from 1808 to 1814. Thus, the majority of the remains of the palace are its gardens.
The Retiro Park roses
The park in a few figures
Created between 1630 and 1640, and covering more than 125 hectares, the Retiro Park has more than 15,000 trees, as well as numerous fountains, sculptures and gardens.
Formerly reserved for the king and his court, in 1868 it was opened to the public for good.
Practical information about Retiro Park
The Retiro park is accessible by metro line 2 and also by the following bus lines: 1, 2, 9, 15, 19, 20, 26, 51, 52, 61, 63, 74, 146, 152, C1.
Madrid Metro Tarif: The price of a metro ticket is 1.50€, the same for the bus.
Madrid metro timetable: The Madrid metro opens at 6.05am and the last train will pass at 1.30am. For more information on Madrid metro timetables, please visit the official website.
Opening hours of the Retiro Park :
Between April and September: from 6am to midnight.
Between October and March: from 6am to 10pm
Price: free entrance
The main entrance to the Retiro Park is located in the Plaza de la Independencia, next to the Puerta de Alcala, an old gate that provided access to the city, is located.
It is built in a neoclassical style and resembles a triumphal arch. It can be reached by bus line 19 and leads directly to the Statue Walk.
Palaces of the Parque del Buen Retiro
El parque del buen Retiro is home to many buildings remarkable for their architecture. Its two most famous palaces are the Crystal Palace and the great Palace of Velazquez.
They are very different, and both are must-sees in El parque del buen Retiro, whether for a cultural getaway or a simple stroll.
The Retiro Park roses
Palacio de Cristal del parque del buen retiro
The Crystal Palace of the Buen Retiro is the work of the architect Ricardo Velasquez, it was originally built to house an exhibition of the Philippine Islands, hence its original use as a greenhouse.
Indeed, entirely composed of large windows and an iron structure, it is often compared to the palace of the same name located in Hyde Park in London. They both have the same structure and were both originally built to house an exhibition.
Today it regularly hosts exhibitions from the Reina Sofia Museum of contemporary Art. Both an exhibition space and a work of art in itself, it is very popular with tourists as it perfectly captures the light to make superb photos in a unique environment.
With its high structure and dome reaching 22 meters high, the crystal palace overlooks a small lake.
Entrance and access to the exhibitions are free of charge.
Please note, however, that the Crystal Palace does not have the same opening hours as the Retiro Park. Indeed, in high season, from April to September, it opens at 10 am and closes at 10 pm, the rest of the year it closes at 6 pm.
The Retiro Park – Crystal palace
Great palace of Velázquez
The great palace of Velázquez is similar to the Palacio de Cristal since it was built by the same architect, inspired by the same work and initially used for the same purpose.
However, it was built a little earlier between 1881 and 1883 and to house the National Mining Exhibition.
Its structure is also made of glass and iron with a high dome, but it differs for its many brick pillars and its earthenware decoration from the Royal Manufactory of Moncloa. It is also an annex of the Reina Sofia Museum where you will find sculptures and works of modern and contemporary art.
Access is free of charge.
The palace is open from April to September between 10 am and 10 pm, from November to March between 10 am and 6 pm and finally in October between 10 am and 7 pm.
The Retiro Park – Velasquez Museum
The museums of the Retiro Park
The Retiro Park is not only a green expanse, it is also home to numerous museums, former remains of the Palacio del Buen Retiro, the king’s second residence originally built to entertain monarchs.
Today the palace has been destroyed but some remains remain, such as the Salón de los Reyes (Hall of the Kingdoms) or the Cason del Buen Retiro.
Hall of the Kingdoms
Formerly used as a royal reception room but also as a throne room, this room was later transformed into an army museum.
It is also one of the few remains of the Palacio del Buen Retiro. However, in 2010, the museum was transferred to Toledo -the neighbouring city of Madrid- , so the place had to reinvent itself and was renovated to become an exhibition room for the works of the Prado Museum.
Currently, the room is still under renovation but is composed of numerous windows, a large floor area and also a large ceiling area, which will soon be able to accommodate the works that once adorned its walls. Among them are the 5 equestrian portraits of the royal family and the surrender of Breda, all painted by Diego Velazquez.
The opening was originally planned for the Prado Museum’s bicentenary in 2019, but since the renovation has been delayed, its date of reopening is not yet known.
Cason del buen retiro
Former ballroom of the court of Felipe IV, this building is one of the few remains of the Palacio del Buen Retiro.
The building has undergone major renovations to enlarge the hall and restore the fresco that decorates the vaulting by Giordano.
In the past, the hall housed many works from the Prado Museum, including the famous work by Pablo Picasso, Guernica, which was exhibited there before being transferred to the Reina Sofia Museum.
Today, however, the building is dedicated to the Prado Museum Studies Center for research and training of art experts. It also houses various departments dependent on the Prado Museum, such as the museum archives, its documentation and conservation centre and its library.
This building therefore contains many works on paintings, sculptures and drawings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Since the building now houses a training centre and valuable books, it is no longer open to the public but you can still admire its beautiful baroque façade.
The Retiro Park – Crystal palace
The statues and fountains of the Retiro Park
The Retiro Park is full of all kinds of artwork. You can admire beautiful Greek-style statues, as well as imposing and symbolic monuments such as the one erected in honour of King Alfonso XII.
You will also find many fountains, each work has a story and you will discover some of them in the following article.
Visiting Madrid and the Retiro Park with a private guide is a unique experience that will not leave you indifferent. Book your private tour now with us to know the secrets of the city and the park.
Monument Alfonso XII a central piece of Retiro Park
This monument was built in honour of King Alfonso XII, this statue overlooks the pond at 30 metres high and is located near the large lake in the centre of Parque del Retiro.
This former king of Spain is for the country synonymous with peace, he was a humble man at the service of the poor and the sick.
Construction began in 1902 and was inaugurated in 1922 when the statue of the king on his faithful steed completed the monument.
This major work of art in the 70-metre wide park is thus composed of a central statue to which arched columns are added. The columns themselves are adorned with sculptures such as lions guarding the monument, sirens and other works representing various values dear to Spain.
These include Peace, Freedom, Progress, but also the Spanish Army and Navy, Arts, Sciences, Industry and Agriculture.
The entire monument is made of bronze and marble.
The Fountain of the Fallen Angel in the Park del buen Retiro
This fountain overhung by a statue representing an angel who was expelled from Paradise, is the only work on earth where the Devil is represented.
Designed by sculptor Bellver in 1878, it was greatly inspired by John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. Built for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, it is made of bronze and stone. At the top, the angel with outstretched wings seems to have just landed in hell, frightened, a snake wraps itself around him.
At the base of the fountain, where the water flows, there are demon heads holding lizards and snakes in their hands.
Coincidence or not, it would seem that the statue is located exactly 666 meters above the sea, a figure often associated with the number of the Beast.
You will find this statue on the paseo Fernan Nuñez of the Retiro Park.
The Promenade of the Statues of Retiro Park
Linking the big pond to the Spanish Gate, this main avenue of the Retiro Park will take you on a journey through time. You will find many statues of former kings of Spain all along your walk.
Initially designed to be placed in the Royal Palace during the reign of Fernando VI, they were later removed by order of the new King Carlos III.
They are now spread over three areas of the city: the Sabatini Gardens which make up the gardens of the Royal Palace, the Plaza de l’Oriente located between the Palace and the Royal Theatre and the Retiro Park.
The Retiro Park Pond
Built between 1634 and 1636, one could observe the king and his court enjoying a stroll on the water or water and music shows since a small island was present in its center. Today it has been submerged by water.
A little anecdote: in 1964, the pond was used as a film set for the film “The fabulous world of the circus” which had John Wayne among its famous cast.
This artificial lake allows tourists and locals to rent a solar-powered boat or rowboat to enjoy the sunshine with a short walk on the water. The lake is also dedicated to canoeing and kayaking activities, a real attraction of the Retiro Park. We advise you to come as soon as the lake opens to enjoy an afternoon on the boat.
The Retiro Park – Lake
The Galapagos Fountain
Built in honour of the birth of Princess Isabella II, this statue was originally placed on the Gran Via de Madrid but was transferred to the park in 1879.
It owes its name to the Galapagos Islands located in the Pacific Ocean whose main island is the Isle of Isabella with the same name as the princess.
Made of granite and limestone, it is the work of the architect De Mariategui, who was in charge of the repairs to the Royal Palace and very much appreciated by the monarchs of his time.
It represents three fairies surrounding the young princess to protect her and four dolphins ridden by children, symbols of intelligence, wisdom, prudence but also fertility.
There are also turtles synonymous with longevity, “Galapagos” meaning “sea turtles”.
The gardens of the Retiro Park
Remnants of the ancient gardens of the Buen Retiro Palace, the gardens we know today have been redesigned and offer visitors different atmospheres when walking in the middle of nature.
The Retiro Park – Garden
The garden of perennials
The perennial garden was created in the 1960s and offers walkers an extensive meadow, winding dirt paths and many different kinds of trees and plants such as box trees, laurels and conifers.
But also flowers such as lilies or peonies as well as aromatic plants such as rosemary.
The Dante’s gate located at the east side of the park, allows you a direct access to this garden. It owes its name to the mural sculpture of the Italian Dante Alighieri made of bronze, representing the poet who travels through paradise, purgatory and hell. Next to it is a small duck pond.
The gardens of Cecilio rodriguez
These gardens were named in honour of Cecilio Rodriguez, the former chief gardener of the park, and include various fountains such as the Gaviota fountain and its 8 columns that surround it.
There are various statues such as the mythological one representing the goddess Venus, symbol of love and beauty. This part of the Retiro Park also houses the Cecilio Rodriguez Pavilion, built entirely in red brick and in a very modern architectural style, this place hosts many public events.
The Retiro Park – Garden
The gardens of Herrero Palacios
This garden was built on what was once the Casa de Fieras. Former zoological park that housed tigers, monkeys, elephants and even crocodiles.
Once a place of abuse, violence and fighting, it closed in 1972 to open the Zoo of the Casa de Campo outside the capital. Today, these gardens still house the monkey cage, ponds and a children’s playground.
Its direct entrance is through the Herrero Palacios gate made entirely of red bricks. These gardens and this gate are named after the municipal architect Manuel Herrero Palacios.
The rose garden of the Retiro Park
The rose garden in the Retiro Park was designed by Cecilio Rodriguez in 1915. It has more than 4,000 rose bushes, the majority of which flower in May and June.
It is a peaceful place that awakens your senses with the many scents of flowers that surround you.
The Retiro Park – Roses
The French lawn
The French parterre of the Retiro Park was built on the former Italian-style Ochavado garden during the reign of Felipe V.
Completely destroyed during the War of Independence, it was left as a wasteland.
Today the garden is composed of a central green parterre and flowers, all arranged in geometric forms. It also includes ponds, fountains and four statues, which, as on the promenade of the statues, were used to decorate the cornice of the Royal Palace. There are also many monuments such as the one in honour of Jacinto Benavente, a Spanish playwright.
A real jewel of the Retiro Park, we recommend you to visit it when it is in bloom in spring. Its entrance is through the baroque style Felipe IV gate.
This species which composes the parterre, is very particular and known not to lose its leaves every year in autumn.
It is particularly peculiar because one of the trees in Retiro Park is known to be the oldest in the city, having been planted in 1630.
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