This green oasis in the centre of Madrid has125 hectares and is home to over 15,000 trees. From the botanical point of view, the Park includes some very important gardens: the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (classical gardens of an Andalusian style), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rose Garden, and the Parterre Francés with the oldest tree in Madrid, a bald cypress that is believed to be 400 years old.
The Park is not only the lungs of Madrid, but also offers cultural, leisure, and sport activities to all people, those from Madrid and those visiting. Among its architectural, historical, and popular elements are the lake for rowing, and the Velázquez and Glass palaces, both used today as exhibition halls. The Glass Palace, a romantic pavilion created to house a collection of exotic plants for the Philippine Exhibition of 1887, is one of the main examples of cast-iron architecture in Spain.
The park was born in 1630-1640, when Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, gave the king Philip IV several tracts of land in the vicinity for the Court’s recreational use.
Philip V (1700–1746) ordered the creation of a parterre, the only French-style garden in the complex. During the reign of Ferdinand VI, Buen Retiro was the setting for magnificent Italian operas. Charles III (1759–1788) saw to the beautification of its perimeter, replacing the old walls with elegant wrought-iron railings. Juan de Villanueva’s Astronomical Observatory was built during the reign of Charles IV (1788–1808).
The reign of Queen Isabella II saw profound changes in the “Retiro”. During the queen’s minority, the gardens enjoyed a particularly prosperous period, with the planting of shade and fruit trees, and previously unplanted areas like the “Campo Grande”, were landscaped as well.
El Retiro gradually became the green heart of the city. At the beginning of the 20th century, the monument to Alfonso XII was erected next to the pond. Countless statues, fountains and commemorative monuments have filled the park and converted it into an open-air sculpture museum. The nineteen-thirties and forties witnessed the creation of new gardens.
From late May through early October, every Sunday at midday, the Banda Sinfónica de Madrid gives free concerts from the bandstandin the park near the Calle de Alcalá. Manuel Lillo Torregrosa composed ‘Kiosko del Retiro’ to this bandstand.
The Park also features an annual Book Fair. Not only is there an annual book fair, but shelves for used books where people will drop off their used books, magazines, or newspapers. There are events throughout the year such as concerts, firework shows, and holiday/cultural events.
There is also an outdoor exercising area for both the old and the young. While the older one includes equipment to stretch keep arthritis in check and the elderly active like bicycle pedals. The younger portion includes bars for triceps dips, pull-ups, sit-ups, and locals have brought bigger stones to use as weights.
Around the lake, Retiro Pond, many puppet shows perform, and all manner of street performers and fortune tellers. Rowboats can be rented to paddle about the Estanque, and horse-drawn carriages are available. If rowing is not your forte there is a solar powered boat you can book passage on.
Retiro provides multiple different sports courts that are managed by the city.
For children there are multiple playground areas as well as ponds throughout the park with ducks you can feed. The inside of the Palacio de Cristal has been modified to include the edition of a stone slide in the interior.
The major paths and walkways are used by families, runners, bikers and rollerbladers.