Discover the large green lung located in the centre of Madrid
Spreading out over 125 hectares, El Retiro Park is one of the most visited locations in the capital, combining nature, culture, leisure and sport. During the itinerary around its large avenues, full of puppet theatres, musicians, jugglers, magicians and wafer sellers, there are monuments as important as the Casón del Buen Retiro, the Velázquez House or the Gardens of the Parterre.
This itinerary sets outs from Plaza de la Independencia, where the main entrance to El Retiro Park is located, and moves on to discover two fountains located in the main avenue: Turtle Fountain and Artichoke Fountain.
The former was constructed in honour of Elizabeth II and it's adorned with seaweed, toads, shells and other sea animals. The latter was granted an intellectual meaning, since some saw artichokes as books with many leaves and, consequently, deemed they represented knowledge. However, others considered this vegetable to be an aphrodisiac, hence it also being known as the source of life. These two luxurious fountains were only ornamental pieces.
The next stop on the way is the El Retiro pond, the most popular image in this open space. It started out as a large reservoir, with an island in the centre where the theatre was located, from whence different canals departed. The water was used to water the gardens.
The pond is currently one of the most crowded places in the park, and since the creation of the jetty, everyone can row around it. The monument to King Alfonso XII was built on one of its banks in 1901.
After the refreshing sight, the route continues on to the Velázquez House and the Crystal Palace, both created by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and considered two of the best examples of Madrid's iron architecture.
The former was created to house an exhibition about mining and metal arts in 1884, whilst the Crystal Palace accommodated an exhibition about the Philippines three years later. Conceived as a stove pavilion to display the fauna of what was then a Spanish colony, it is the brightest and most elegant building in the park and is almost made of iron and glass in its entirety. The palace currently belongs to the Reina Sofía Museum and periodically houses different exhibitions.
The last stop leads us to the area known as the Garden of the Parterre, which combines French gardens, Hispanic-Arabic gardens and animal-shaped trees.
The oldest tree in the park, from the mid 1600s, is located in these gardens. From here we can see the Casón del Buen Retiro, a dance hall for entertainment and leisure used by Philip IV, which for years accommodated the Prado Museum's 19th century painting collection and Picasso's Guernica. It is currently being refurbished to house an academy for the arts.