The Retiro is one of those places that seems to be imbued with a certain magic. Much more than a park, it's a place where you can lose yourself, relax, stroll and escape the big city hustle and bustle of Madrid. The park is no more than a five-minute walk from Atocha station, a hub for Renfe's high-speed trains, and boasts some truly beautiful and pleasant spots that visitors often overlook. Would you like to discover them?
Covering 120 hectares, Retiro Park is the capital city's largest park. This green area lies right at the very centre of the city, serving as its lungs. It's flanked by the districts of Salamanca, Arganzuela and Moratalaz.
The park dates back to the 17th century, when King Philip IV commissioned the construction of the Buen Retiro Palace as a place of amusement for the court. With the French invasion in 1808, the gardens were used as fortifications and the palace was destroyed. The park only passed into the hands of the city council in 1868, when it was transformed into a municipal garden open to the general public.
It's one of the best places to take a walk with the kids, play sport, cycle, enjoy an impromptu picnic with friends or simply read. The Retiro is a peaceful, tranquil place that invites you to take a break and enter a landscape that is both bucolic and fascinating. If you visit the city, don't forget to pass by some of its most emblematic sites, which we will now describe in detail. You're in for a real treat!
Built in 1887 for the Philippine Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was designed as a greenhouse to house exotic plants. Nowadays, however, it is used to organise contemporary art exhibitions. It is made of cast iron and glass, and is well worth a visit both during the day, when the sun's rays filter through its large windows, and at night, when it is lit up by a wonderful, soft light.
This garden was created at the request of King Philip V, who wanted a French-style garden typical of the period. That's why strolling through this area of the park will give you the impression of being at Versailles. The walk is well worth the effort, as it is home to Madrid's oldest tree: a Mexican swamp cypress that is believed to be around 400 years old. The nearby Remembrance Grove, a garden containing over a hundred cypress trees and 22 olive trees, was created just a few years ago to commemorate the victims of the Madrid bombings on 11 March 2004.
The Great Pond was built in the early 17th century. It is located right in the centre of the park, very close to the Palacio de Velázquez (a building that currently houses the temporary exhibitions of the Reina Sofía Museum). Many people consider this to be one of the best spots in the park, especially as you can hire boats here. The statue of Alfonso XII stands proudly on the edge of the pond, surrounded by a long, semi-circular colonnade.
Pond and statue of Alfonso XII
As its name suggests, this area is reserved for roses. Its elegance and classic garden structure still make it an attractive place to visit, but the best time to visit is in May and June, when the 4,000 varieties of rose that make up the garden are in bloom.
Paseo de Argentina is one of the park's main entrances, linking the Puerta de España to the Great Pond. It is known colloquially as the Paseo de las Estatuas or "Statue Walk" due to the large number of sculptures lining it. They all depict Spanish kings.
Casa Fieras, or house of the wild beasts, is one of Retiro's most curious places. Before it was transferred to the Casa de Campo, the Madrid Zoo stood on this site, and today some of the cages that once held the animals still remain. Isabelle II even bought a pair of elephants from the city of Marseille.
Statue Walk - Retiro Park
Teeming with charming little corners, the Retiro is one of the city's best-kept parks. It is just a few metres from a number of must-see monuments and buildings, such as the Puerta de Alcalá and the Cibeles fountain. Renfe's high-speed trains drop you off practically at the gates of the Retiro, so you can set off to discover your favourite spot.
Eager to hop on a train to Madrid? Now you can do just that on AVE France, our international high-speed trains between France and Spain. The most comfortable, fastest and sustainable way to travel is by train! You can also take advantage of our discounts and get the best price.
Did you like our suggestions? Well, there is a lot more where that came from! Discover other original things to do in Madrid with Renfe.