El Retiro (El Parque de Retiro)
El Retiro (El Parque de Retiro) is one of Madrid’s favorite parks and occupies nearly 350 acres (140 hectares) of land in the city center. It was once a royal retreat and the site of a large palace, but was opened to the public in the 1860s. There are statues and monuments all throughout the park, as well as two ponds, art galleries and fountains. It’s a popular retreat for Sunday afternoon picnics and you’ll notice street performers plying their trade in the busiest areas.
Wander among the trees and flowerbeds; there are both landscaped gardens as well as wilder, more natural areas. Walk through the Rosaleda del Retiro to see a colorful display of roses. The Forest of Remembrance is dedicated to the victims of the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Stroll down the Paseo de la Argentina to see statues once inside the Royal Palace or head over to the Retiro Pond to gaze up at the monument to King Alfonso XII. The semi-circular colonnade is surrounded by allegorical statues with the king mounted on horseback in the center. Keep exploring the park to find more statues, gardens and fountains.
Rent out a boat to paddle around the pond and then move on to the neoclassical Palacio de Velázquez or the Palacio de Cristal for an art exhibition. Walk through a garden of trimmed hedges up to the Casón del Buen Retiro, one of the only remaining buildings from the 17th-century palace that stood in the park. It was once a ballroom but today houses the Prado Museum’s study center.
El Retiro is in central Madrid, only a short walk from the Paseo del Prado and the Plaza de Cibeles. The main entrance is right next to the Puerta de Alcalá, but the park is also accessible from the Retiro, Principe de Vergara, Ibiza and Atocha metro stations. The park is open daily, hours vary according to the season, so check ahead before your visit.