Be aware that the Palacio gets very hot inside - it was built as a greenhouse, after all.
Buen Retiro Park has a long history as a venue for extravagant exhibitions and shows. In 1887, during the early days of its official ownership by the public, the park played host to an exhibition of the Philippine Islands, which were a Spanish colony at the time.
Architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco - also responsible for the park’s Palacio de Velázquez - created a greenhouse to house indigenous flowers brought over from the Philippines. The exhibition extended into the park, and included a recreation of a Filipino village.
Originally intended to be disassembled and moved to another site, the Palacio de Cristal has remained here ever since, alongside its accompanying artificial lake, which like Estanque del Retiro is teeming with fish and terrapins, as well as a few black swans. Inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, the building takes the shape of a Greek cross and is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework, atop a brick base decorated with ceramics.
Colonial exhibitions are a thing of the past. No longer a greenhouse, the Palacio de Cristal is now used as a venue by the Museo Reina Sofia for temporary art exhibitions. A recent show by conceptual artist Kimsooja saw the building transformed into a surreal palace of rainbows using a diffractive covering on the glass. Whether or not there’s anything on, the palace is a wonderful sight, making for excellent photo opportunities in the forested peace and quiet of the park.
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