Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Madrid's parks and gardens

Now that the sun's shinning and summer feels as if it's just around the corner, we thought we'd take a look at some of Madrid's parks and gardens. As you will see madrileños, are really spoilt for choice when it comes to places for kicking back and relaxing on a hot summer's day.

Retiro Park- a must any time of year!

The Retiro, Madrid's green space in the centre, will linger in your memory, particularly if you see it in late spring or early autumn when its colours are most vivid. Long ago, a royal palace was here and some traces of it  can still be found today. Here you can enjoy the lake (boat hire available), impressive monuments, ancient trees and the extravagant crystal palace (used as an art space). There is even a ruined chapel. The park always has a great atmosphere, especially on weekends when it comes alive with musicians and other entertainers. Look out for puppet shows for children at weekends. It's a great place to explore by bike. Right next to the park are the botanical gardens, which are worth a visit too. There are a number of entrances including the one on Calle Alfonso XII near Atocha metro (L1) and train station, and another on Calle Alcalá near Retiro metro (L2).

Casa de Campo- great for kids!

Located south-west of Madrid, but still a quick metro ride from the centre, Casa de Campo is a massive open space, much bigger than Central Park or Hyde Park. You can walk for hours here in unspoilt nature, or if you are looking for activities, there are sports facilities, a large lake with hire boats, an amusement park, aquarium and a zoo, which is said to be one of the best in Europe. The Teleférico (cable car) connects the park with Parque del Oeste in the centre of Madrid and the journey is 11 minutes. There is also an outdoor swimming pool very popular with madrileños in the summer. Metro: Batán or Lago (both L10). Journey around 10 mins from Plaza de España. Metro station Casa de Campo (L5, L10) not recommned as it's further to the attractions and it leaves you in a residential area. The Teleferico leaves from near Monlcoa Metro (L3, L6).

Parque de la Montaña- the place to see the sunset

This park is located very near to Plaza España and the Royal Palce in the pleasant Argüelles neighbourhood. We recommned a visit here to see the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple donated to Spain by Egypt. The temple itself is only small, but it's a popular place to come and watch the sunset and see it reflected on the waters of the small pool in front of the temple. You can also get some spectacular views of the nearby mountains, especially during the winter months when they are snowcapped. You can get here by taking the metro to Plaza de España (L2, L3 or L10). Alternatively it's about 5 minutes walk from Argüelles metro (L4, L6).

Parque del Oeste

Another of Madrid's most attractive green spaces is ideal for a summer walk as it's less busy than the Retiro. It's located on the edge of the main university campus. We recommend taking the Teleférico (cable car trip) from here  to Casa de Campo for superb views over the city. Entry free. Be warned it can be a bit dangerous around here at night! Metro: Moncloa (L3, L6) or Ciudad Universitaria (L6).

The Sabatini Gardens

These too are a relaxing place on summer days and are located right next to the Royal Palace. Although they look old, they were actually only completed in the late 1970s, but were made in the neoclassical style. The gardens are named after the 18th century Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, who designed some of the original palace. On display are a number of statues of Spanish monarchs and there's also a fountain and pool.  From these gardens you can get some great views of the palace, as well as see across to the nearby mountain range. Just below is another open space, the Campo de Moro, which is more of a park. We must warn you that in the past there used to be a group of 'deaf' people, pretending to be from a charity (may have been UNICEF) who would approach visitors to give a small donation and sign a piece of paper with fake charity logos to say where they come from. DO NOT give them any money- it's a scam, even if they do try insulting you if you refuse. They are not from any charity and have no official ID, but touirsts still would give them money. Luckily we've not seen them for a while but you never know, and they may be doing the same thing elsewhere in Madrid. Metro: Ópera (L2, L5, R)

Principe de Anglona Gardens- shhh... it's a secret!

These leafy gardens are a bit of a secret even amongst the locals! You will find them located in La Latina on Plaza de la Paja, where it meets Calle Segovia, although the entrance is a bit hard to spot- look for a black gate with a black plaque next to it. These date from the 18th century, when they were part of what were the grounds of a palace, and in recent times they have been lovingly restored to their former glory after years of neglect. Whilst these gardens are small, they are very cool in the summer and a quiet place to relax with a book. In the spring, you will also see the rose arches in bloom. Metro: La Latina (L5).

The Royal Botanical Gardens- a must for lovers of plants

On Paseo del Prado, just a stone's throw from Retiro Park and very near to the Prado Museum, are the Royal Botanical Gardens. These were built way back in the 1780s by King Fernando VI, after being relocated from the neighbouring town of Aranjuez. Here you will find species of plants from all over the world, including many rare ones, delightfully laid out. Entrance to the gardens costs 2,50€ and is open all year round, however opening times vary depending on the season. See website for more info. 

Parque de Juan Carlos I

This was recommnded to us by Chris, one of our readers. It's one of Madrid's biggest and newest parks. As well as 13km of pathways and some small lakes, the park contains themed gardens, water features, a giant greenhouse and a number of sculptures. It's an ideal place to take the kids on a hot summers day! To get there, it is a little far from the centre, although still accessible from there by metro (around 40 mins). You can reach it by taking either metro line 8 to Campo de las Naciones or from Canillejas metro station on line 5.

Parque de El Capricho- full of historical treasures

Whilst the Parque de Juan Carlos I may be modern, the El Capricho park located next to it, is over 200 years old! The park used to be the weekend house and grounds of the Duchess of Osuna
- the house still stands today. Much of the park's orignal features still exist, although they have been restored after several periods of abandonment. Visitors to the park can enjoy the lakes, a memorial island to the Duchess, landscaped gardens, a hermitage, a number of water features and an iron bridge; many of these were created in the French romantic style. Also in the summer months, there are often concerts, theatre performances and other cultural events in what are known as Tardes de Capricho. It's a very beautiful and peaceful place to be anytime of year. The park is only open on weekends and public holidays- opening times 9am-6.30pm winter and 9am-9pm summer. We can't find any information about whether it's possible to visit the house. To get there, take the metro to El Capricho (L5).


  1. The Parque Juan Carlos at Canillejas? Very very nice spot. Only open all day Fridays and Saturdays I believe.

    see http://www.madrid.es/portales/munimadrid/es/Inicio/Ayuntamiento/Barajas/Parque-Juan-Carlos-I?vgnextfmt=default&vgnextoid=8d9a78a0dea9e210VgnVCM1000000b205a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=4952ca5d5fb96010VgnVCM100000dc0ca8c0RCRD

  2. Yes, that's another one, and there is of course the Parque de El Capricho to add as well!