Designed 250 years ago, Madrid´s Botanical Garden invites visitors to enjoy a pleasant stroll surrounded by thousands of live plant species
Declared Artistic Garden in 1942, among its collections there is a herbarium with over one million specimens, a library and an archive with almost 10,000 drawings, as well as an exhibition of 5,000 live plant species.
The Huerta de Migas Calientes (Migas Calientes Orchard), near Puerta de Hierro, was chosen in 1755 by King Ferdinand VI as the first location of the Botanical Garden. It remained in this site until 1781, when by order of Charles III, it was moved to its definite setting: the Paseo del Prado. Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva were commissioned the new project, and designed a space composed by staggered terraces –in an architectural attempt to make use of the different levels that existed in this area of the city– that has survived until present times.
Throughout its history, the Botanical Garden has endured a great number of modifications. Since its establishment, it has undergone three major restructuring processes. The first was carried out in the late 19th century and affected the upper terrace, which was given a romantic Elizabethan design, more typical of those times. In the 20th century, in the mid Seventies, the venue was closed to undertake another major alteration –given the state of neglect it was in– and to recover the original 18th century design of the two lower terraces. Since it reopened in 1981, this centre has positioned itself as a reference point for the study of Spanish flora.
To mark the occasion of its 250th anniversary in 2005, the Botanical Garden inaugurated over 7,000 square metres of garden. This extension was possible thanks to the incorporation of the highest part of the garden, a sloped bank adjacent to the street Alfonso XII with stunning views.
Architect Pablo Carvajal and landscape designer Fernando Caruncho spent two years working on this space –known as the terraza de los Laureles (Laurel Terrace)- that comprises an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond, a small greenhouse and a subterranean conference hall.
This area accommodates the bonsai exhibition donated in 1996 by the former Spanish President, Felipe González, to the Spanish National Research Council (Spanish acronym CSIC). This sample, composed by 109 specimens, represents almost all the trees typical of Spain’s autochthonous flora.
Another of the innovations included in 2005 was the Paseo de los Olivos (Olive Tree Avenue). It required the recuperation of an old collection of olive trees from the mid-19th century including some of the peninsula’s most representative species. The orchard area was also remodelled. Visitors will garner a great deal of information from the panels distributed along the route.
Tulips, dahlias or azaleas, the seasonal flowers, welcome visitors in the terraza de los Cuadros (Cuadros Terrace), the first stop on the way. Here we find the rose garden, -that accommodates a stunning collection of ancient or primitive roses donated by Rosa Urquijo- and the aromatic plants, as well as the colony of fruit trees that has recently been remodelled, the orchard and the culinary plants..
The Botanical Garden is a centre for scientific research. Therefore, in the terraza de las Escuelas (School Terrace) plants have been arranged according to a criterion based on their scientific distribution. Consequently, they begin with the most primitive plants, like pine and fir trees, and continue through to the most evolved species, presenting a wide panorama of the vegetable world along the way.
These terraces, located in the lowest area, are reminiscent of the 18th century style whilst the terraza del Plano de la Flor (Plano de la Flor Terrace) recovers the romantic Elizabethan airs the garden flaunted in the 19th century. This area mainly houses trees and shrubs, and is also the location of the pabellón Villanueva (Villanueva Pavilion), that usually hosts cultural activities and exhibitions.
The greenhouses, on the other hand, are located to the left of the garden. The Graells greenhouse was constructed in the 19th century using iron and glass and accommodates tropical, aquatic and bryophyte plants. The Exhibition Greenhouse has three different compartments dedicated to three different climates: desert, temperate and tropical.
In this vast representation of flora, visitors find the collection of lithops or living rock cacti particularly astonishing. These cacti live in the deserts of South Africa and Namibia and survive thanks to their own particular defence mechanism: an appearance that makes them look like boulders and stops animals from eating them. Some of the other attractions that draw visitors to stroll around this garden located in the heart of Madrid are a cypress dating from the period when the garden was founded or a collection of carnivorous plants.
Sunny in winter and shady in the summer, Madrid’s Botanical Garden’s eight hectares (almost 20 acres) gather over 5,000 plant species. Strolling around them is a great opportunity to identify the plants, learn to distinguish them and spend a pleasant day investigating the plant world.
Plaza de Murillo, 2
Telephone: (+34) 914203017
Bus lines: 10, 14, 19, 24, 26, 27, 32, 34, 45, 57, 140 and Circular
Metro station: Atocha, Atocha-Renfe
Cercanías (local train): Atocha.
January, February, November and December: 10.00-18.00.
March and October: 10.00-19.00.
May, June, July and August: 10.00-21.00.
Open every day except on Christmas and New Year's days.
Normal: 3 euros.
Student with ID: 1,50 euros.
Groups over 10 people: 0,75 euros.
Free entry for seniors over 65, children under 10 and groups of scholars.
Groups: Monday to Friday, 20 euros.
Individual: week-ends, free.
Compulsory booking though the website or by calling (+34) 914 200 438.
Link to the Royal Botanical Gardens website