By Alicia Green
New Yorkers have Central Park, Londoners have Hyde Park, and the residents of Madrid have Retiro Park. Located in the heart of Madrid, Retiro Park covers 350 acres of land with its beautiful landscaped gardens, ponds, elegant statues and monuments.
“Madrid is not by any means a green city, but it does have a lovely breathing space in this 350-acre park,” travel writer Rick Steves wrote in his Spain travel guide.
Point Park’s International Media class had the chance to explore the historical park during its two-week trip to Spain and Portugal. Upon arriving in Madrid, Retiro Park was one of the first locations students got to see.
“Since Retiro Park was one of the first places we visited, I could already tell Madrid was a beautiful city,” said photojournalism major Courtney Giles. “My favorite part was getting to relax and eat lunch while enjoying the view. I also played futbol with some kids in the park.”
Advertising and public relations major Kariann Mano said the park was a place where people could collect their thoughts and get away from the business of Madrid, which was right outside of the park’s gates.
“My favorite part was sitting on the other side of the lake, just looking out over [it], enjoying the beautiful weather while eating some lunch,” Mano said.
And multimedia major Dana Bohince had similar feelings about the park.
“Retiro Park was a nice place within the city to take a break from the usual hustle and bustle,” Bohince said. “It’s much more quiet, but there’s still a lot of activity going on. I brought a lunch with me and found a place under the trees to eat and relax. I got to people watch and nature watch. A little bird came right up to me.”
When students arrived at the park, they were met by a luscious green garden with tall, white statues on both sides. As they walked farther into the park, they saw Retiro Pond where people were rowing boats and sitting by the water.
On the other side of the pond people were relaxing on the stairs and eating lunch by a monument dedicated to King Alfonso XII, who reigned Spain from 1874 until 1885.
While students did not get to fully explore the park that day, their tour guide informed them of its history before allowing them to break off for lunch.
Before becoming a public park in the late 19th century, Retiro Park belonged to the Monarchy of Spain. In the 17th century, the Count-Duke of Olivares commissioned the work of the park, which would surround the palace of King Felipe IV. As different kings reigned throughout Spain’s history, the park would see drastic changes such as the addition of the Astronomical Observatory, the Buen Retiro Royal Porcelain Factory and the Casa de Fieras Zoo. When Queen Isabella came into power, the park’s gardens became more prominent as new flowers and trees were planted and unplanted areas became landscaped.
The importance of the gardens can still be seen today in the park with one of the more popular areas being the Rose Garden, which holds more than 4,000 roses. The Royal Botanic Garden has about 30,000 plants, according to Steves. He points out the exoticness of some of the plants as well as the aging greenhouses.
And if there is one place visitors should see while at the park, he wrote, it is the Crystal Palace, a glass building used for art exhibits, according to Steves.
“Honestly, Retiro Park took me by surprise,” said advertising and public relations major Elizabeth Meckel. “I couldn’t believe how much history is behind it. I’m glad we got to experience it, even if it was only for a small amount of time. Maybe one day, I’ll get to see it again and explore it in its entirety.” Good quote to close.