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As of 1 May, the Gardens of the Palaces of the Vista Alegre Estate can be visited free of charge with a prior booking, as part of the first phase of the Action Programme for the recovery and opening of the Estate to the public. The itinerary that can be visited includes the most representative gardens and elements of the nineteenth-century villa: the Romantic Garden, the Statues Square, the River and the Parterre.
The palaces, buildings and unique elements are in different phases of their rehabilitation. Visits to them and their use will be gradually developed with the completion of the works.
This valuable monumental and landscape ensemble is located in the heart of the Vista Alegre neighbourhood in Carabanchel was declared a Historical Garden in Madrid’s Urban Development General Plan in 1997 and a Site of Cultural Interest in 2018. It is the city’s fourth largest historic garden, after Casa de Campo, the Retiro Park and Parque del Oeste (Western Park). An impressive cedar tree can be found there, which is included in the Regional Catalogue of the Community of Madrid as a “unique tree”, due to its extraordinary size and its age.
Known in the 18th century as the Carabancheles,
it was one of the favourite leisure places for Madrid’s bourgeoisie and nobility, due to its proximity to the court and its healthy climate. On 8 March 1832, it became the property of the crown, becoming the summer residence of Queen María Cristina de Borbón, who ordered the transformation works of the existing buildings, the construction of new ones and the creation of a landscaped garden. In 1859, the estate was acquired by José de Salamanca y Mayol, who used it as his habitual residence until his death in 1883. The heirs of the Marquis of Salamanca sold the estate to the Spanish State in 1886, who dedicated the estate to charity, constructing new buildings that broke up the estate’s original layout.
The ensemble is made up of several buildings and shady, geometric gardens with exotic plants and a productive ornamental or rustic purpose:
The Big Stove, a longitudinal building from which there were originally two large greenhouses for exotic plants, typical of romantic gardening. It was partially destroyed during the Civil War.
The Queen’s Bathtub is a singular piece with a circular shape and concentric steps, made of caramel-coloured marble, fed by the same heat and steam circuit as the stove.
The Old Palace, around which the estate was built. The current building stands on the primitive Vista Alegre Bath House, a recreational establishment that was popular with Madrid’s residents. In the 20th century, it housed the Union’s Military Orphans’ School and today, it is the headquarters of the Las Acacias Regional Centre for Innovation and Training.
The House of Bella Vista: it was a library and science office during the period of the Royal Possession. It was later home to the Santa Catalina School for the Blind and today, it is the Vista Alegre Adult Education Centre. It has been annexed to the Old Palace by a gallery since the early 20th century.
Stables: The stables housed draft animals and the estate’s other work animals, as well as carriages and open cars.
Statue Square Garden: During the realm of the Marquis of Salamanca, the design of the different gardens on the estate was integrated, of which this romantic garden stood out, with lush layouts and beautiful marble statues, of which only the pedestals remain. The garden was crossed by a navigable artificial river.
The New Palace: also known as the Marquis of Salamanca’s Palace, was ordered to be built by Queen María Cristina on the land acquired from the Five Major Guilds, on the foundations of the warehouses and boilers of a soap factory. The Marquis of Salamanca concluded its construction to display his collection of art and antiques. Various gardens were built around the palace, such as the Parterre or the Giardino. Since the 20th century, it has been occupied by several charitable and educational institutions, who have adapted its interior.
The House of Trades: this archaeological space shows the remains of a soap factory, one of the many that were in Carabanchel, dating back to the 17th century. When it was acquired by the crown, this building was used as a support and service body for its palaces. The noble floor was fitted out as a palatial residence for Duke Agustín Fernando Muñoz y Sánchez, Queen María Cristina’s second husband.