Some of the main public gardens and parks in Madrid
There are hundreds of little public parks dotted around inside the city limits and a couple of massive ones outside, including the famous Casa de Campo which saw much fighting during the civil war. Below we write about some of our favourites, all of which offer deliciously airy and relaxing spaces if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life for an hour or more.
Details on the nearest Metro station and opening times (if applicable) plus basic directions are provided.
Starting with the most famous and most central, the Parque del buen retiro. Covering about 350 acres, it's a pleasant place, scruffy around the edges but with a lot of charm and loads of exhibits and diversions dotted around. Lots of Madrilenos stroll around here in the late evening, especially in the summer months when it offers respite from the steaming and dusty streets. At its heart is the Estanque del Retiro, a large artificial lake, and the Mausoleum of Alfonso XII.
During normal weekdays it's a good place for children to run around in. Very safe, even quite late at night (but I wouldn't want to sleep there), there are loads of little attractions dotted around the park, such as exercise machines, ladders and swings, statues. follies and (shallow) ponds. Then you've got boating on the lake, painting and photo exhbitions and there are kiosks and cafes with ice creams. At weekends there's usually a show or two set-up for kids with good clowns and puppets and magicians. There's the Palacio de Cristal glass pavilion, the El Angel Caído statue, the Bosque de los Ausentes and many other hidden places to discover as well. Try the Auditorio de La Casa Encendida for regular exhibitions, classes and shows.
- RETIRO metro - Slap bang in the centre of the city with gates dotted around its edge.
Real Jardín Botánico
If you carry on to the sourthern end of Retiro you will come to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Begun in 1780 by Juan de Villanueva en 1780, the project has been cataloging and nurturing rare species for over 200 years now and has over 30,000 trees and plants within its collection. There is a 2 euroweenie entrance fee.
- ATOCHA metro station is closest but from RETIRO it is only a short walk as well.
Invernadero Estación Puerta de Atocha - Atocha Station Greenhouse
Carrying on southward on our trip from Retiro and the botanic gardens you come to the largest train station in Madrid, Atocha, where the infmaous M-11 bomb took place. Inside the (now heavily inviligated and rebuilt) station concourse is a proper little jungle.
- ATOCHA RENFE station
The Capricho was created in the 18th Century in the French baroque style, with a number of squares and fountains and green parades. It was designed by J. B. Mulot (Marie Antoinette's gardener) for the duchess of Osuna there is an artificial lake with islands in the middle and a proper maze (which disgracefully is not open to the public).
Found at the southern end of Parque Juan Carlos I, it's a romantic place with lots of unexpected delights and is one of Madrid's hidden treasures that not many visitors get to, partly because it's only open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 9.00am until 9.00pm in the summer and closing earlier in the winter at 6.30pm.
- CANILLEJAS or CAMPO DE LAS NACIONES metro stations - Alameda de Osuna.
Parque Juan Carlos I
Poor old Juan Carlos has had most things named after him - from the usual stuff like buildings, universities and institutes to rather more obtuse subjects such as bridges, flowers and even prize winning dogs. There's also a large park named after him. There's a website devoted to its 160 hectares, 1,900 metres of river de ría, lake covering 30.000 m2 and 13,000 metres of walks plus sports centres, kids attractions, open air sculpture museum, botanic research areas, olive groves and specialist dog-walking part (perhaps specially put aside for the prize winning pooch?)
Definitely worth an explore and if you're lucky you can sometimes catch special free events there - summer 2007 there was a break dancing exhibition and competition for example.
- CAMPO DE LAS NACIONES
Jardines del Campo del Moro
Located within the Palacio Real, this park stands at the foot of what was once an Arab fortress (i.e. the 'Moorish Camp'), now the Royal Palace. The gardens were initiated by princess María Cristina and were dsigned to be an imitation of those at Versalles. There are 70 different species of trees with some examples over 170 years old.
Admission is free but the opening hours are restricted - October to March 10.00am to 6.00 and April to September 10.00am to 8.00pm.
- PRÍNCIPE PÍO metro
Jardines de Sabitini
As Campo del Moro is situated to the West of the palace, head north and you will come to the Sabatini gardens, situated between the Cuesta de la Vega and calle Bailén, created in the 1930s. Small but perfectly formed.
- ÓPERA - metro
Parque de Berlín
Set in 'embassy land' in the central-northern part of the city, this well maintained public park attracts your upmarket office worker, preppy type folks and south-american nannies exercising their charges. Middle class typical Madrid - fascinating for (p)sociologists.
- CONCHA ESPINA metro
Parque de la Fuente del Berro
A cute park with lots of shade, some interesting paths and peacocks (called Royal Turkeys in Spanish - pavos reales) strolling around loose - at dusk they make a racket like cats mating. There's also a delightfully delapidated cultural centre and an old palace to check out.
- VENTAS metro
Parque del Oeste
'West Park' is our favourite green space in Madrid, and the apartment blocks that overlook it represent our dream houses - but at 500,000 euroweenies minimum price remain out of our reach (... for now. Get clicking on those ads readers!). Located at the city's western boundary, popular with joggers, strollers and lovers, we like its intellectual ambience (the best universities have their HQs to the south of the park), and the way the city appears to come to an abrupt halt as its landscape drops away toward the valley and beyond. There are some lovely, if not exactly cheap, terrace cafes regularly dotted down the main avenue that separates the city from the park, where you can partake of a swift-half refreshment and admire either the grand houses or the park itself.
- MONCLOA metro is best as you just cross the road and you can dive into the park.
Casa de Campo
More like forested parkland than a simple park, the campo (field) was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the civil war but is now home to fun and entertainment parks and, in some of the shadier parts, hookers and clients, which is a kind of entertainment we suppose. It was created in 1560 by Felipe II as his own back garden, cheeky sod, but went public in 1931 and is now one of the most popular places for madrileños to take the airs. There's plenty of refreshment stalls, a big artificial lake (boating happens), some rides and minor attractions and if you get really stuck in you can find banana trees!.
A nice way of getting an overall view of the Casa de Campo is to take the Teleférico, which spans the park and takes off from from Rosales at Parque del Oeste.
- LAGO or CASA DE CAMPO metro stations