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|
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|
|Alcalá gate, photo by _CaTa_|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
|The cascade, photo by Rocio's World|
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|
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|