Retiro, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Oh great, you found our starting point. That circle with all of the traffic driving around it is called Independence Square, even though it is a circle. It dates back to the reign of King Carlos III waaay back in 1778. Are you ready to move on? No? Oh, you want me to tell you about that enormous, beautiful, triumphal arch in the MIDDLE of Independence Square? I thought so. Feel free to watch for traffic and then run over and take a closer look while I tell you about it. That is the Gate of Alcala. Between 1625 and 1868, Madrid was surrounded by the Walls of Philip IV and this door was the main entrance. King Charles III didn’t really like the previous gate that was there when he arrived in Madrid in 1759, so he commissioned Italian Architect Francesco Sabatini to build this one. I guess when you are a king you get whatever you want. The Gate of Alcala is 19.5 meters long and has a different design on each side. The side facing the city center has flags, weapons and lions. The opposite side has a coat of arms and a child. At the top of the gate are four children that stand for fortitude, justice, temperance and prudence. In the early days of the gate, cars didn’t exist and Alcala was used for livestock. Yup, sheep wandering through those doors was just a regular old thing. You won’t see any sheep walking through the gate these days though, EXCEPT during the Trashumancia Festival. For one day only, sheep are paraded through the gate of Alcala and down the streets of Madrid as a celebration of Spanish Heritage. I think I’d prefer watching the sheep over watching the cars… but that’s just me. NOW are you ready to move on? Retiro Park is waiting for us! All you have to do is turn around and go through those gates. No, not the Gate of Alcala! The gates that are located southeast of the plaza. Just follow your navigation, enter the gates, and meet me right in front of the rectangular fountain. You will see stairs on either side.
Calle Méjico, 2, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Welcome to Retiro Park! This is one of the largest parks in Madrid. It actually belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century when they finally decided to share it with the public. Thanks, Spanish Monarchy! If you love trees, this is a great place to be because these 350 acres are home to more than 15,000 of them. You can either trust me on that or count them yourself. Totally up to you. Why don’t we take a stroll through the park so I can point out some of its most popular features. Our first stop will be the fountain of the Galapagos and it is straight ahead. Pick a set of stairs and then meet me at the front of the fountain.
Plaza de Nicaragua, 1, 28009 Madrid, Spain
And here it is - The Fountain of the Galapagos. It has been around since 1832, but not in THIS location. I’m not sure why anyone would take on the task of moving an entire fountain, but hey, I’m not going to judge anyone. This beautiful fountain was originally built in the Gran Via, which is about a kilometer away. But it is here now, so let’s appreciate it. The Fountain of the Galapagos was constructed to commemorate the first birthday of Princess Isabella, later known as Princess Isabella II.It features fairies, gifts, children, and dolphins… all of which would make for a very exciting first birthday party. Let’s keep exploring. Follow the path that continues on the opposite side of where we met at this fountain. You will be heading toward a lake. The lake will be on your left as you stroll along.
Paseo Argentina, 4, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Statues on your right and a lake on your left. What more could you want? How about a monument? We’ve got that too. But first, take a look down that path ahead on your right. That’s the Alley of Statues where you can find quite the array of sculptures representing several monarchs. The lake that you have been walking along is the Retiro Park Lake. It was built back in 1634 and used to hold water shows, like fake Navy battles. You won’t find any Navy battles going on here today though, but you can rent boats to paddle around the pond. There are also quite a few giant grouper fish that visitors like to feed there. Give it a try! I’m guessing you have noticed that big monument on the other side of the lake. Am I right? That is a monument to Alfonso XII, who reigned from 1874 to 1885. He died rather young - at age 27, and was succeeded by his son Alfonso XIII who was born the following year. Go ahead and try to do the math on that one. This impressive monument is 30 meters high, 58 meters wide and 86 meters long. It doesn’t look that big from this side of the lake but if you go right up to it, you will see how massive it is. Do you want to go see the Artichoke Fountain? Sure you do! Just keep walking and I will meet you when you get there.
Paseo Argentina, 4D, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Here it is! The Artichoke Fountain. This beauty was built between 1781 and 1782. Made from sandstone, it consists of a column bearing the coat of arms of Madrid, held between a sea nymph and a Triton, topped by a basin where there are a group of children sheltering under a huge artichoke plant, of course. But why an artichoke? Well back in 1776, when the fountain was commissioned, the artichoke was the main staple food and lifeline during the winter months for the working class. The artichoke was so important that there are not just one, but TWO major monuments dedicated to the delicious vegetable. The other monument stands at the Emperor Carlos V Plaza. Let’s keep heading south. Keep following the path we have been on and I’ll catch up to you soon.
Paseo de Cuba, 4, 28009 Madrid, Spain
I hope you have been enjoying your walk! By the way, the path you are on right now is named Paseo de Cuba. We are going to jump off the path now though. I’m going to give you some instructions, so please listen carefully. Look through the trees to your left. Can you see that glass building? That’s where we are headed. There are a few different paths that will take you there. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. All that matters is that you meet me at the OTHER SIDE of the glass building, right at the base of the front steps. There will be a pond there as well. Do you think you can find it? Let’s see. Ready… set… GO!
Paseo de Cuba, 2, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Well look at you! You found me! So what do you think about this place? It kinda makes me think of a greenhouse, which is exactly what it was back in 1887 when it was constructed by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco. It is a wonderful example of Spain’s cast-iron architecture. Today it houses artwork and exhibitions, not plants.But the pond here is peaceful and serene, so take a moment to relax and enjoy. Ok, that’s enough relaxing. I need you to please listen very carefully to me again. Look out across the pond. On the opposite side there is a circle with a tree in it. I promise it is there. Once again, there are many paths that lead to it so you get to pick. The important thing is that you meet me on the opposite side of the tree from where we are standing now. There is a path there that we need to take to get to our final stop. Ok, let’s see if you can find me. Go!
Paseo de Fernán Núñez, 18, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Paseo de Fernán Núñez, 18, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Paseo de Fernán Núñez, 16B, 28009 Madrid, Spain
You are doing so well! Now turn left, go across the road and then keep following the path. We are almost to the end! Keep walking until you get to the round flower bed. You will see it when you get there.
Cecilio Rodríguez Garden, Paseo de Fernán Núñez, 1X, 28009 Madrid, Spain
And here we are at our last stop. You will probably want to spend some time walking around and taking in all of the beauty here. These are the Gardens of Cecilio Rodriguez. Back in 1924, he was appointed the senior gardener of the town of Madrid. In 1972 these gardens were opened and dedicated to him. Go ahead, walk around and enjoy! You will find beautifully decorated archways, plant covered pergolas and ponds. There are also water jets, sculptures, shaded benches, neatly trimmed hedges and hidden corners. If you are REALLY lucky, you might see one of the beautiful peacocks that roam here. Cross your fingers! And now it is time to leave you to your own exploring. It has been my pleasure to show you around Retiro Park. I’d love to be your guide on more adventures so check out the UCPlaces app or go to ucplaces.com and pick another one of our fantastic tours. I hope to see you soon but until then, so long and happy touring!