Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Madrid Retiro/Prado Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.9 km (4.9 miles), terrain flat, just 30m height gain

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks!  

Madrid running routes:
Madrid Old Town Sights route
Madrid Parque del Oeste route 
Madrid Parque del Retiro route

Madrid Casa de Campo trail run 
For more running routes, see Route List.

There is a green jewel on the east side of central Madrid that you definitely need to run through during any stay in the city. The area north of the main train station, Atocha, is a wonderful mix of wide, tree-lined boulevards, grand buildings such as the imposing Prado Museum and one of the most beautiful parks you'll ever find: El Retiro ("Parque del Buen Retiro", in full).

Retiro is one of those wonderful parks with something for everyone, with a lake full of couples flirting in rowboats, lawns covered with sunbathers and many quiet, hidden corners full of statues and fountains. Formal gardens and woodsy solitude alternate, balanced in harmony. It began life as the extensive gardens of Buen Retiro Palace and only later became a public park.
Beautiful lighting on a typical Retiro scene, photo by Koldo Oteo
And next door is the botanical garden, the Real Jardin Botanico, with its gridwork of tropical plantings.

This route zig-zags through Retiro several times. You can follow it exactly, or just use it as an idea on how you could loop through it yourself.

The Retiro Route
We'll start the route at the Plaza de Cibeles, at the crossroads of two great boulevards, the Calle de Alcalá and the Paseo del Prado, about 700 meters east of Madrid's heart, the Puerta del Sol.

This large intersection, with a classical fountain in the middle, is surrounded by some fairly colossal buildings. The most amazing is the post office building, the Palacio de Comunicaciones, with its roofline of jutting baroque towers.
Palacio de Comunicaciones, photo by alejandro blanco
Stand in front of the postal building and face eastwards and run along the Calle de Alcalá. In just two blocks, you come to the Plaza de la Independencia, with its monumental city gate, the Puerta de Alcalá. This was the eastern end of the town in the late 1700s, when the arched gate was built.
Alcalá gate, photo by _CaTa_
Just past the gate, on the right, you'll see the entrance to El Retiro.

Run into the park and follow the elegant pathway flanking the flower-beds that run down the middle. You are heading diagonally towards the heart of the park, the Estanque del Retiro, a small, rectangular lake.

When you reach the lake, keep running southwards along the lake, with the water to your left. The lake is the main meeting place in the park, full of families, couples and groups of friends, with food stands and cafés. The little blue rowboats are a popular attraction.
Estanque rowers, photo by Toniu
When you get halfway down the lake, directly across the water from the imposing monument to King Alfonso XII on his horse, turn right and run down the next elegant divided path, the Paseo Argentina, lined with statues. You are now heading west.

At the second big cross-path, turn left. Now run the hundred meters south to the first formal garden, the Jardin del Parterre. Turn right to run down into the sunken gardens, and immediately you'll be struck by the amazing trees on this end, with their pillow-like form. I don't know what kind of trees they are, but they're unforgettable!
Parterre's captivating trees, photo by CrispeLand
Loop the garden and exit at the same place where you entered. Immediately turn right and continue heading southwards.

This is a quiet, wooded area, criss-crossed by paths. On the right, you'll pass tennis courts and soccer fields. When you reach a cross-street with almost no cars, Paseo Fernán Núñez, turn left to head east.

In just 200 meters, you'll come to a fountain with a fallen angel. Turn left here to head north again, back to the lake, on the Paseo de Republica de Cuba.

You'll hit the lake again at the corner with a few cafés. Turn right and run along the south edge of the lake.
In Retiro, photo by Keith Hauser
At the east side of the lake, turn left to head north along its eastern shore, past the gigantic Alfonso XII monument.

Keep running northwards till you get almost to the north end of the park, then turn right to run eastwards, parallel to the north fence, but a few meters away from the street noise.

You'll cross a car-free street (it's also called Paseo Fernán Núñez) and come to a very little hill (it's more a mound) in the northeast corner of the park.

Turn right at the hill and you'll immediately see a little pond with a little pink house located on the water, the Casita del Pescadero.

The casita, photo by ladillas
Now run past the pond to the west to get back to Paseo Fernán Núñez. Turn left here and head south again.

When you get to the wide, tree-lined path, the Paseo Venezuela, turn right.

You are approaching the southeast corner of the lake again. Just before you get there, turn left to run around the old exhibition hall, the Palacio de Velázquez, running around its west side.

Run south for just a hundred meters and you'll come to an amazing structure, the Palacio de Cristal, an elegant, Victorian-era glass-house built entirely of glass and ironwork.
Cool picture of the Crystal Palace, photo by Felix Abanades
Run past the crystal palace then turn left to run along the pond sitting along its east side. There is a little waterfall here and a beautiful view of the crystal palace.
The cascade, photo by Rocio's World
From the east edge of the pond, turn south and head to the last highlight of the park, the rose garden. This is the highest point of the run, a small hill. You will run straight to the oval Roseleda.

Loop through it once and exit at the same spot where you entered it. Now turn left and run down Paseo Fernán Núñez, heading west this time. You are now going gently downhill.
In the Rosaleda, photo by coldomo
You will leave Retiro at Calle de Alfonso XII, and continue straight on the quiet street Calle Claudio Moyano, still heading downhill.

The botanical gardens is on your right. It is possible to run there, too, but you have to buy an entrance ticket to see its interesting collection of exotic plants.

At the next corner, the busy, tree-lined boulevard Paseo del Prado, turn right and head north. This is the lowest point of the run, now you'll run lightly uphill back to the start.
The Prado Museum entrance, photo by b12simon
You'll pass the Prado Museum on the right (well worth visiting!) and continue running past the elegant Ritz Hotel and the Bolsa (stock exchange) to end up back at the Plaza de Cibeles.

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