In 1767, Carlos III broke with tradition by allowing members of the public into the Retiro, providing they were “washed and suitably dressed”. However it was not until the 1860s and the advent of the First Republic that the partitions separating the royal enclosure from the public area were finally torn down for good.
The botanical garden (see Real Jardín Botánico) is the perfect place to recharge your batteries after the exhausting walk around the Prado Museum. The shady paths are lined with statues, and the air is cooled by judiciously placed fountains.
Open Apr–Sep: 10am–8pm daily; Oct–Mar: 10am–6pm daily • Can close for official ceremonies
Surprisingly, these gardens (see Jardines del Campo del Moro) in the grounds of the Palacio Real were not laid out until the 19th century. The name, “Moor’s field” refers to the Arab general, Ali Ben Youssef, who is said to have camped here while besieging the city after it had fallen to the Christians in 1109. On a fine day, the views of the palace and the Casa de Campo from these gardens are unbeatable.
Paseo Moret • Closed to cars at weekends
This lovely park (see Teleférico). was designed in the early 20th century by Cecilio Rodríguez, head gardener at the Retiro. Apart from the rosale da (rose garden), the main attraction is the Temple of Debod, an ancient monument dating from the 2nd century BC. It was a gift from the Egyptian government. Cafés abound on Paseo del Pintor Rosales, which is also a terminus of the Teleférico cable car.
Paseo Puerta del Angel 1 (bicycles only) • Metro Lago or Casa de Campo
The city’s largest green space, and Felipe II’s favourite hunting ground (see Zoo-Aquarium), was opened to the public with the overthrow of the monarchy in 1931. Attractively planted with pines, oaks, poplars and many other trees, there are also huge areas of open space, mostly scrub. Amenities include cafés, picnic areas, restaurants, a boating lake, a zoo and the lively Parque de Atracciones amusement park.
Avenida de Logroño, 26 • Metro Feria de Madrid • Open Jun–Sep: 7–1am daily; Oct–May: 7am–11pm Sun–Thu, 7am–midnight Fri & Sat
This attractive park (see Parque Juan Carlos I) lies within the exhibition grounds of the Campo de las Naciones. Highlights include catamaran trips on the river, superb modern sculptures and the largest fountain in Spain, with 300 jets.
Calle de Bailén, 2 • Open May–Sep: 9am–10pm daily; Oct–Apr: 9am–9pm daily
These orderly gardens next to the Palacio Real occupy the site of the royal stables. Although the gardens were laid out in the 1930s, the design was in fact based on the original 18th-century plans. A quiet, restful place, ideal for a picnic.
Avenida de Ramón y Cajal, 2 • Metro Concha Espina
Set among the fountains at the far end of this park, near the Auditorio Nacional, are three sections of the Berlin Wall with original graffiti. Children’s play areas and places to eat and drink are nearby.
The space beneath the magnificent iron-and-glass canopy at Madrid’s central railway station is occupied by a miniature botanical garden (see Invernadero de Atocha), replete with palms and tropical plants.
Paseo de la Alameda de Osuna 25 • Metro El Capricho • Open 9am–6:30pm Sat, Sun & public hols (to 9pm Apr–Sep) • Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec
These 18th-century gardens belonged to the palace of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna and were landscaped by Jean-Baptiste Mulot, the gardener at the palace of Versailles, outside Paris. They have been restored to their former glory with tree-lined paths, fountains, a lake and follies. Housed in the park is the Civil War Bunker, that can be visited by reservation.