Buen Retiro Park

The green heart of Madrid, hosting an array of gardens and monuments.

TravelCurious Tip

Venture into the park's forested coolness on a beautiful summer's day and discover layers of Madrilenian history.

Pleasant Retreat

Parque del Buen Retiro means ‘Park of the Pleasant Retreat,’ and it’s a well-earned moniker. Sat at the edge of Madrid’s city centre, what was originally a zone for royal relaxation has been open to the public since 1767, and provides a wonderful escape from the bustle of the Spanish capital.

A retreat was first built here in 1505, to adjoin a new monastery built by Isabella I. Subsequent kings and queens extended and improved the park, adding various other buildings and features, including formal avenues and the great pond Estanque del Retiro. Its improvements in the 1630s by the Count-Duke of Olivares made the park one of the last great wonders of the Spanish Renaissance, and it was the centre of the Habsburg court at a time when Spain was the world’s greatest power.

Today Olivares’ artificial pond remains, close to the northern entrance and adjoined by an impressive Monument to King Alfonso XII, which sits atop a semicircular colonnade. Boats are available to hire for a pleasant paddle round the lake.

The park contains a number of other renowned statues: a highlight is the 1922 statue of El Angel Caído by Ricardo Bellver, which crowns the Fountain of the Fallen Angel. Inspired by John Milton’s descriptions in Paradise Lost of Lucifer falling from Heaven, this is believed to be the only public statue depicting Satan in the world. He is found in the Rosaleda del Retiro, a wonderful rose garden featuring arched entrances and fountains.

Pond and palaces

Only a few of the park’s older buildings are still standing: the Casón del Buen Retiro and Salón de Reinos were the only portions of the Buen Retiro Palace complex to survive the French bombardment of the Peninsular War between 1808 and 1814. Today, the Casón holds collections of 19th and 20th century Spanish paintings.

A second artificial pond was built in 1887 along with the Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful construction imitating London’s Crystal Palace and designed to hold an exhibition of indigenous flowers for the Philippine Islands Exhibition - it now contains an art gallery. The Palacio de Velázquez was built for the 1883 National Exhibition of Mining, Metallurgical Arts, Ceramics, Glass and Mineral Waters.

Indeed, the park has been host to a number of spectacular events over the years, and continues to hold many concerts and shows to this day; there is also an annual book fair. Popular with runners, roller-bladers and cyclists, the park is also used by many locals as a venue for botellón - a boozy picnic in the evening. This is not strictly allowed, but the authorities tend to turn a blind eye.

Nearby Attractions

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Estanque del Retiro
An impressive artificial lake that complements The Monument to Alfonso XII in Buen Retiro Park.
Monument to Alfonso XII
An equestrian statue of the monarch in the centre of Buen Retiro Park, offering the best view over the lake.
Casón del Buen Retiro
One of two remaining 17th-century buildings in Buen Retiro Park, the Casón is home to a famous fresco.
Palacio de Cristal
The extraordinary glass and iron palace built to display the flora of the Philippines in 1887.
Palacio de Velázquez
This beautiful neoclassical building is an exhibition hall located in Buen Retiro Park.
San Jerónimo el Real
A 16th century Roman Catholic church with royal connections, now used by the Prado Museum.

Related Tours

Madrid's Private Half Day Highlights with skip-the-line Prado tickets
This four hour tour will introduce you to the lives of some of the most influential artists of Europe, followed by a memorable walk around the stunning Buen Retiro Park. 

  • Commence your tour at the Prado Museum
  • Take in the phenomenal architecture and masterpieces.
  • Learn about major art movements. 
  • Re-fuel with a swift coffee break.
  • Cruise through Buen Retiro Park.
  • Snap pictures of the Monument to Alfonso XII and el Casón del Buen Retiro building.
  • Marvel at the architecture of the Church of San Jeronimos.
The Very Best of Art and Culture

You will begin your tour at the Spanish national art museum: the Prado Museum. Founded in 1819, it is well worth a visit just for its stunning neoclassical architecture, let alone its impressive collection of some 8,000 paintings and many beautiful sculptures, drawings and prints. Here, your expert guide will endeavour to shed some light on the major art movements you will see in the museum, including the Renaissance and Baroque. 

You will also learn about the fascinating social and cultural background of some of the most iconic paintings house in the museum, such as the Spanish masterpiece Las Meninas by Velazquez; Artwork by Fran Angelico, gifted creator of The Annunciation; Christ Washing the Disciple’s feet by Tintoretto, and masterpieces by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. 

Sublime Walk

After a well deserved coffee break, you will head over to the fabulous Buen Retiro Park, where your guide will walk you through its rich history, traced back to Isabella I (1505). You will notice stunning sights such as the artificial lake that complements the impressive Monument to Alfonso XII, and el Casón del Buen Retiro building; one of two remaining 17th century additions to the park and former home of King Philip IV. 

Well worth a visit, this is now a museum housing an incredible collection of 19th and 20th century paintings, including work by the Spanish painter, Joaquín Sorolla. You will also have the opportunity to visit the absolutely beautiful Church of San Jeronimos; and the crowning place of King Juan Carlos in 1975.


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