Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour, Madrid

Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour (Self Guided), Madrid

Buen Retiro Park, which translates to "Park of the Pleasant Retreat", is one of the main attractions in Madrid. Similarly to Central Park of New York City or Hyde Park of London, this former royal retreat is the most popular public outdoor space in the Spanish capital.

A green oasis in the heart of the city, the park has long been a favorite spot for both locals and tourists to go for a stroll, picnic, or just a breath the fresh air. A multitude of fascinating sculptures, beautiful fountains, top notch museums, and well-manicured gardens make it well worth visiting just as much.

Upon entering the park from its northern entrance, you will see the magnificent Monument to King Alfonso XII. Next to the monument, a large artificial lake is where you can rent a rowing boat. The onsite Fountain of the Falling Angel is believed to be the only public monument dedicated to the devil. Also, there is the Crystal Palace, built in 1887, housing a variety of exotic plants.

A visit to Buen Retiro Park is a must-do experience on every Madrid itinerary, and you can discover this historical site at your own pace following our self-guided walking tour.
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Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Puerta de Alcala (Alcala Gate)
  • Plaza de Nicaragua
  • El Estanque
  • Paseo de las Estatuas
  • El Parterre
  • Fuente de la Alcachofa
  • The Fallen Angel
  • La Rosaleda
  • Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace)
  • Palacio de Velazquez
  • Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez
  • Monument of Alfonso XII
  • Casita Del Pescador
Puerta de Alcala (Alcala Gate)

1) Puerta de Alcala (Alcala Gate)

Once a gate in the city walls that led to the city of Alcala, the Alcala Gate is near the city center and near the Buen Retiro Park. It stands in Independence Square.

King Charles III commissioned this ornate neo-classical gate in 1774. Francisco Gutiérrez sculpted the ornamental details out of white stone and granite.

The gate is the first post-Roman triumphal arch in Europe, older than both the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It has become a recognizable landmark of the city. It's often the site of live events and festivities.

The gate lies on the northwest corner of the massive Retiro Park. The park belonged to the monarchy until the late 1800s when it was gifted to the public. The park contains the remaining buildings of Buen Retiro Palace, which are now used to house museum collections. The Cristal Palace, an 1887 glasshouse, is especially worth checking out. The park is dotted with memorials, fountains, and lakes, making it a wonderful place to stroll and take a break from the city.
Plaza de Nicaragua

2) Plaza de Nicaragua

Buen Retiro Park features several alleys and paths named for famous Latin locations, such as Plaza de Honduras and Plaza de Nicaragua. This square presents a beautiful fountain, Fuente de los Galapagos (Fountain of the Turtles), that was built in 1832 to celebrate the birth of Isabella II. The fountain depicts a column embraced by four children and dolphins, and at its lower level stand two frogs and two turtles, from which came the name.
El Estanque

3) El Estanque

In the middle of the park lies a large artificial lake called El Estanque. Canoe rentals are provided so you can take a boat ride and relax while enjoying the surrounding views of fountains and monuments, including the Monument of the King Alfonso XII located on the other side of the park.
Paseo de las Estatuas

4) Paseo de las Estatuas

The Paseo de Argentina in Buen Retiro Park is popularly known as the Paseo de las Estatuas (Alley of Statues). It features a double array of sculptures, representing several monarchs, that were constructed during the reign of Ferdinand VI. The statues were initially designed to decorate the Royal Palace, but over time have become spread all over the capital, including this park and some provinces.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
El Parterre

5) El Parterre

The area known as El Parterre (Plaza del Parterre) is a newer garden that was designed during the reign of Philip V (1700-1746). There you can see 18th century French style gardens, featuring a rare and wide variety of tree species. It is a favorite place for photographers to use as a background and for locals to take walks.
Fuente de la Alcachofa

6) Fuente de la Alcachofa

Fuente de la Alcachofa is a baroque style fountain that was designed in the 18th century by a famous Spanish architect. It consists of a column embraced at its lower level by two Tritons holding the shield of Madrid and at its highest level by children sustaining a circular basin. The fountain is made mostly of limestone and granite. Another identical monument can be found in the city of Madrid on Plaza del Emperador Carlos V.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
The Fallen Angel

7) The Fallen Angel

Located on Avenida de Cuba in El Retiro is the exclusive Fountain of the Fallen Angel. It is the only statue in the world depicting Lucifer, the fallen angel that is frequently interpreted as Satan. Ricardo Bellver, the statue's creator, obtained the First Medal at the National Fine Arts Exhibition for his creation. After some time, the Prado Museum installed the masterpiece in a square in Buen Retiro Park. It is considered a select art work, expressing great dramatism and originality.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
La Rosaleda

8) La Rosaleda

La Rosaleda is a lovely rose garden in the south of the Buen Retiro Park on Paseo de Uruguay. Established in 1915, it was designed after the 'Rosaleda de Bagatelle' garden in Paris and emphasizes a wide variety of roses brought from the most famous gardens in Europe. This area of the park is regularly maintained and manicured to keep up its romantic appeal.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace)

9) Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) (must see)

When you are in Madrid, don’t miss a visit to the Crystal Palace, which you will find in the Buen Retiro Park, the city's most popular park.

The Crystal Palace was closely modeled on the building of the same name in London. It was constructed by the architect Ricardo Velazquez Bosco in 1887. The structure, mostly of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, is in the form of the Greek cross. It is two-tiered and has a large central dome.

The palace was built to hold an exposition of local fauna and flora from the Philippines. Today the Museo Reina Sofia uses it for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art; it is also used for a yearly exhibition of birds.

This lovely, fragile-looking palace stands in front of a small lake, where you can hire a rowing boat and pay a visit to the ducks, geese and swans that live around the lake.

Why You Should Visit:
The outside is lovely, especially next to the fountain at the front, and of course, the building itself is a beautiful design.
You can walk inside and look around, and entrance is free (including for the occasional exhibits).
After sunset, the lights come on and it takes on another life again.

No-queue washrooms/toilet facilities in the basement!

Opening Hours:
Daily: (Apr-Sep): 10am-10pm; (Oct): 10am-9pm; (Nov-Mar): 10am-6pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Palacio de Velazquez

10) Palacio de Velazquez

In Madrid there are many “palaces” and one of the most beautiful is undoubtedly the Palacio de Velazquez situated in Buen Retiro Park.

This graceful building was constructed in 1883 by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco, with the collaboration of the engineer Alberto del Palacio and the ceramist Daniel Zuloago. The structure is of two-tone brick with a delicate frieze of ceramic around the building and arches. Ricardo was inspired by a visit to the Crystal Palace in London and the roof of his palace is a long dome of iron and glass, allowing a maximum of light to enter the rooms. There is a short flight of white marble steps leading to the main entrance.

The palace was originally built to house the National Mining Exhibition of 1883. This exhibition included displays of mining equipment, metallurgy and minerals, and included demonstrations of glass blowing. At the end of the exhibition, the building remained empty for some years while the government decided whether or not to turn it into a museum for overseas artifacts. It was eventually taken over by the Ministry of Culture, who did some light restorations before hiring it out for various exhibitions.

Today you can visit one of the many temporary exhibitions of contemporary art put on by the Museo Reina Sofia. The good news is that the entry is free.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez

11) Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez

Buen Retiro Park boasts many historic gardens and well-preserved natural areas, but there is also a new addition known as the Gardens of Cecilio Rodriguez. This area, named after the famous Spanish gardner Rodriguez, is situated on the eastern part of the Buen Retiro Park, and adds a bit of modern flair with its newer sculptures, fountains and greenery.
Monument of Alfonso XII

12) Monument of Alfonso XII

The Monument of King Alfonso XII is located on the east edge of an artificial lake near the center of the park. In 1902, a national contest was held to design a monument for King Alfonso XII at the initiative of the Queen Mother Maria Christina of Austria. The winner was the architect Jose Grases Riera, whose design consisted of a grand colonnade alongside a pond in El Retiro, with several sculptures surrounding an equestrian statue of the king, with everything constructed in bronze and marble. Upon Grases Riera's death, Teodoro Anasagasti took control of the project without modifying the original design. More than twenty sculptors worked on the project.

The monument, financed by a popular collection, was inaugurated on June 6, 1922. It was the first of many commemorative statues that were added to parks in Spain over the last century. The monument is 30 meters high, 86 meters long, and 58 meters wide. At its center is the equestrian statue of King Alfonso XII, cast in Bronze. The statue depicts the king on horseback and is constructed of bronze and stone. In the central base of the monument are the statues "La Paz" ("Peace"), "La Libertad" ("Freedom") and "El Progreso" ("Progress").
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Casita Del Pescador

13) Casita Del Pescador

Casita del Pescador is a small cottage surrounded by water and greenery. It stands on a small island in the middle of an artificial pond and was built by King Ferdinand VII as part of a private garden. It can be found in the northeast corner of the park.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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