The 5 Must-See Parks in Madrid
19 November, 2015
1. El Retiro – the Most Popular of All
Stretching across 118 hectares, El Retiro Park is one of Madrid’s best known green areas. Close to the centre and readily accessible, it has long been a favourite among both Madrilenians and visitors to the city. Its origins go back to the period 1631–1640, when a second royal residence, known as the Palacio del Buen Retiro, was built on this site, the surrounding parkland being designated as a leisure area for the monarchs. Hardly anything has survived from those times as the palace was demolished after the Peninsula War in 1808. Following the revolution of 1868, the park was declared a public facility.
If you have a day to spend in El Retiro, you can fit in a stroll in search of Madrid’s purportedly oldest tree, have some refreshment at one of the kiosks, go for a boat ride on the Estanque Grande (Large Pond), see one of the scheduled exhibitions in the Velázquez Palace or the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), soak up the lush vegetation, research the park’s history through its fountains and statues and discover one of the few sculptures of the Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel).
2. The Casa de Campo – Madrid’s Largest Public Park
This is the largest urban park in Spain, spread across 1,722 hectares. It was once a preserve of the Spanish Crown, for which it operated as a hunting area, among other things. With the proclamation of the Second Republic, the park was made over to the city of Madrid and turned into a public precinct.
The Casa de Campo is the perfect spot for doing such sports as cycling, running, hiking and football. It also has sports facilities for tennis and swimming, and you can go canoeing or sailing on its iconic lake.
But the park offers more than just sport, boasting a large number of leisure facilities: an amusement park, zoo, various fairgrounds, the Madrid Arena multi-purpose pavilion and the Venta del Batán. Another of the major attractions here is the cableway linking the Casa del Campo to the Parque del Oeste, affording magnificent views over the park and the city of Madrid.
3. The Regal Air of the Campo del Moro Gardens
Designated an “Art Historical Garden” in 1931, it stretches across 20 hectares, running from the west side of the Royal Palace to the Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto. Legend has it that, in 1109, the Almoravid leader, Ali ben Yusuf, camped in these grounds during his attempt at reconquering the former Alcázar Real, which accounts for the name of the gardens.
The Campo del Moro Gardens are one of three parklands belonging to the Royal Palace. Comparatively unknown by Madrilenians, they afford unique views of the palace. It is the perfect spot for strolling around and relaxing. Two sculptural groups are prominent in the park’s central hub – the Triton Fountain and the Fountain of the Shells. A curiosity is the House of Cork, a small, romantically inspired templet of a simplicity that contrasts with the rest of the area.
4. The Royal Botanical Gardens – Hallmark of the Enlightenment
Founded in 1755 by Ferdinand VI near the river Manzanares, in 1781 they were moved on the orders of Charles II to their current location on the Paseo del Prado, next door to the Prado Museum, then known as the Natural Science Museum.
The Royal Botanical Gardens reflect the spirit of the Enlightenment, the period in which they were designed. The gardens are laid out on three stepped terraces and feature plants from Europe, the Americas and the Pacific, numbering around 5,000 species in all. The grounds include a library which boasts a herbarium of over half a million sheets, and an archive with nearly 10,000 drawings. It was designated an “Artistic Garden” in 1942.
5. El Capricho – A Romantic Spot
Situated in the Alameda de Osuna, it is a veritable gem and yet comparatively unknown by local citizens. In 1985 it was listed as a Cultural Interest Site. The gardens were commissioned in 1784 by Doña María Josefa Pimentel, the Duchess of Osuna, and reflect the romanticist taste of the time, with English, French and Italian references. Sited in the gardens is a palace, a shrine, fountains, sculptural groups, ponds and a maze, all in a botanically rich setting. Several anti-aircraft shelters were built there during the Spanish Civil War, although the sole surviving vestiges are some air vents.
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Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
19 November, 2015