Parque el Retiro

Despite the warm weather here in Madrid –it’s been between 26C and 29C since we arrived– we’re starting to see signs of Fall: days are shorter, it’s cooler in the morning, and the trees are turning a gorgeous rust colour before they shed their leaves. It’s a gradual thing: the zillion of chestnut trees throughout the city are going first and the ground is pebbled with what a friend used to call “horse chestnut.”
So we thought it might be a good idea to visit the El Retiro park, 125 hectares of land behind the Prado museum, with over 15,000 trees. Parts of the park are manicured land, with fountains and flower beds, others are made up of grass surrounded by trimmed hedges and shaded by trees in a labyrinthine series of paths that could make you think you’re lost since the foliage almost completely hides traffic from the avenues just outside the park.
The park was originally designed in the 17th Century for the sole pleasure of the royal family, but Carlos III, considered the best mayor of Madrid, opened the park for all citizens. Today, it is a cherished place for madrilenos to picnic with the children and play.
At the park entrance stands the Puerte de Alcalá on the Plaza de la Independencia. The Puerte (which is really an arch, similar to the Arc the Triomphe in Paris) was erected by the same Carlos III and has become a monument that is as important to the citizens as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Liberty Statue in New York.
Near the main entrance, you find a large pond (estanque) where you can rent rowboats. At one end stands the monumental monument to Alfonso XII (who restored the Bourbon dynasty in 1875). South of the pond you can find the Crystal Palace (Palacio de cristal) and the Velazquez Palace, both built by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco, a Spanish architect who was partial to the use of glazed, brightly coloured ceramics, which we find on both structures. Both buildings are now used for museums temporary exhibitions. The Crystal Palace was built in 1851, in time for the great London Fair.
Another special feature of the park is a sculpture (centred above a fountain) called El Ángel Caído (the Fallen Angel), from Ricardo Bellven. It is thought to be the only sculpture in the world to depict Lucifer. It was unveiled in 1878.
Facing the Calle Alfonso XII is the Paseo Parterre, a well-maintained garden with flowers, fountains, and trimmed cypress trees.
We spent over 2 and a half hours in the park and there was a discovery with almost every step. The air is fresh and unpolluted, you can barely hear traffic and it’s ideal for a picnic or to rest from visits to the museums: the Prado and the Reina Sofía almost line the park.

Did you like this? Share it:
This entry was posted in Italy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.