Green plays an important role in the colour palette of a city, and Madrid is no exception. You'll find it in parks and gardens, places where you can lose yourself for a while and enjoy a romantic stroll, practise alternative sports, learn about history and botany, experience the Madrid of old, or even splash around on a ‘beach’. This guide helps you to bring a bit of green into your life.
Riding a bike, learning to skate, watching puppet shows and rowing around in a boat on the pond are activities that never seem to fail when it comes to entertaining kids. At El Retiro park you and the kids can also discover the oldest tree in Madrid, a monument to Lucifer, the ruins of a Romanic church, and the remains of the first zoo in the Spanish capital.
The Royal Botanic Garden is an open-air museum, where you'll find many schoolchildren on excursions; artists with charcoal in hand, ready to immortalise nature; and those who love the world of greenery, enthusiastically doing their best to identify the more than 5,000 species of plants within the garden. Its greenhouse, fountains and tranquillity, providing an escape from the busy city centre, are some of the most appealing features in this garden with over 250 years of history.
Until recently, this park was one of the greatest hidden gems in Madrid. Its name, El Capricho (literally, 'The Whim'), is the best reflection of the intentions of its promoter, the Duchess of Osuna, who at the end of the 18th century commissioned this particular recreational estate made up of gardens designed in various styles, architecture like the oldest iron bridge in Spain, and other curiosities such as a labyrinth made of laurel. The whimsical setting makes for quite the romantic stroll.
The 'Berlin Park' brings a piece of Germany to Spain. You'll find a fountain with three sections of the Berlin Wall presiding over it. The remnants of the wall that divided Berlin and Germany from its construction in 1961 until its fall in 1989 share space with a statue of Beethoven and a bear that symbolises the city of Berlin, which is a sister city of Madrid.
A good book, a cup of coffee, and hundreds of turtles that live in this mini urban jungle make it one of the best ways to wait for a train. Some 7,000 plants of 400 different species make up this unusual garden with its own microclimate that lives under the glass and metal structure of the train station.
During the San Isidro and La Paloma festivals, the most traditional events related to the celebrations are usually on in this space, with dances, concerts, and meals open to everyone. The park owes its name to the views it offers to the banks of the Manzanares river and the Casa de Campo. An excellent place to dance the traditional ‘chotis’ and take a photo with the La Violetera statue.
Go through the Brandenburg Gate take a photo in front of London Bridge, toss coins into Trevi Fountain, and pledge your eternal love to your partner in front of the Eiffel Tower – all on the same day and without leaving Madrid. Parque Europa, in Torrejón de Ardoz, offers a free quick tour of 17 European monuments, and there's plenty of other fun to be had in the park as well.
The second largest park in the city is also one of the favourite spots for residents of Madrid to get a bit of two-wheeling exercise, thanks to the bicycle rental service available inside the park itself. Artificial ponds and lakes attract fans of rowing along the water, and there's a greenhouse with a wide variety of exotic species.
A royal park built – one of history’s many curiosities – smack in times of the Republic. It was during the 1930s when the government seized the assets of the Spanish Crown to convert them into public spaces. On the site occupied by the former royal stables designed by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, plans were made for a neoclassical park, that as the years passed became one of the most visited spots in Madrid, thanks to its location and great lookout points.
The park that was born with the burial of the M-30 motorway has one element as its indisputable star: water. The Manzanares river flows along in this green space that offers one of the best venues for leisure and sports activities for kids to adults in the centre of Madrid. The jewel in the crown is created by three spaces with water fountains that have given the park the nickname ‘Madrid's beach’.
Formerly reserved as a private hunting ground for the royal family, the Casa de Campo offers many options when it comes to enjoying a day of leisure in its amusement park, at the zoo, on the lake in a boat or kayak, playing sports, participating in planned activities at the fairgrounds, or going up the cable car that connects the park with the Paseo del Pintor Rosales.
On the outskirts of town in Arganda del Rey there's a memorial garden, where more than three decades ago the El Último Parque (The Final Park) project began. This is the first and only pet cemetery in the Comunidad de Madrid, where people have paid their final respects to their beloved companion animals, and some 4,000 pets have been laid to rest.