Madrid is among the largest cities in Europe, after London and Paris, with a population of about 3.3 million residents, and nearly twice that many tourists each year. So, it’s safe to say that there can be quite the hustle bustle on its streets, especially during peak summer travel months. While this energy can be wonderful, there come times when a breather from it all is much needed. I found myself seeking out relaxation within Madrid’s many parks, which offer shade, wide open grass areas, recreation, walking trails, and space to take a pause from a busy day. Near the city’s center are a few of my favorite ones, each with its own vibe and personality that I want to share with fellow travelers.
Buen Retiro Park/Parque del Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat)
Buen Retiro Park (Park of the Pleasant Retreat, which the royal family used beginning in the early 1500s according to www.madridtouristinfo.com), is one of the largest in the city. It’s known as the “lungs of Madrid,” with its widespread greenery located near the center of Spain’s capital. The park’s central location makes it easily accessible, with Metro stops all around its border. It has many attractions within it, including Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful, intriguing glass and iron structure built in the 1800s, as well as Rosaleda, a pristine rose garden. It’s filled with people of all types, including tourists and local families, couples young and old, and more. This expresses a very welcoming vibe to anyone who wishes to spend time in Retiro Park. A tourist couple from Los Angeles, Kwame and Germonique Kilmer, was sitting on one of the park’s many benches admiring their surroundings when I approached them. They said that this coming together of people in Retiro Park is one of their favorite things, and keeps it entertaining. “We love to sit on the benches here and just take it all in — the people, atmosphere, air… It’s just a nice way of appreciating the beauty here”, the Kilmers said.
Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden)
Located next to The Prado Museum, Madrid’s Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden) is a magical 236-year-old garden. During a stroll along its numerous walkways, you’ll notice the many colorful flowers and plant types that make up each part of the seven gardens and five greenhouses, totaling about 90,000 species in total, according to www.atlasobscura.com. Observing these as you walk is a nice way to appreciate the beauty of nature that still exists in this concrete city. The gardens are beautifully laid out, with elegant statues and fountains decorating the greenery. The small price to enter is well worth it, as I left feeling refreshed and peaceful from a stroll in this garden.
Green Space along Paseo del Prado
This convenient strip of trees, benches, fountains, and pleasant walkway is located along the street Paseo del Prado, across from The Prado Museum and Real Jardín Botánico. It can serve as an alternative to visiting one of these bigger parks or gardens if you don’t have the time or energy to walk the span of a larger area. Since this park is located between two streets, you don’t completely escape the noise of the city during your visit. However, it serves as a lovely spot to spend time between your day’s activities just relaxing, people watching or, strolling, and won’t put you in a time constraint.
Berlin Park / Parque de Berlín
Parque de Berlín (Berlin Park) got its name because of the pieces of the Berlin Wall that decorate one of the fountains, which I found to be very alluring. This park is a place of variety, in the sense that people are doing all sorts of things during their time here. From its wide dirt paths, to the large trees, fountains, basketball court, benches, to children’s playgrounds, there seem to be endless options of what one can do at this park. It also seems to be filled with a wide range of ages, including families, moms/nannies and children, couples young and old, and more. It appeared that most people in Berlin Park are local to the immediate area, most likely because it isn’t located directly near the city center (although a quick and easy Metro ride away). One local woman I spoke to, Marta Martinez, was chatting with a friend and eating ice cream when I approached her. She and her friend said that they go to this park almost everyday because they live around the corner. “We enjoy the fresh air when we come here. Madrid needs parks for this reason, because we are such a large city,” Marta said. She is expecting to have a baby within the next couple months, so she is excited to have this park to bring her to when she’s born.
Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens)
One word to describe this cluster of gardens would be regal. It’s located directly next to and slightly below the Royal Palace of Madrid, so the regal-ness only makes sense. Everything here is very well-kept and clean, with perfectly-shaped bushes and elegant white statues of Spanish kings set among the plants. There is a beautiful pool/pond that greets you as you walk down the stairs to get to the main walkway of the garden. If you are lucky, there will be someone playing music here to add to the special ambience of this place (in my case, there was a man playing the accordion, and another playing guitar). According to www.esmadrid.com, these gardens have only been open to the public since 1933 (as the grounds were previously where the royal palace’s stables were located), and were created in honor of 18th century Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, who did work on the stables and other parts of the royal palace. Despite this quite recent opening, the gardens still have a historic vibe to them, with a Classical style format and design.
Parque del Retiro; near city center; 6am to midnight April to September; until 10pm the rest of the year; Free admission; Metro Retiro or Ibiza.
Real Jardín Botánico; 10am to 9pm May through August; closes earlier the rest of the year; Metro Atocha.
Green space along Paseo del Prado; Open 24 hours; Metro Atocha or Banco de España.
Parque de Berlín; Open 24 hours; Along Avenida de Concha Espina at Príncipe de Vergara; Metro Concha Espina or Colombia
Jardines de Sabatini; Just north of the Royal Palace; 9am to 10pm May to September; closed at 9pm the rest of the year; Metro Opera or Plaza de España.