If you do one thing in Madrid, go walk around in El Parque del Retiro. Unless of course you don’t give a shit about beauty and nature and would rather drink, eat or see museums. Hey, everyone’s different! Actually, you can do all of those things in the park or very close by. I ended up doing a quick tour of The Prado after I left the park since it’s right around the corner. It was OK, but I’m more of a modern art lover. I also prefer nature and architecture. But regardless, the park is a must-see for anyone visiting the wonderful city of Madrid.
In 1632, the park was built as part of the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace by King Philips IV as a retreat for the Royal family. It’s a massive 320 acre park filled with beautiful architecture, nature and people out running, rollerblading, playing street hockey and even working out on the playgrounds. On that note, if you’re looking for a hot-bodied Spaniard definitely get on over to one of those playgrounds! I almost tripped and fell when I walked by since I was being a total gawker. These guys are ripped and doing crazy acrobatic workouts on the monkey bars…I really wanted to take a video, but then I decided I wasn’t feeling creepy enough…so instead, I just walked by slowly.
So yeah, in the northern entrance of the Parque del Retiro is the Estanque del Retiro, an artificial lake where you can rent a cute little rowing boat for a few euros. I was so extremely tempted to do it but as I gazed out at the lake, I noticed that it was all couples rowing along with love in their eyes…not that I cared…but I guess I kinda cared. So, I decided to pass on that. Across the lake is a large monument with an equestrian statue of King Alfonso XII. I decided to take lots of pics of that instead (shown above in the main image).
Towards the south of the park you will come across another small lake. At the edge of this lake is the most insanely beautiful glass building called the Palacio de Cristal or Crystal Palace. It was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and was initially used to house exotic plants brought over from the Philippines. Now it is mainly used for temporary exhibitions. It was by far one of my favorite places to be in Retiro Park.
Around the corner from the Crystal Palace is another beautiful building called the Palacio de Velázquez, also used for temporary exhibitions. Originally it served as a pavilion for the national exhibition of the mining, metal, glass and ceramics industry. For some reason I didn’t get many good pics of this. I was probably more interested in using it as a backdrop for my selfie…at least I’m honest, right?
Once you have strolled by the sweaty bods at the playground, you’ll come across a walkway lined on each side with what look like cherry blossom trees but I believe they are actually almond trees. Here, you’ll find people relaxing under the beautiful blossoms, reading books, doing mini photoshoots, or like me, alone taking selfies and getting stared at…oh, the woes of solo adventures.
There’s also the Rosaleda (rose garden) with a pretty fountain that is worth strolling through when the flowers have bloomed. I unfortunately do not have any photos of the Rose Garden but I’m sure it’s beautiful in the Springtime.
If you like to keep in shape while you’re on vacation (or holiday), a great way to get a grand scope of the park is to go for a little morning or late afternoon run. This allows you to cover a lot more ground in a shorter amount of time. The park is huge and you could literally get lost in there for hours, which I happened to do…and loved every minute of it.
If you’re ever in Madrid, definitely do not miss the chance to visit this park. It’s beauty will lift your spirits and leave you glowing…and really, there’s nothing better than that.