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Palacio de Cristal

The extraordinary glass and iron palace built to display the flora of the Philippines in 1887.

TravelCurious Tip

Be aware that the Palacio gets very hot inside - it was built as a greenhouse, after all.

Pacific flowers

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.


Greenhouse to gallery

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.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Madrid
Buen Retiro Park
The green heart of Madrid, hosting an array of gardens and monuments.
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 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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