Retiro Walking Tour, Madrid

Located in the southeastern part of central Madrid, Retiro district is a major area renowned primarily for the presence of the El Retiro Park, nicknamed “the lungs of Madrid”, as well as for its closeness to the Puerta de Alcalá and the world-famous Prado Museum. Together with Paseo del Prado, Retiro Park has added character to the area of Los Jerónimos, while the rest of the District is shaped by the Atocha Railway Station. No trip to Madrid is complete without a walk through the Retiro district.
You can follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the attractions listed below. How it works: download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Retiro Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Retiro Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Author: emma
Estación de Atocha

1) Estación de Atocha (must see)

If you come to Madrid by train, you will undoubtedly arrive at the Atocha Railway Station. If you come by another means of transport, don’t miss a trip to see the station which is the biggest in Madrid.

The original station was built in 1851 and destroyed by fire in 1882. A newer, larger station was built in 1892 by Martin Alberto Palacio Elissague who worked on the Crystal Palace in the Buen Retiro Park. He used the palace as a model and created a glass and wrought-iron vault, giving the central area a light, airy appearance.

The station was expanded to four times its original size by Rafael Moneo in 1985. The tracks were moved to the new structure and the “old” Atocha was transformed into a waiting/meeting area with shops and snack bars. A wonderful tropical garden was installed in the center of the area.

The station is the final destination of the AVE (high-speed trains) from Barcelona, Seville, Saragossa and Valencia, as well as commuter and intercity trains from Madrid’s suburbs.

After the terrorist attack on the 11th March 2004, a cylindrical glass monument, the Monumento a los Victimes del 11M, was raised in front of the station in memory of the people who died there.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautifully designed and refreshingly decorated is the first thing you'll notice at this central train station.
The interior serves as a botanical garden of sorts with palm trees and platforms filled with dozens upon dozens of turtles.
You'll also find cafés across the road next to the Reina Sofía Museum offering budget-friendly breakfast and lunch options (try El Brillante).

Have some coins available if you want to use public bathrooms.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

2) Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (must see)

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) is the official name of Spain's national museum of 20th-century art. The museum was officially inaugurated on September 10, 1992, and is named for Queen Sofia of Spain. It is located in Madrid, near the Atocha train and metro stations, at the southern end of the so-called Golden Triangle of Art (located along the Paseo del Prado and also comprising the Museo del Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza).

The museum is mainly dedicated to Spanish art. Highlights include excellent collections of Spain's two greatest 20th-century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Certainly the most famous masterpiece in the museum is Picasso's great painting Guernica. The Reina Sofía also has fine collections of the works of Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Julio González, Pablo Gargallo, Lucio Muñoz, Luis Gordillo, Jorge Oteiza, José Gutiérrez Solana and many others.

Why You Should Visit:
If 20th-century art is your thing then this is an outstanding museum; if not, the great collection here is still worth a look.
The inner garden is a pleasant cool oasis while the top floor has a view deck of Madrid.
There is a pricey restaurant in the basement and a small coffee bar which is reasonable.

It's better to get an online Paseo del Arte combined ticket to access the main three museums and to save time and money.
If you want to go in for free but you are not under 18 or over 65, or a student below 25, you can go from 7pm to 9pm Monday through Saturday, except Tuesday.

Opening hours:
Mon, Wed-Sat: 10am-9pm; Sun: 10am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Cuesta de Moyano

3) Cuesta de Moyano

Established in 1925, the Cuesta de Moyano is the famous pedestrian alley which is the site of Madrid's daily book market, where over 30 old-fashioned blue kiosks and more simple stalls are dedicated to the sale of old, antiquarian, second-hand books, magazines and maps. The market begins at the southwest corner of the Retiro Park, at the gate of the Royal Botanical Garden and continues on toward Calle de Alfonso XII, linking Paseo del Prado with the rest of the park. There is a statue for each of market's end, one is dedicated to 19th-century Spanish novelist Pío Baroja, and the other one -- to Claudio Moyano, the 19th-century Spanish politician after whom the passage was actually named.

As for the books, this place is a heaven for book lovers! Although most of the books and magazines found here are in Spanish (Castilian), it's still fun to browse through market's trademark shabby kiosks, looking for rare editions and collectable mid-century magazines, enjoying along the tranquil sights of outdoor Madrid.

Operation Hours Monday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 2 pm & 5 pm - 8 pm
Real Jardín Botánico

4) Real Jardín Botánico (must see)

Madrid is rich in history and architecture, and luckily it is also rich in parks where you can relax, eat a picnic lunch and still be in the heart of the city. The Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid is an ideal place to spend an afternoon.

The botanical gardens were first organized in 1755 during the reign of King Ferdinand VI who wanted a royal garden with different species of plants from all around the world. The botanist José Quer y Martinez laid out the first garden with over 2000 plants. In 1774 the gardens were moved to their present location next to the Paseo del Prado by King Charles III, with a new landscape carried out by Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva.

The gardens today are divided into three terraces, two greenhouses and a Herbarium. The first garden is the Terraza del Plano de la Flor: set out in the English Romantic style, this terrace is a delight of trees and shrubs. In this part of the gardens, you can visit the Villanueva Pavilion or sit beside the pond and feed the ducks. The second garden is the Terraza de los Cuadros: on this terrace, you will find ornamental and common plants, the air is filled with the scent of aromatic and medicinal plants; there is an orchard, a fountain and a lovely rock garden. The third garden, the Terraza de la Escuelas Botanicas has 12 fountains and a wide variety of annual plants.

The herbarium has over a million species of plants separated into two groups: phanerogam (plants which reproduce by seeds) and cryptogam (plants that reproduce by spores). In the greenhouses, you will find a vast variety of plants from tropical, temperate and desert climates.

Make sure you visit the two greenhouses in the back and walk along the upper level of the rainforest and desert one – quite a unique perspective!
Also, check out the small art exhibit (which changes every quarter or so) near the back of the park.
It is worth walking around the perimeter fence to see what is in bloom before you pay the entrance fee.

Opening Hours:
Daily: (Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec) 10am-6pm; (Mar, Oct) 10am-7pm; (Apr, Sep) 10am-8pm; (May, Jun, Jul, Aug) 10am-9pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo Nacional del Prado

5) Museo Nacional del Prado (must see)

The Museo Nacional del Prado is a museum and art gallery that features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture, it also contains important collections of more than 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects and works of art. Sculpture is represented by more than 700 works and by a smaller number of sculptural fragments. The painting collection comprises about 7,800 paintings, of which only about 1,300 are at public display, mainly because of the museum's lack of space. A new, recently opened wing enlarged the display area by about 400 paintings, and is currently used mainly for temporary expositions. El Prado is one of the most visited sites in Madrid, and it is considered to be among the greatest art museums in the world.

Why You Should Visit:
The sheer number of masterpieces is mind-boggling, the iconic works truly humbling.
The rooms are very well organized, the map is easy to figure out, the signs are very informative and they're all translated into (very good) English.

Buy online tickets one day or several days ahead and skip the (usually long) lines.
Purchase your ticket with the added museum guide at the ticket booth, which essentially saves you €10 if you plan to purchase it individually inside.
If you plan to visit all the 'big ones' - El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía, purchase the "Art Walk" ticket at the ticket office as it is quite affordable.
Free visit for the last 2 hours (get there early) – great idea to reduce your travel budget and still see something, but too short if you want to take your time.
Another tip is that you can have both your ticket and audio guide stamped and leave the museum for lunch.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-8pm; Sunday and holidays: 10am-7pm.
Free for those under 18 years of age.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

6) Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (must see)

Founded by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his son Hans, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is housed in a 19th-century Neo-Classical mansion near the Prado Museum. It is one of the finest private art collections in the world and was ceded to Spain by Baron Hans in 1992.

The museum is part of the “Golden Triangle of Art” and has a truly wonderful collection of Impressionist and Expressionist European and American art, Renaissance, Mannerism, Rococo and Romanticism art dating from the 13th to the late 20th century.

The Baron and his son weren’t lovers of religious art, so in this museum, you will find few religious paintings, but mainly portraits and landscapes executed by great artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas and Cézanne. In 2004, the Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza (widow of Baron Hans) lent her extensive art collection to the museum.

You can admire Ghirlandaio’s “Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni”; Carpaccio’s wonderful “Portrait of a Knight”; “Our Lady of the Dry Tree” by Petrus Christus and a diptych of the “Annunciation” by Van Eyck. In the part of the museum devoted to Pop Art, you will find the original “Woman in Bath” by Roy Lichtenstein.

Why You Should Visit:
A very cozy, relaxing, interesting and well-organized gallery, with all great pieces commented by an outstanding audio guide.
You can get close and examine the techniques used, take photos of your favourite works, or just admire them.
The artwork is more varied than in the Prado – there are more artists/styles represented, and something to suit all tastes.
Good café/restaurant for either coffee, snack or lunch – you can either sit inside or outside in the courtyard.

If you go on a Monday, check out the temporary exhibitions on the top floors first as they close at 1pm.
Otherwise, either start on the top floor and work your way down or do it vice-versa if you prefer contemporary art.
Also, bring your earphones so you can plug into the audio piece.

Operation Hours:
Tue-Fri, Sun: 10am-7pm; Sat: 10am-9pm; Mon: 12am-4pm, free visit and access.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Paseo del Prado

7) Paseo del Prado (must see)

Of all the boulevards in Madrid, the loveliest and most visited is the Paseo del Prado and you will enjoy strolling along it from the Plaza Cibeles to the Plaza de Emperador Carlos V with the Plaza Canovas del Castillo in the middle.

The paseo is very wide with a tree-lined central strip filled with well-tended flower beds and benches where locals sit in the sun and gossip. Along this popular promenade, you will find the Fountains of Neptune and Apollo, with more benches where you can sit for a while and listen to the sound of the fountains. The boulevard is well-kept and all morning city employees pick up litter, trim the hedges and pull out weeds and dead plants.

The boulevard is also called the Art Walk, for here you will find the three museums of the Golden Triangle: the Museo del Prado with its fine collection of 12th to 19th century European art – the most important collection in the world; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza which houses what was once the largest private art collections in Spain, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia with its important collection of Contemporary Art.

You will also find the Puerto Real – the Royal Gate, one of the entrances to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a taste of central & upscale Madrid, learn about Spanish culture (there are special events on weekends), shop for souvenirs or just people watch.
The boulevard is bustling with traffic and people; however, it is peaceful at the same time. Fountains, flowers, shrubs, and other plantings make it even more attractive.

It is illuminated at night and when the fountains are lit it is even more stunning.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museo Naval

8) Museo Naval (must see)

When you visit the Museo Naval on the Paseo del Prado, don’t forget to take an ID with you (passport, driver’s license, etc.), as you will need to show it before you can admire the artifacts in this impressive museum.

Arranged in chronological order, the museum houses a collection from the 15th century to the present day and is clearly a tribute to Spanish naval superiority. The model ships are to exact scale and most of them were made at the same time that their life-sized counterparts were built. You will, of course, find a model of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’ first expedition to the Bahamas.

In another part of the museum, you will find figureheads, artillery, compasses, brass sextants, weapons and uniforms. There are also portraits of Spanish sailors, paintings of battles and many navigation charts, including a map executed in 1500, which is the first chart of America ever to be made.

One room is devoted to famous Spanish achievements and navigation instruments from the 15th century to the high-tech devices of the present day. You will see reproductions of ships cabins and a collection of curios taken from shipwrecks.

Why You Should Visit:
The museum's chronologic layout is a great way to see the evolution of ship design through the many models of ships on display.
You can also see the evolution of weaponry and navigational equipment as well as portraits of key people in the Spanish navy's history.
Explanations are mostly in Spanish but you can rent an audio guide device that explains most everything in English.
There is also a gift shop area at the entrance with a variety of items that seem of better than average quality and well-priced.

You can walk the entire museum in about an hour if simply surveying the items.
If you want to spend time looking over the various exhibits you can easily spend 2 to 3 hours here.
While there is no admission cost, they do suggest a €3 donation.
Make sure you have ID on you – it's required to get in.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-7pm; (Aug) Tue-Sun: 10am-3pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Plaza de Cibeles

9) Plaza de Cibeles (must see)

The Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid. The fountain of Cibeles is found in the part of Madrid commonly called the Paseo de Recoletos. It depicts the goddess Cibeles (Cybele), the Phrygian goddess of fertility, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built in the reign of Charles III and designed by Ventura Rodríguez between 1777 and 1782. Up until the 19th century, both the fountain of Neptune and Cibeles looked directly at each other, until the city council decided to turn them round to face towards the center of the city. The fountain of Cibeles has been adopted by the football team Real Madrid as the place to celebrate its triumphs in major competitions such as the Champions League, La Liga or Spanish Copa del Rey.

Why You Should Visit:
Located in the center of Madrid and at the crossing of the main arteries, the fountain (Fuente de Cibeles) and the 'CentroCentro' building are unrivaled in beauty especially when the plaza is lit at night.

Busy intersection – not really the best place for pedestrians.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Plaza de la Independencia

10) Plaza de la Independencia

The Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square) is a central square in the Spanish capital Madrid. It sits at the intersection of Calle de Alcalá, Calle de Alfonso XII, Calle de Serrano, Calle de Salustiano Olozaga and the Paseo de Mexico that runs entirely in the Buen Retiro Park. Being centred with the 18th-century gate of Puerta de Alcalá, the Plaza de la Independencia is among the important symbols of the city of Madrid. The square was opened in 1778 during the reign of King Carlos III. It was designed by architect Francesco Sabatini. However, the current shape of the square dates back to 1869. It is mainly surrounded with buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, built during the expansion of the city of Madrid. The square has a neo-classical style, with majestic details and is considered to be one of the most iconic landmarks of Madrid. Best viewed at night.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Puerta de Alcalá

11) Puerta de Alcalá (must see)

The Puerta de Alcalá ("Alcalá Gate") is a Neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia in Madrid, Spain. It stands near the city center and several meters away from the main entrance to the Parque del Buen Retiro. The square is bisected by Alcalá street, although the street itself doesn't cross through the monument, and it is the origin of the Alfonso XII, Serrano and Olózaga streets. Its name originates from the old path from Madrid to the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares. Madrid in the late 19th century, still remained a somewhat drab villa in appearance, surrounded by medieval walls. Around the year 1774, King Charles III commissioned Francesco Sabatini to construct a monumental gate in the city wall through which an expanded road to the city of Alcalá was to pass, replacing an older, smaller, gate which stood nearby. It was inaugurated in 1778.

Why You Should Visit:
To see what is considered to be the first modern post-Roman triumphal arch built in Europe – even older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Parque del Buen Retiro

12) Parque del Buen Retiro (must see)

If you want to mix history with greenery and entertainment, you really should take your picnic lunch and spend the day in the Buen Retiro Park, not far from the Museo del Prado, because here you will find something to keep everyone happy.

First of all, there are the park's lovely gardens, including the Rosaleda Rose Garden where you can see the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the only statue in Madrid that represents Satan. The gardens were once part of the Buen Retiro Palace and were opened to the public in the 19th century.

In front of an equestrian monument to King Alfonso XII is a huge artificial pond, the Estanque del Retiro to the North of the park. In March 2005 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia inaugurated the Bosque del Recuerdo in memory of the 191 victims of the terrorist attack of 11 March 2004.

Other interesting features of the park are the buildings which hold temporary exhibitions: the Velazquez Palace, the Crystal Palace and the Cason del Buen Retiro which is the Study Centre of the Museo del Prado and has a wonderful 17th-century ceiling fresco depicting the Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy by Luca Giordano.

You will find plenty to entertain you in the park, as it is a favorite haunt of street musicians, fortune tellers, puppet shows and the Annual Book Fair takes place here. You can hire a rowing boat if you are feeling muscular – if not you can visit the park in a horse-drawn carriage.

Why You Should Visit:
This park is a work of art; a dedication to getting outside and enjoying the beauty of nature.
With more than 15,000 trees and lake on 1,4 km2, it is a must-see in the capital of Spain.

Pack a picnic & drinks. The food is on the high end but there are plenty of spaces for you to sit and eat peacefully.
Note that food vendors have toilets for the public to use free of charge (bring toilet paper).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-12am
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Madrid, Spain

Create Your Own Walk in Madrid

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Sol Souvenir Shopping

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Moncloa and Camberi Walking Tour

Moncloa and Camberi Walking Tour

Madrid is a vibrant metropolis made up of 21 districts. This walk covers two of them - Moncloa and Camberi - with the former being a leafy area replete with laid-back cafe terraces, evening crowds, and students hanging out at bars around Moncloa’s colleges. Camberi, in turn, is a quintessential castizo neighborhood, rightfully regarded as “simply cool” and ideal for those seeking to enjoy the authentic way of life in Madrid. Take this walk and discover Moncloa and Camberi in their variety.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 km
Salamanca Walking Tour

Salamanca Walking Tour

The Spanish capital is a vibrant metropolis made up of 21 districts. This walk brings you to and around one of them - Salamanca - one of the wealthiest and most expensive areas of Madrid, home to many foreign embassies and upscale venues. To see what else makes Salamanca a famous destination, take this walk and find out.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour

Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour

El Parque del Buen Retiro is one of the main attractions of the city of Madrid. Known to the locals simply as "El Retiro," the park is a favorite place to spend weekends and summer days and was considered a Royal Park up until two centuries ago. Highlights of the park include several fountains, palaces, monuments and arranged gardens. Discover this historical site step by step in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 km
Nightlife Tour

Nightlife Tour

Citizens of Madrid are famous for being dynamic and very outgoing. Living in one of the liveliest cities in Europe, locals enjoy the nightlife, when Madrid transforms into an array of colors and music. Check out the most popular nightlife spots in Madrid in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Cortes Entertainment Walk

Cortes Entertainment Walk

Madrid is the economical, political and cultural center of Spain. Founded in the 9th century, this city is one of the most relevant destinations that Spain has to offer to its visitors concerning culture and history. Madrid is a hot destination filled with interesting spots including museums, historical sites, Flamenco bars and much more. Discover Cortes barrio step by step, as proposed in the list below.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km

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