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Six Reasons To Visit El Retiro

Any sojourn in Madrid should include a brief escape to one of its best known parks, El Retiro. This huge green area, opened to the public in 1868, is not only effectively the city’s lung. It is also a well-trod social meeting point for many a Madrilenian, and tourists too. It also provides an immersion in nature, and is a well-known venue for sport and for hosting contemporary art exhibitions. Following is a rundown of the main reasons for counting this park among the highlights of your visit to Spain’s capital.

1. A Short Walk From Downtown Madrid

Having a 125-hectare park in a big city is quite a luxury – having it just a stone’s throw away is even more so. Indeed, any day of sightseeing in Madrid can easily be rounded off by taking a pleasant stroll through these splendid gardens, relaxing on the grass as you take in your natural surroundings or having some refreshment at one of the kiosks in the park. What more could you ask for?

2. Put a Garden in Your Life

Like any great green expanse, El Retiro boasts several landscaped areas in different styles which are well worth visiting. The most prominent ones are La Rosaleda, the French Parterre – site of the Ciprés Calvo (Bald Cypress), Madrid’s oldest tree – and the gardens of Vivaces, Cecilio Rodríguez and El Arquitecto Herrero Palacios.

3. Nature and Much More

To take literally the saying, no todo el monte es orégano (“not all the hills are oregano”, although this actually means “it’s not all plain sailing”), in this case not all of El Retiro are trees. Among the many sights you will across on your walks there is the Crystal Palace and the Velázquez Palace, annexes of the Reina Sofía National Art Museum which both act as exhibition areas. The park’s walkways and squares are also adorned with a large number of statues and fountains and you should also make a point of seeing its centrepiece, the “Estanque Grande” (Great Lake), surmounted by a statue of Alfonso XII.

4. One Big Outdoor Gym

El Retiro is a great spot for doing sport. At any time, but particularly at weekends, it is common to see people doing all kinds of sport in the park, from running to tai chi, yoga, kung fu, cycling, skating and even rowing on the Estanque Grande. Don’t hesitate to put on your sporting gear and take the chance to get fit in such agreeable surroundings as these.

5. In Search of Lucifer

If you happen to go to El Retiro with a local, it’s more than likely he or she will end up taking you to one of its landmark pavilions, especially the one housing theFountain of the Fallen Angel.This sculpture, the work of Ricardo Bellver, is one of the few extant depictions of Lucifer, which is why it tends to attract numerous passers-by. Executed in 1877, it was inspired by some verses in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).

6. A Romantic Boat Ride

A perennial classic is the Estanque Grande, the veritable nerve centre of El Retiro. Here you can boldly treat your partner to a romantic ride in one of the rowing boats moored along the jetty.

Now that you know some of the reasons why you should include El Retiro on your Madrid itinerary, you can book your Vueling and look forward to experiencing it first-hand.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by bjaglin, Alex Bikfalvi, Teo Ruiz