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: 9am–9pm daily; Oct–Mar: 10am–6pm daily • Closed for some official ceremonies, check website before visiting
Surprisingly, these gardens 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. These beautiful gardens feature about 70 species of trees.
Paseo Moret • Closed to cars on weekends
This lovely park was designed in the early 20th century by Cecilio Rodríguez, head gardener at the Retiro (see Teleférico). Apart from the rosaleda (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, 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 (see Children’s Attractions) 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 a train that runs through the park every half an hour.
Calle de Bailén, 2 • Open May–Sep: 9am–10pm daily; Oct–Apr: 9am–9pm daily
These orderly gardens next to the Palacio Real are set in the royal stables. Although the gardens were laid out in the 1930s, the design was based on the original 18th-century plans. The gardens are ideal for a picnic and offer breathtaking sunset views.
Avenida de Ramón y Cajal, 2 • Metro Concha Espina
Set among the fountains at the far end of this park, near the Auditorio Nacional de Música, are three sections of the Berlin Wall with original graffiti. Children’s play areas and places to eat and drink are nearby.
Plaza Emperador Carlos V s/n • Open daily
The space beneath the iron-and-glass canopy at Madrid’s central railway station is occupied by a beautiful miniature botanical garden (see p59).
Paseo de la Alameda de Osuna 25 • Metro El Capricho • Open 9am–6:30pm Sat, Sun & public hols (Apr–Sep: to 9pm) • Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec • www.reservaspatrimonio.es
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.