Sunday, 11 December 2016

Madrid Rio Manzanares Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.1 km (5.6 miles) or 6km if you turn around at stadium, terrain: flat

NOTE: Of course you can turn around any time you please, making the run shorter to fit your needs.

One of Madrid's best-kept running secrets is the great route along the Manzanares river. This stretch of waterfront provides quiet promenades and parkland for miles. And we're lucky that it's this way: there are actually freeways under the promenades, so if the city planers hadn't decided to cover them up, the river would be wedged into a corset of inaccessible urban blight.
The Manzanares at the start of the run
So let's celebrate this great planning decision: the river belongs to the people! And what people enjoy a long stretch of nature in the middle of a city like runners do.

The Rio Manzanares flows along the west side of the city. The city center sits on a plateau to the east, with the palace and cathedral perched on the bluff, looking out over the river and to the Casa de Campo nature reserve further west.

The part of the river which has been turned into parkland begins just west of the palace, and continues southwards past Calderón Stadium, home of the Atletico Madrid soccer club. Actually, south of the stadium is the best part of the river run, where the riverside park widens to include more than just a narrow promenade with some lawns and trees.

In the wide park area, called Arganzuela, there are fountains, a skateboard park, playgrounds and greenhouses.
In Arganzuela park
There are also lots of other sights along the run: ancient stone bridges, boat-locks in the river and a variety of pedestrian bridges to let you switch sides fairly often.

The promenades line both sides of the river, but the one on the west shore is continuous, whereas the one on the eastern shore is interrupted for a couple of kilometers where the stadium and some uncovered freeway block access. But the best part of the parkland is on the eastern side, so you'll probably want to switch sides for at least part of the run.

So, if this sounds like something for you, get yourself down to the riverside, just west of the royal palace, at the beautiful old stone bridge, the Puente del Rey. You can take the Metro to stations like Príncipe Pío, Plaza de España or Opera to get close to it, if you like.
The Puente del Rey
Down at the bridge, you just have to turn southwards and run. This route will start by running along the western shore, so cross the river and turn left to head south. Just hug the river and everything will be fine. It's hard to believe that a busy road (the M30 ring-motorway) lies right below your footsteps in this quiet spot.
At the Puente de Segovia
At the next bridge, the Puente de Segovia, the promenade widens for some fountains.

Soon after, a footbridge covered by trees veers off to the left, crossing the river.

After you pass a green metal footbridge, the Puente de Andorra, you'll see Calderón Stadium coming into view, sitting right on the water's edge on the left shore. From this point onwards for a while, only the west shore is open to pedestrians.
Calderón Stadium, Atletico's home
At the stadium, the 2-kilometer mark, the river curves to the left and then you'll see the ancient stone bridge, Puente del Toledo coming up. We'll go out onto the bridge on our way back, it's worth a close look!
Approaching Puente del Toledo
This is where the most scenic part of the run begins. The Arganzuela parkland opens up across the river. We'll stay on the promenade along the west side for now, passing the futuristic DNA-spiral footbridge, the Pasarela de la Arganzuela, at the 3-kilometer mark.
Walkable DNA strand
After passing a sluice in the river and going under a big car bridge, you'll see the buildings of the botanical garden in Arganzuela park.

When you come to the second of twin modern covered bridges, at about the 4.3-km mark, cross the river and now head back north along the other shore.
Cross the river here, botanical garden in background
There is a winding main path, plus others you can take through the park. You'll pass the glass greenhouse of the Crystal Palace, part of the botanical garden.
Crystal Palace
Enjoy the view: the skateboard park, the fountains, cafés, playgrounds: it's a great hangout, right at the water's edge.
At the skateboard park
The main park road climbs up to be even with the entrance to the old Puente del Toledo, so run out to the middle to take a look at the statuary of this beautiful spot, if you didn't take the smaller path that goes under the bridge.
Puente del Toledo
Now head to the next footbridge before the stadium and cross to the western side again and continue northwards.

Just after the 7-kilometer mark, you'll see the green-metal Puente del Andorra. Cross back to the east side here and continue northwards. Watch out when you come to the bridge of trees that you don't accidentally take it back to the west side.
Along the eastern shore
Back at the Puente de Segovia, the path turns right to get around the base of the bridge. You have to cross at a traffic signal, then continue running through the last bit of park below the palace.

You'll see a brick church there, the Ermita de la Vírgen del Puerto, then you'll be back at the start. Great stretch of riverfront!

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