Explore the area around Madrilenians' most beloved park.
Info and history
Art and culture
Food and drink
El Retiro Park is the real star of this neighbourhood, bordered by Calle de Alcalá and Calle O’Donnell to the north, Doctor Esquerdo to the east, Avenida del Mediterráneo and Paseo de Reina Cristina to the south, and Calle de Alfonso XII to the west.
The park was developed under the Catholic Monarchs, in the early sixteenth century, but the neighbourhood itself is much younger. With an increasingly larger population in the late nineteenth century, the city expanded. The layout of Retiro is similar to that of neighbouring Barrio de Salamanca, featuring perpendicular streets with wide pavements, some of them embellished as attractive boulevards, like Ibiza or Alcalde Sainz de Baranda. It’s basically a residential area but, being so close to the centre of Madrid, it’s borrowed some of its business and shopping character.
Visitors coming to Madrid can’t miss El Retiro Park and its surroundings, filled with cultural attractions, restaurants and shops.
There are a few sights you must see at El Retiro Park. The monument to Alfonso XII, adjoining the lake, the Glass Palace, the Velázquez Palace and the Fountain of the Fallen Angel are all good reasons to spend a day in the park. However, there’s more to this district than just its beautiful green area.
Situated on Plaza de la Independencia, on the northwest corner of El Retiro, at the intersection of Calle de Alfonso XII and Calle de Alcalá, it was commissioned by King Charles III of Spain and built by architect Francesco Sabatini in 1778.
Retiro features the stores you can find in any residential area (food and basic supplies), plus others that locals and visitors to Madrid will find really interesting.
The busiest street is Calle Narváez. It has countless fashion retailers, especially shoe shops, small boutiques, and also specialty establishments offering slot car tracks and accessories, as well as car model-making kits.
The commercial streets are interspersed with avenues like Del Mediterráneo and Menéndez Pelayo, and thoroughfares such as Paseo de la Reina Cristina, Ibiza and Sainz de Baranda. If you wish to discover the hidden gems of El Retiro Park by bike, get to one of the bike hire shops in the park’s surrounding area. Other specialty shops sell athletics wear, and skateboarding or rollerblading gear. As you can imagine, sports are quite popular in the neighbourhood.
El Retiro is a fabulous place to do sports. Its 4.5km perimeter attracts a large running community. Actually, the park is a kind of athletics mecca, as it holds the finish line of the Madrid Rock & Roll Marathon, and the Madrid Half Marathon starts and finishes here.
Besides athletics, the area gathers numerous rollerblading lovers who meet on Paseo de Fernán Núñez, also known as ‘Paseo de Coches’, to do their favourite sport or take classes for different skill levels. Skateboarding enthusiasts are also to be seen carrying their boards, longboard decks being the most popular.
For cyclists there are bike hire facilities close by. Swimmers can go to the M-86 Swimming Centre, whose pools have held international events and are the annual venue of the Grand Prix Comunidad de Madrid diving competition. And within walking distance is the old Real Canoe Swimming Club.
On lunch break, the people who work in the area and visitors to the park meet in the countless restaurants and gastrobars situated around El Retiro Park. There are from fast food eateries to more formal fine dining establishments. Their menus include a long list of dishes from all Spanish regions.
To take a break after a long stroll, you’ll enjoy sitting at a café or bar to order a nice cup of hot chocolate, better if accompanied with churros (fried-dough pastry forming loops) or porras (same recipe, but thicker and straight).