The Retiro in Madrid is one of the largest parks in the city. It was close to where we were staying and we decided to spend a day there, exploring. It is much larger than The Botanic Gardens, and more open. Here I can only give a taste of what I enjoyed. I would have loved to linger and I think it is one of those places which are rewarding, for different reasons, at all times of the year.
Church of San Manuel and San Benito
This church stands just outside the entrance to the Retiro on the Calle de Alcala. Surprisingly it dates from the 20th century. It was a big surprise!
A brief history of the Retiro in Madrid
The Duke of Olivares commissioned the park in 1630s and the designer was Cosimo Lotti. Water and fountains was a strong feature of the original design and the lake and the formal parterre are still in place. However, canals which lead from the lake to other ponds and fountains have gone. (This must have been similar to the fountains at La Granja.)
‘A certain Jesuit priest who saw [the flower beds] in 1638 describes the beauty of the beds in his own idiom:
Here one beholds beds glowing with colour, where letters are cut in rosemary, revealing the secrets of the interwoven flowers : in vessels of painted Talavera ware, which shame the finest silver, the heads of pinks show bright, with basil all round about, just as if the earth were clad in red and blue gauze, in Oriental fashion. Here too are streams clear as mirrors, paths sown with rose and jasmine, leafless pinks of shining purple hues, meadows where Arabia must have bestowed all her lilies. There is no imaginable beauty that this garden lacks.‘
The park covers 125 hectares and has more than 15,000 trees.
The Lake in the Retiro in Madrid
And near the lake is the Palace of Velazquez.
The Gardens of Cecilio Rodriguez in the Retiro in Madrid
These gardens are formal and rather hidden away in the south east corner of the Retiro. Cecilio Rodriguez was an important gardener in Madrid, the Head of Parks and Gardens, and designed the gardens in 1940-41.
There are various elements in the gardens and I would have loved to linger… But I saw the Fountain of the Seagulls, a gift from the Embassy of Norway in 1962; some of the peacocks; Taxodium distichum which is a native of Mexico;
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was built in 1887 to house exotic plants during the Exhibition of the Philippines.
Around the park
The Paseo de Mexico is one of the wid avenues in the park and it leads from the Puerta de Alcala to the Fountain of the Galapagos.
There are many avenues and fountains in the park – it would take a long time to really explore every one!
The Retiro in Madrid is just a wonderful green space in which to enjoy good weather, wander, relax, exercise – anything you like! And I loved walking there – definitely a must-visit!