- Diana & Greg
Oasis in the city center
What is the first thought that comes to your mind when it comes to big cities? Is it noise, smog, dirt, crowd, stress, rush? Or is it calmness, fresh air, cleanliness, open wide spaces, relaxation? Maybe both? There are obviously some cities which have big, beautiful green areas ideal for relaxation and outdoor activities, while others still have much to improve. Madrid belongs to the first category having some exquisite parks.
Buen Retiro Park is one of the biggest parks in Madrid and as the name itself says it´s the place for a pleasant retreat whether you want to just relax, do sports or get a glimpse of the history. Like most other parks it also has monuments like the Monument of Alfonso XII and the Reserve of Ferdinand VII.
Fountains are built all over the place, giving a hint of refreshment in the heat of the summer. They are decorated with sculptures representing historical and biblical figures like the Fountain of the Fallen Angel (Fuente del Angel Caido) or the Alcachofa Fountain (Fuente de la Alcachofa).
Initially the park belonged to the royal family but since the end of the 19th century it is open to the public. The Crystal Palace and the Velázquez Palace were built by this time i.e. 1887 respectively 1881.
Inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, the one in Buen Retiro Park was meant to host the flora and fauna exhibition from the Phillipines, while the neoclassical Velazquez Palace was built originally to be the home for mining, metallurgy, ceramics, glass-making and mineral water exhibitions.
Near Velazquez Palace is the park´s largest lake, the Estanque where you can jump into a rowboat and paddle around.
In front of the Crystal Palace there is a smaller lake with turtles, ducks and swans with kids feeding them hoping to lure them in close.
The park has several parts where the nature looks more savage and the trees are left to grow at their will. Other parts are exquisitely designed, like the rectangle shaped garden in Plaza Parterre. At the top of the butterfly-wing like garden there are tiny trees. Their crowns are cut round like scoops of kiwi ice cream in a waffle cone.
Another special place both for tourists and Madrilenians is the two-tiered Parque del Oeste. It is special not only for the cool shadows it offers due to the large centenarian trees, but also for the architecture you can find here: the Fountain of Juan de Villanueva, the Monument of José de San Martín or the Statue of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.
The centerpiece of the park is the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple donated to Spain in 1968. The temple had to be moved from its original location because of the threat posed by the construction of Aswan High Dam. It was dedicated to the goddess Isis and it´s unique as it is among the few Egyptian temples that are outside Egypt. Inner walls are carved and used to be painted but the paint has faded through the centuries. On the website of the temple you will find the description and the explanation of each carving.
Behind the Temple of Debod, there is the Casa de Campo, the largest park in Madrid. It is about 5 times bigger than the Central Park in New York. Tourists and locals particularly enjoy watching the sun setting over the park from this place. The Plaza de Espagna is a smaller park in the city center. It is famous for the statue of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who is on a pedestal and next to him are Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, characters of his famous book.
The Sabatini Gardens which belong to the Royal Palace are close to the Plaza de Espagna. This is a classic French style garden with a large pool surrounded by high fir-trees.
And the list still could go on, as Madrid has a lot more green places than many other cities and they are all unique in their own way. If you are in Madrid, allocate some time to visit these special places and you will be rewarded with beautiful memories.