Known as the "lungs of Madrid", few cities can boast such a large park (118 hectares, or 291.5 acres) in a central location. There's a large boating lake and the park has three art galleries, Casa de Vacas, Palacio de Cristal and Palacio de Velázquez. On weekends and holidays, it fills with madrileños (citizens of Madrid) and performers of all sorts, including mime artists and jugglers, painters, singers, puppet masters and fortune-tellers. It was built as a royal park in the 17th Century and until 1868 it was exclusively reserved for the aristocracy. Whether you want to take a romantic stroll through the rose gardens of the park or enjoy a free summer concert, the Buen Retiro is a delightful place for a day out.
It is a real pleasure to wander around these attractively landscaped gardens. You will see examples of a wide variety of plants from all five continents - 30,000 different species in total. They are all labeled with their Latin and Spanish names. Among them are medicinal herbs, sweet-smelling plants and flowers, food-bearing plants, and a collection of roses. There is also a greenhouse with tropical, subtropical and desert plants. The gardens have been open since 1791.
Young families from Madrid love coming here to visit the six different adventure zones full of activities: Naturaleza (Nature), Maquinismo (Automation), Tranquilidad (Tranquility), Infantil (Infants), Gran Avenida (Grand Avenue), and Trispace Virtual (Virtual World). The children's amusement park offers loads of things to do, including water rides, a house of horror and a puppet theater. Some of the rides have great names like Rapids, Launch Pad, Fjords, Top Spin, and Fantasy. There are musical shows, traveling performers, and places to eat.
The cable car offers spectacular views of the western part of the city. Its cabins pass over the River Manzanares, the Rosaleda (rose gardens), and Parque del Oeste. The best view of all is the cityscape immortalized in Goya's paintings that includes the Royal Palace, San Francisco Church, and the cathedral. You will eventually arrive at Casa de Campo park where you can have a picnic, feed the ducks, relax, or row a boat around the lake. Check website for admission prices.
More than 2030 different species of mammals and birds live among the 20 hectares of parkland here. The zoo keeps more than 70 varieties of poisonous snakes, including vipers from Gabon and the black mamba (considered the most dangerous snake in the world). The Dolphinarium is probably the most popular area, as visitors love to watch these intelligent mammals show off their tricks. Dolphins, seals and sea lions give regular performances throughout the day. The aquarium holds two million liters of water and a spectacular tropical fish collection. There is a restaurant, bar, and snack bars.
The royal family's water supply used to come from the well by the old country house in these romantic gardens. This attractive park is an oasis of peace and tranquilty sandwiched between the welter of traffic on the M-30 and the huge television station tower, Torrespaña (or el Pirulí as the locals call it). There's a pretty viewpoint and you'll see statues dedicated to Pushkin (Russian writer) and Bécquer (Spanish poet). The latter is located in the Water Garden alongside little lakes, rivers and waterfalls.
Located within the campus of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Real Jardin Botanico Alfonso XIII is a botanical wonderland of Mediterranean vegetation. The variety if plant species in this garden is truly stunning and include species of olive, Kormes oak, fig, vine and arbutus. There is an orchard at one part of the garden while another has an artificial geyser which creates an ecosystem for marshland plants to grow. The garden also has a number of sculptures which were brought in during an exhibition and have now become a part of the garden.