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Retiro Park

Parque del Buen Retiro

photo by Anders Imboden

ABOVE: A roving band of university musicians performs on a park path.

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While known for its late-night culture, Madrid offers much to do in the daytime. Near the top of any visitorís list should be a walk through el Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park. This gorgeous urban retreat is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city center, and is a favorite destination of locals and tourists alike.

Less than half the size of New Yorkís Central Park, Retiro is good for a quick respite from the chaos of the city, while offering enough to see and do to spend a few relaxed hours. If the weather is nice-- and it usually is in the Spanish capital--there are few places in the world better suited for a stroll or picnic.

Estanque del Retiro photo by Anders ImbodenThe focal point of Retiro Park is the man-made pond in the middle, the Estanque del Retiro. On its eastern edge is a massive monument dedicated to King Alfonso XIII, seemingly guarded by a number of colossal lions on pedestals. On a Sunday morning, this area is full of locals reading the paper and chatting with one another. With the vast majority of the cityís shops closed, it seems that the local populace relocates to the park.

Fish photo by Anders ImbodenThe western side of the pond, just a few minutes south of the main entrance to the park, plays constant host to puppet shows, buskers, fortune tellers, and candy vendors. Coy, carp, and goldfish all swim near the surface of the water here like aquatic cousins of Pavlovís dogs, awaiting the sound of the children who inevitably supply the fish with a never-ending supply of popcorn and dulces from the vendors.

Rowboats are rentable at the top of the pond for just a few euros. On a busy day this can seem more like a floating game of bumper-cars than a romantic cruise, but paddling around the pond for half an hour is a perfectly fun activity if you have the time and the sea legs. If nothing else, you wonít have to worry about those inevitable big-city pickpockets for thirty minutes.

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About the author:

Anders Imboden photoAnders Imboden is a frequent visitor to Madrid. He researched this article while studying Politics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has written other articles for Europeforvisitors.com, including tips for a Dublin Weekend, articles about Stirling and North Berwick in Scotland, and a report on attending a football match at Sunderland's Stadium of Light as a London Arsenal fan.

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