The Retiro Park in Madrid is one of prettiest and most stunning parks in Europe. A visit to Madrid would not be complete without spending some time in the city’s green oasis. I’ve been to Madrid twice now and both times the Buen Retiro Park was one of the highlights of my stay. Watch locals stroll through the park on a weekend, listen to live music or tick one of the city’s most iconic activities off your itinerary: a boat ride on the Estanque grande del Retiro.
As if this doesn’t sound enticing enough, visiting the El Retiro is completely free. No entrance fee or waiting in line for tickets.
El Retiro, as the locals call it, is a must-see if you’re visiting Madrid. Blooming gardens and historic palaces, this park really is fit for royals. Not surprising as it was created for the enjoyment of the high society. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be royal to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the park these days.
I have put together an itinerary with everything you need for a free, DIY walking tour of these charming gardens.
How to get to Retiro Park:
The park is located smack bang in the centre of Madrid, close to the Art museums & many of Madrid’s popular sights. You can get to the park on foot, with bicycle or public transport. The closest Metro stops are Retiro, Ibiza, Principe de Vergara and Atocha. You can enter El Retiro through multiple gates, but I recommend entering in the North (near the Retiro Metro stop), if you’re planning to follow the itinerary below.
DIY Walking Tour Retiro Park Madrid – Map
Plan between 2 -4 hours for the tour. The duration depends on the time you spend at each stop, but I recommend taking your time to really appreciate the scenery. The park is busy and buzzing in every corner on weekends, so if you prefer a lively atmosphere go on a Saturday or Sunday.
The Gazebo – The Templete del Retiro
This charming structure is used for events and open-air concerts in the park. If you’re visiting El Retiro on a Sunday during summer, stop by the gazebo at noon for a free concert. More infos on dates and the bands performing can be found on the local tourism site, all the details are in Spanish, but you’ll get the gist. If you’re struggling, you can always use Google Translate.
This artificial lake is the heart of Retiro Park and for good reason. Estanque grande del Retiro is not only pretty to look at, it is also one of the busiest areas of the park. At the weekend the path alongside the lake turns into a stage for entertainers, buskers and street vendors.
You can even hire a boat and go for a boat ride on the lake, right in the centre of Madrid.
Follow the path along the lake and you will see a cafe at the corner. Treat yourself to a coffee and take in the views of the lake. This is also a prime spot for people watching.
Velázquez Palace – Palacio de Velázquez
Follow the path marked on the map and you will get to the Palacio de Velázquez, a stunning build from 1883 which functions as an exhibition hall. The Velázquez Palace features temporary exhibitions from Spain’s national museum of modern art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Want to have a sneak peak inside? Google Streetview makes it possible.
The Crystal Palace – Palacio de Cristal
The next part of the walk was one of my favourites. The path lined by big, beautiful trees takes you to a small lake. Unlike the Estanque grande del Retiro this one is more natural and instead of boats, you will be able to spot some wildlife: black swans, ducks and even turtles as you get closer to the shore.
The Palacio de Cristal (Chrystal Palace) is a beautifully shaped structure in the heart of Madrid’s Buen Retiro Park. Once built to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines, it is now the building itself that is the highlight for many visitors.
The Fallen Angel – Estatua del Ángel Caído
The Fallen Angel is the only statue of a devil worldwide and it is placed exactly 666 metres above sea level. But don’t worry, there is really nothing creepy about this stop. There is a small café opposite the fountain, a great spot to re-fuel on caffeine or treat yourself to an ice cream on a hot day. Thanks to the location it’s less busy than the cafés at the other end of the park.
The Rose Garden – La Rosaleda del Retiro
Admire the roses, listen to the relaxing sound of fountains or simply relax with a good book. But whatever you do, take your time. When you enter the rose garden, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re in the centre of Madrid.
Madrid’s Oldest Tree
The last stop on the DIY Walking Tour of Retiro Park is the oldest tree in Madrid. The Mexican conifer is believed to be Madrid’s oldest tree. It is located in the Puerta de Felipe IV, a beautifully landscaped garden at the western edge of the park. The tree has not only got an impressive 52m circumference, it also has it’s very own history. In the 19th century the tree was used as a cannon mount by French soldiers in the Napoleanic Wars. But as you stand in front of it now, it is well-protected by a tall iron fence and there are no signs of its turbulent past.
Summary of the facts:
Duration: 2 – 4 Hours
Retiro Park Hours:
Spring – Summer: April to September 6.00am – 12.00am
Autumn – Winter: October to March 6.00am – 10.00pm
Highlights: Palacio de Cristal & La Rosaleda
Entry: FREE (apart from museum fees)
Looking for more inspiration for your next Madrid visit? Then check out Tapas Tour in Madrid with Context Travel.
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