One of the most surprising things about living in Madrid was the sheer choice of parks available. There were so many I don’t think I managed them all (even though we allocated a week one July to exploring them). So, apologies if your favourite isn’t listed – it may be I never made it…or, more likely, we have different park needs! Am realising that water is a key factor in mine…
- Parque del Buen Retiro
Known simply as ‘El Retiro’, this substantial green space sits behind the Prado and is perfect for a walk in any season. It’s crammed full with things to do, from a boating lake to a skating area to a library (how many city parks host an annual book fair!?!) but my favourite spot was always the section with the peacocks. Hidden away on the fringes of the park, it may not have had grass to lounge on with a picnic, but it was always a bit quieter (apart from the sound of the peacocks of course!)
2. Parque del Oeste
Why this park is not as famous or celebrated as Retiro is something that baffles me! An absolute idyll on the fringes of Arguelles, this huge park stretches the whole way from the Templo de Debod at Plaza de Espana and is usually bereft of crowds, making it perfect for some peace away from the city (without having to trek out of the centre). My favourite thing about it is the large stream that meanders through wooded glades, making it feel more like a UK country park than an urban one. There’s also a rosaleda to wander through and some interesting archaeological relics from the Civil War. Plus, it’s the start/end point for the Teleferico which whisks passengers into the heart of the Casa de Campo.
3. Quintas de Molinos
This little park on the Eastern fringes is known for one thing: the almendra trees which blossom in February and March. Who needs to travel to Japan for sakura when you can just ride the metro for twenty minutes? I’ve never visited outside Feb/March, so I can’t vouch for what’s it like at other times of the year, but it was such a beautiful experience we made the pilgrimage as many times as we could. Yes, it can get busy (especially in the afternoons) but there’s enough space to clear the crowds and lose yourself among the trees and breathe in the honey-scented fragrance of the blossom. Back in the UK, I’ve noticed there’s an almendra in the local park and I caught myself sniffing the blossom the other day, drinking it down like a draught of Iberia.
4. Campo del Moro
It took me quite a while to find this park – it was always ‘on the list’ but I never seemed to be able to find the entrance. (Note: it’s not that remote or difficult to find, I was just being an eejit).
Originally designed as an English country garden on the request of Queen Maria Cristina, this park may be small, but it has one of the best views in Madrid. This park is perfect if you want to lounge under the shade of the huge trees like an aristocrat or take a walk through the (albeit small) grounds among the fountains without being disturbed – for a park so central, it was always remarkably quiet when I visited. And again – that view!
5. Quinta de la Fuente del Berro
Another hidden gem of a park, this one is situated in the upmarket Salamanca barrio – and with palatial remains scattered amidst the grounds, it certainly fits its exclusive postcode. With waterfalls, fountains and a couple of small ponds, it offers a welcome respite from the dry heat of the summer. There’s also a landscaped garden with various levels formed by meadows crossed by winding paths and rustic stone stairs. Best of all? Again, it was usually remarkably quiet – perfect for curling up with a book in the shade of a tree on a summer afternoon.
There are some parks not on the list – Casa de Campo, for example – which I loved, but not as much as these. The Parque El Capricho is another that regularly features on many ‘best parks in Madrid’ list – yes, it’s wonderful with its mazes and Italianate roundel, but it also has security on the gate checking for food, which makes it a little too militant for my taste…