Hopping from one museum to another; awing at monumental architecture and gazing at modern art are surely fun things to do. But sometimes all we need from our travels is a moment of piece and silence. And you’d think it might be hard to achieve, in a bustling city like Madrid, with crowds rushing back and forth, and the nights almost as brighter as the days. But believe it or not, right in the center of the city, steps away from a never-ending queue at the Prado, there is one place – a park of delicate beauty – which remains an oasis of tranquility. And this place is the Buen Retiro Park.
The layout of the garden was shaped mostly during the 17th century; and given the fact that until the 19th century El Retiro was in the possession of the royal family, it is hardly a surprise that Europe’s finest architects and landscapists collaborated on the design. The artificial lake (estanque) is one of the emblematic structures in the entire park – renting a boat and rowing gently along the lake, watched over by the marble monument of Alfonso XII, is a quintessential Madrid experience.
The Palacio de Cristales is another highlight – an impressive cast-iron palace was built in 1887 to hold the exhibition of exotic flowers and plants from the Philippines; it then became a winter garden. Today it is used for temporary exhibitions organized by the Reina Sofia Museum. Close to it, the Palacio de Velazquez, serves same purpose; on the north side of the lake, Casa de Vacas, has become a home to a cultural center, which also arranges diverse exhibitions throughout the year.
But let’s not forget that El Retiro is a park after all; and things we all expect from a place like this, are radiant green lawns, zillions of flowers exhaling fragrant aromas and trees casting longed for shades in the summer. El Retiro has all of these things, but ten times as much as any other park – La Rosalenda (rose garden) treasures more than 4.000 roses; flower-bedecked alleys and outdoor terraces, children playgrounds and tiny kiosks selling refreshments are scattered along the park. In summer you might also witness improvised theatrical performances and rent a bike if you feel like wandering around 125 hectares of the park’s territory is a quite a challenge.