City breaks with a breath of fresh air: must-see Madrid parks
Spain’s energetic capital is a real beauty, packed with elegant buildings and culture. You’ll want to take in the grand Royal Palace, admire the world-famous artworks at the Prado Museum and flex your credit card in the shops on Gran Via. But what you might not know is that the parks in Madrid are just as visit-worthy.
Take a break from the hectic pace of sightseeing to explore the exquisite gardens and sweeping green spaces of the city’s stunning manicured parks. From sculptures to cable cars, there’s more to these must-see Madrid parks than picnics.
Parque del Buen Retiro
Situated right in the heart of Madrid, this huge 125-hectare park is the city’s largest and liveliest. Over 15,000 trees provide a welcome shady canopy during the hot Spanish summer, and there’s a large man-made lake with rowing boats. Parque del Buen Retiro is home to five different landscaped gardens, from La Rosaleda rose gardens to the enclosed Jardines de Cecilo Rodriguez with their strutting resident peacocks. To the north of the park, near the grand Puerta de Felipe entrance, you might spot the oldest tree in Madrid, a 384-year old Mexican conifer.
Retiro Park is one of the most popular places to take part in outdoor activities in Madrid. You’ll spot local Madrileños keeping fit in all manner of ways, from rollerblading and rowing to yoga and tai chi. There’s even an outdoor gym where you can pump iron in the fresh air. Chill out on a sunny bench and watch the action or join in yourself. At the weekends, as the sun begins to go down, a party atmosphere descends with music, dancing and groups of mates enjoying the leafy surroundings and open-air cafes.
Don’t miss: the Palacio de Cristal – a beautiful glass palace on the shores of its own small lake. It’s sometimes home to modern art exhibits put on by the Reina Sofia gallery.
Parque de Juan Carlos I
Located in Campo de las Naciones, near the airport and Madrid’s busy IFEMA exhibition centre, this contemporary urban park is just 15 years old. Named after the then King of Spain, Parque de Juan Carlos I is packed with facilities including a skating rink, golf course and an artificial river where you can canoe and fish. It’s especially popular with families thanks to the free bike hire, fantastic playgrounds and organised kids’ activities. There’s even a free train that circles the park for when little legs get tired.
Juan Carlos Park is perhaps most famous for its sculptures. What could be better than wandering through a sunny open-air art gallery? You’ll discover 19 innovative modern sculptures created by artists from around the world, including the moving ‘Monument to Peace’ and the colourful ‘Space Mexico’.
Don’t miss: the park’s old olive groves, the Olivar de la Hinojosa. These beautiful trees are said to pre-date the park by as much as 100 years.
Parque de el Capricho
Tucked away in the north-east district of Barajas, this pretty 18th-century park is pure romance. The whimsical design of the former royal retreat combines the natural beauty of the English countryside with the architecture of an Italian garden, and the sculpted hedges of a French stately home. Stroll through the rose garden with its tumbling blooms and fountains, alongside the peaceful lake where black swans swim, and up to the temple-like gazebo with its Romanesque columns and statues. If you’re on a couple’s city break, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to secluded spots.
Capricho Park may be the quietest of our must-see parks, but it also has a playful side. Children will love finding their way through the labyrinth maze and play-duelling in the unused bullring. You won’t find ball games, bikes or cafes here though – this park is all about the tranquil vibe.
Don’t miss: the park’s hidden secret – an underground bunker from the Spanish Civil War, whose seven rooms could shelter up to 200 members of the Republican Army from falling bombs. The bunker can only be viewed as part of a guided tour.
Casa de Campo
If you love a park crammed with attractions, you’ll love Casa de Campo, in the Moncloa-Aravaca district. Madrid’s zoo, aquarium and amusement park are all located within the park, as well as the thrilling Madrid cable car (teleferico), which whisks visitors 40m above the park for amazing birds-eye views of the city. Not surprisingly, Casa de Campo is a hit with families!
Attractions aside, this former royal hunting estate also offers up huge expanses of green space to unwind in. Head down to the shores of the park’s lake for a paddle in a rowing boat or just enjoy a leisurely stroll and a picnic amongst the Mediterranean-style landscape.
Don’t miss: the chance to explore the park’s many forest trails by bike. There are plenty of bike hire shops near the park and the sense of freedom you get as you speed through the park is unbeatable.
Ever wanted to travel across Europe? Well, at Parque Europa you can see all the most famous sights in just one day! Europa Park Madrid is home to a collection of 18 replica European monuments – from the iconic Eiffel Tower to Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid. And it’s free entry to boot. Throw pennies into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, take a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate and admire Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture in all his glory. The park is located on the outskirts of the city, in Torrejon de Ardoz.
Europa Park also puts on no end of activities to keep you entertained. Horse riding, archery, trampolines, playgrounds, ice skating – the list is endless. Or simple take a walk, and discover the park’s beautiful greenery, lakes and ponds.
Don’t miss: the Great Zip Line where visitors aged 12 and over can fly 180m over the park. A thrilling way to take in the sights!
Tempted to visit Madrid’s beautiful parks? Come and stay with us at our Urban Sea Atocha 113. Hotel in Madrid!