There are very few districts in Madrid that can claim to have as many original icons as Retiro. Located to the southeast of the historic centre and next to the area of Salamanca, the most aristocratic neighbourhood, this district conceals in its 537 hectares gems such as the Retiro Park, the Atocha railway station, the Puerta de Alcalá and the Prado Museum. Comprised of Pacífico, Adelfas, Ibiza, Estrella, Jerónimos and Niño Jesús neighbourhoods, it is a quiet residential area perfect for strolling around while enjoying cultural activities and sports.
A walk along the majestic Paseo del Prado boulevard requires a stop at its famous museum, opened in 1819, which has one of the most important collections of European art work from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Furthermore, as you walk down the street you can also see other historic buildings such as the Royal Spanish Academy, the luxurious Ritz Hotel, the Naval Museum and the Church of San Jerónimo el Real.
Heading towards Atocha, you arrive at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid at the end of the boulevard, inaugurated in 1755, with around 5,000 species of trees and plants from all over the world. Walking along its south side, you get to the Cuesta de Moyano walkway, famous for its book stalls, where you will be able to find second- and first-hand literary treasures. Finally, you reach the great Atocha railway station, Spain’s most important train station and a unique example of late nineteenth-century cast-iron architecture. While you wait for the train you can visit the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Panteón de los Hombres Ilustres [Pantheon of Illustrious Men], where personalities from the nineteenth century are buried, such as Ríos Rosas, Cánovas, Canalejas and Prim.
On the other hand, if you decide to continue up Paseo del Prado towards Cibeles, you will reach its emblematic square, where you can also find Madrid’s City Council and the fountain of Cybele, the Greek goddess, riding her chariot pulled by lions. This is the fountain where the Real Madrid football team celebrates all its victories. From here, if you go up Alcalá Street, you will arrive at Puerta de Alcalá, made famous by the singers Ana Belén and Víctor Manuel, which is the main access to the heart of the district: Retiro Park. The park is the former recreational area of King Philip IV and with its 125 hectares of green land it is the perfect place to wander—do not miss visiting the Palacio de Cristal [Glass Palace]—, hop onto one of the boats on the lake or go running. Every year, at the end of May, the Paseo Fernán Núñez which crosses through the park is filled with book stalls for the Madrid Book Fair.
This is not all: Retiro hides other precious treasures such as the Casa Árabe, easy to recognise because of its Neo-Mudejar-style building from 1886; the Royal Tapestry Factory from 1720, where the impressive tapestries and carpets that decorate the Spanish Royal Household were made; and the Museum of the Royal Mint, with the largest coin collection in Spain. Finally, on the Retiro skyline you can see one of Madrid’s most iconic “skyscrapers”: the Torrespaña communications tower, popularly known as El Pirulí.
The Puerta de Alcalá in the centre of Madrid has been privileged to witness the historic development of the city. Set among gardens and located close to the Parque del Retiro [Retiro Park], it continues to catch the attention of the city’s inhabitants and visitors alike.
The Museo del Prado, situated on Madrid’s so-called Paseo del Arte, is a must-visit, as it houses the largest collection of Spanish painting in the world.