A visit to Madrid in Spain is not complete without a walk in its fabulous park, Parque del Buen Retiro.  It literally means ‘relaxing park 🙂 

Spain Madrid  Parque el retiro - photo by Carlos Angulo

I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but the park is H-U-G-E: about 300 acres! 

It first opened as a public park in 1868.  Earlier, the park belonged to the grounds of Phillip IV’s royal palace.

And you can certainly tell its regal origins!  While many of its buildings were destroyed  in the war with Napoleonic (begin 19th century), there are is still plenty to convey its grandeur. 

For one, the grounds are gorgeous!  Both locals and tourist love its lakes and botanical gardens. Particularly in summer, the park becomes the go-to spot for tourists as well as locals. It’s when the park really comes alive. You’ll find musicians, fortune tellers and other forms of entertainment. Really fun. And all this makes for my most favourite pastime in the park: people watching!

Second, there are lots of sculptures and monuments in the park that are of that ‘must-see’ calibre.  And the natural beauty of the park and artworks seem to go hand-in-hand.

In the gorgeous Rosaleda rose garden, you’ll find all kinds of rose varieties as well as the statue of   the El Ael Caido.  This  work shows the Satan as a fallen angel. Seems so perfect and romantic of good winning over evil.

Rosaleda rose garden, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid, Spain Photo copyright: Benjamí Villoslada Gil

Third, there are the classy remains the Cason Del Buen Retiro and the Museo del Ejercito, both really worth a visit.

The works by the Spanish master, Sorolla, are part of the 19th to 20th century art collection in the Cason.

The Ejercito holds Spain’s premier army museum.  If you are planning a visit here, be sure to see the most elusive pieces of its large collection: the sword of the famous warrior, El Cid; and a cross carried by Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the New World. I just love this last piece, although the former is more famous, I believe.

The park is centred around a big lake. Rent a boat or follow the trails and paths around it. It is very scenic everywhere.  Particularly noteworthy are the statue of King Alfonso XII on his horse backed by a magnificent colonnade. I love it. This is one side of the lake. 

On the other end  you’ll find the must-see Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace). a late 19th century greenhouse for exotic plants!   Near it, is the Palacio de Velazques.  In this palace you’ll find temporary exhibits from the Queen Sofia museum of art.  — I told you there is a lot going on in this park! —

Another natural feature of the park is the Cecilia Rodriguez gardens which have a delightful array of flora and are located close to the fine dining restaurants on Serrano Street. Also near this is the Prado Museum which can easily be combined with a trip to the park.

So if you’re in Madrid, make sure you take a stroll through the magnificent and charming Parque del Buen Retiro. It is sure to be a highlight of your holiday.