I feel very lucky to be able to say that I live across from El Parque del Buen Retiro (El Retiro for short). It’s about 125 hectares and holds about 15,000 trees one of which is Madrid’s oldest tree, a cyprus, that is believed to be 400 years old! The park also contains many different types of gardens like the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (classical gardens of an Andalusian style which are incredible), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rose Garden, and the Parterre Francés.
While you could just spend your time admiring the beautiful flowers and the various other forms of vegetation in the park you could head over to the man made lake that was built in the 17th century. You’ll find plenty of restaurants where you can grab a glass of tinto de verano (known as sangria everywhere else in the world) and raciones or tapas which are the small plates of food that Spain is known for. Be aware of the street performers or beggars who try to pry every last coin from your purse. Give if you want to otherwise just smile and walk past.
For added fun and exercise by the lake you can spend about 6 euros per person to rent your own row boat for 45 minutes. There’s also a bigger boat that you can pay another small fee (I’ll update later with the exact amount) but honestly the lake isn’t that big so I feel like taking the bigger boat is just silly.
Also around the lake you’ll find the monument of Alfonso XII. Built by a Catalan architect it’s truly a remarkable sight on your way around the lake. After the lake head over to the Palacio de Cristal which holds various art displays. It is fun to bring kids there because there is a small lake across from the palace that is enjoyed by swans and ducks where the kiddos can feed them.
Also in this park there is the El Angel Caido, the only public commissioned monument of the devil in the world. A guide at the park told me that it also is 666 meters about sea level. It’s definitely a powerful piece of art! If you don’t feel it’s a good idea to take your kiddos to see a statue of the devil, there are plenty of parks and kid friendly entertainment to keep them happy.
There are many trails and paths for joggers, walkers, and bikers alike and the grassy spots are perfect for picnics and relaxation time. Don’t be surprised if you see young couples getting cozy on the grass, benches, fountains, boats….basically anything because well, it’s Spain and you’re going to see that kind of stuff everywhere.
It’s nice to be able to live fairly close to the center and have this amazing vast park that you can just cross the street and feel like you’re in the countryside. I hope you enjoy your time here!