Most visitors to Madrid find at least a little time to pass through El Parque del Buen Retiro, or Park of the Pleasant Retreat. True to its name, this 350 acre urban park boasts a number of shady promenades, fountains, formal gardens, and palaces that make it an inviting place for a restful stroll during a hectic day of sightseeing.
Originally built for the exclusive use of Spanish royalty, the park was originally located outside the city, but modern Madrid has long since grown around it. Today it is nestled next to the historic district, within a short walk of many of the capital city’s top attractions such as the Prado Museum.
There are actually a number of famous sights within the park itself, so visitors using a tour guide may well find themselves here anyway! There is a large artificial lake, with a towering statue of King Alfonso XII on horseback overlooking the water from an impressive colonnade. Not far away is a smaller pond on the banks of which stands the grand steel-and-glass Palacio de Cristal, or Crystal Palace.
One of the biggest draws to the park is the spectacular rose garden, where visitors can smell fragrant blooms, and view a statue of El Angel Caido, or the Fallen Angel. This is said to be the only public statue in the world commemorating Lucifer’s exile from Heaven.
A popular weekend destination for locals, El Parque del Buen Retiro also has a number activities and events to occupy visitors’ time. In addition to its relaxing atmosphere, families often come to enjoy paddle-boats, puppet shows, horse-drawn carriages, as well as a colorful array of entertainers such as clowns, musicians, fortune-tellers, and countless others. The park is also the perfect venue for all kinds of shows and exhibitions throughout the year, for instance a huge annual book fair and various summer concerts.
Whether you go for the sights or for the rest, Madrid’s “Park of the Pleasant Retreat” should be a stop on any visitor’s to-do list.