El Retiro is the central park in Madrid, one of the largest and most beautiful in the city, that is sometimes called "the green lungs of Madrid". If you are visiting Madrid in the autumn and have a spare day on your hands, spend it in the Retiro park, whose full splendor is especially apparent in the fall.
This immense green space had originally been a private royal park thanks to King Felipe IV, who used El Retiro in the mid-17th century for his private balls, parties, theatre plays and mock naval battles. The Retiro park continued to be a closed playground of Spanish kings up until the reign of Carlos III, who had partially opened the park grounds to the madrileГ±os. When Isabel II came in power, in 1869 she made the decision to turn the Retiro park into a completely public space.
The main entrance to the park is marked by the Puerta de AlcalГЎ, a work by Francesco Sabatini and a symbol of Madrid commissioned by Carlos III. Next to the Puerta of AlcalГЎ stands a famous equestrian statue of General Espartero the Peacemaker, erected in 1886.
The central pond, El Estanque Grande, is the heart of the Retiro park, where one can hire a boat to spend a leisurely hour or just stay off the water, watch street performers that congregate around the pond daily or take pictures of the majestic monument dedicated to Alfonso XII.
There is another, smaller pond in the park, next to which stands the beautiful greenhouse-like Palacio de Cristal, designed by VelГЎzquez Bosco out of steel and glass. This serene palace serves as an exhibition space for artworks from the Reina Sofia museum. There is another work of VelГЎzquez Bosco, Palacio VelГЎzquez (1883), that nowadays serves a similar function in the Retiro park.