What to Explore in Madrid: Parks and Gardens You'll Love
Escape the city from within it (yes, really) with this guide to Madrid's most delightful green spaces
City breaks provide the opportunity to throw yourself into a different kind of daily grind, but it goes without saying that even on holiday it’s hard to fight the urge to escape the metropolitan clamour and seek refuge in nature. Many of thr green spaces – which are a short metro ride away from the trendiest neighbourhoods and cultural landmarks in the centre of Madrid – were once only accessible to royalty. Over time they opened to the public, revealing a different side to the city while providing locals the chance to discover impeccable gardenscapes, botanical marvels and endless woodland pathways.
We’ve curated a list of the best Madrid parks and gardens to explore so that you can venture out and be at one with nature, all without stepping foot outside the city. Who says you can't have the best of both worlds?
Real Jardín Botanico
Right next door to the Prado Museum, the Real Jardín Botanico (Royal Botanical Garden) continues to flourish like it did in the 18th century when it was first constructed. Consisting of three terrazas (terraces) that are home to around 6,000 species of plant-life, these botanical gardens host comprehensive guided tours that offer a glimpse into the history of the premises and detail how different plants are cultivated and used. If you’re lucky enough to be green-thumbed, you might also want to peek inside the library and browse the tomes on botany or natural history.
Parque del Retiro
Also known as Parque del Buen Retiro, this popular park was once owned and exclusively used by the royal family, but today it’s more ‘relax’ than regal, with sunnier days seeing locals flock to the handful of terraces for pick-me-ups after a leisurely stroll, yoga session or boat ride. Located in the heart of the city near to swanky Salamanca, it’s one of the biggest Madrid parks, made up of 125 hectares of lush greenery and home to several monuments. Not to miss are the Palacio de Cristal, an intricate glass pavilion constructed in the shape of a Greek Cross, and the Estanque, an artificial lake where you can try your hand at kayaking or rowing – but if you wander further afield you’ll discover a puppet theatre, a library and what’s rumoured to be the city’s oldest tree.
Parque de las Siete Tetas
Although officially named Parque del Cerro de Tio Pio, this park’s distinctive hilly landscape earned it a bawdy nickname that leaves nothing to the imagination – Parque de las Siete Tetas (Seven Breasts Park). Every Madrileño knows that this place is the cream of the crop for sunset views, so pack some nibbles, get there early and wait for the cityscape to change before your eyes.
Jardines de Sabatini
Manicured lawns, impeccably symmetrical hedges and Neoclassical flourishes are the name of the game in the Jardines de Sabatini – and it’s only fitting considering these gardens are part of the Royal Palace, located in what was formerly the stables. Named after the Italian architect who designed said stables (and who we also have to thank for the Real Jardín Botanico), it’s a great vantage point from which to see the city, and is particularly worth visiting around golden hour when the beginnings of a sunset reflect off the stark-white palace walls.
Campo del Moro
Tucked behind the Royal Palace, Campo del Moro (The Field of the Moors) owes its name to a key historical event, as it’s widely believed that when the Moors attempted to re-capture Madrid in the 12th century, their troops camped in this very spot. Nowadays the park appeals more to the romantic than the battle-hungry; cherry blossoms line the pristine gardenscape, and a leisurely stroll to the Neoclassical fountain furthest away from the royal palace will reveal a spectacular view of the building in the background.
Casa de Campo
You can easily see why Casa de Campo was used as a royal hunting ground back in the 17th century; the vast stretch of forest covers over 1,700 hectares, making it five times the size of New York’s Central Park and the biggest park in Madrid. It’s perfect for those who want to do more than casually meander around; endless trails crisscross through the space, so grabbing a bike and hurtling down your chosen route is highly recommended. Just be ready to make your peace with the reality that you’ll never quite scratch the surface of what there is to explore here.
Parque del Oeste
A short cable car ride away from Casa de Campo, Parque del Oeste is home to the ancient Temple of Debod, brought over to Spain as a gift from Egypt in the late 1960s. Venture deeper into the picturesque park during the months of May and June, however, and you’ll discover that this famous city landmark is not all that’s on offer; it’s the lesser-known rose garden that steals the show. The internationally-renowned rosaleda sees hundreds of different rose bushes bloom each year, creating a flurry of colour in an unforgettable late-spring spectacle and giving other public gardens in Madrid a run for their money.
Parque el Capricho
Considered by many to be one of Madrid’s least-known parks, Parque el Capricho is practically brimming with whimsical features. Originally built in 1784 to serve as a retreat for the Duchess of Osuna, the space is divided into three sections, the architecture of each reflecting French, English and Italian influences respectively. Highlights include Casa de la Vieja, a quaint little house framed by delicate foliage, and a bunker, Posición Jaca, used by the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.