Madrid: Parque el Retiro






Family-owned bar/restaurant. Notice that the tortilla is moist and warm/room temperature. Specialty is Bocadillo of Carne Asada. Ask Alberto when a good time for you to come is, as it does get very busy with locals. Granadilla embodies the essence of what we’ll aim to do over the next month-live Espana by cultural immersion. We’ll avoid tourist bubbles of luxury and rather immerse ourselves into the essence of Espana.

Madrid’s first railway station was inaugurated on 9 February 1851 under the name Estación de Mediodía. The station was rebuilt in 1892 by the architect Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who collaborated with Gustave Eiffel, and engineer Henry Saint James. The station adopted the name Atocha after the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Between 1984-1992, architect Rafael Moneo remodeled the old part of the station into a botanical garden of over 400 species, spread over 4000 square meters.

This cylindrical monument and underground space is a memorial to the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 attacks. The tower is constituted of 15,000 pieces of glass that connect the indoor space to the street above. 

“The Atocha Train Station Memorial is a 36-foot tall cylinder that rises directly out of the ground, in the form of a tower that is illuminated at night by lamps shining from the base of the construction. Floating balloon-like inside the cylindrical structure is a colorless film that is inflated by air – inscribed with thousands of messages of condolence that were made in the days and months after the attacks.”

These booksellers have existed for hundreds of years. In 1919, they were moved in and around this location. Although the booths were updated in 1984, the traditional facades were maintained.

On 04 April 2004, several of the bombers of 11-M took their own lives, killing a police officer while committing suicide. The number of the dead thus is 192. 

“There are two main monuments in Madrid to the 192 people who lost their lives in the train bombings in the capital. The 191 people who lost their lives in the tragic events of 11th March 2004, the devastating bombing attack on Madrid commuter trains which is known in Spain as 11-M, are commemorated in the ‘Bosque del Recuerdo’ – ‘the Forest of Remembrance.’ This living monument is made up of 192 olive and cypress trees, one for each person who died on that day, with a tree also planted in remembrance of the police officer who died in the suicide bombing in the Leganés flat on 3rd April 2004, where seven of the terrorists blew themselves up to escape capture. The memorial was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain as the ‘Bosque de Los Ausentes’ – ‘the Forest of the Departed,’ on the first anniversary of the devastating attack, on 11th March 2005, in Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro, just a short distance away from Atocha railway station, where most of the bombs exploded. The forest is surrounded by a channeled stream, with water as the symbol of life. It was re-named the Bosque del Recuerdo the following year at the request of the victims. The third anniversary of the bombings, on 11th March 2007, was marked by the unveiling of an imposing glass monument just outside Atocha, an 11-meter high hollow cylinder, constructed with massive blocks of transparent optic glass. Inside the cylinder, the deep blue chamber known as the ‘Vacío Azul’ – ‘Blue Vacuum,’ is separated from the top of the dome by a membrane inscribed with some of the thousands of messages of condolence that were written after the attacks. It is officially known as the Monumento a las Víctimas del 11-M, as a homage to the 192 dead and the 1,824 people who were injured in the bombings. Mauro Gil-Fournier, from the Estudio FAM architects studio in Madrid which designed the monument, describes the Vacío Azul as a silent space, where people cry inside. The inauguration by the King and Queen was a solemn ceremony: there were no speeches, just a three minutes silence for those who died and were injured, and a cellist playing the Pau Casals composition, ‘El Canto de Los Pájaros,’ which was also played at the inaugural ceremony for the ‘Bosque de Los Ausentes.’”


Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal’d the most High,
If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie 
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th’ Omnipotent to Arms.
– John Milton, Paradise Lost

This is perhaps the first and only sculpture representing Lucifer. It is the 1878 work of Ricardo Bellver, as inspired by John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” The placement of it in Retiro was by Duke Fernan Nunez, despite public controversy. The sculpture sits 666 meters above sea level. The serpent has seven heads, representing perfect evil. The sculpture also has bullet holes from the civil war.

“The Palacio de Cristal [Crystal Palace] is one of the two exhibition venues that the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía runs in Madrid’s largest city park, Parque de El Retiro. The building was conceived as a greenhouse for the Plants of the Philippines Exhibition (1887), organized at a time when the Philippine Islands were still a Spanish colony. The Palace’s design, by the Spanish architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, bears witness both to an innovate use of materials such as iron and glass, and to the history of 19th century colonialism. The cast iron columns of the building, combined with large areas of glass and an unobstructed floor plan, create a monumental effect and were, at the time, very innovative, and intended to produce in viewers an impression of phantasy and unreal spaces. After the Plants of the Philippines Exhibition, during a time the Palacio de Cristal regularly hosted the National Fine Arts Exhibitions. Since 1990, houses site-specific projects and installations by contemporary artists.” Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

‘The Palacio de Velázquez (1883) is, along with Palacio de Cristal, one of the two exhibition areas that Museo Reina Sofía has in Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid. It takes its name from the architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, who was responsible for its construction, along with the ceramicist Daniel Zuloaga and the engineer Alberto del Palacio. The building, in the realm of Neo-renaissance historicism, has a spacious floor plan, vaulted ceilings with iron structures and natural lighting, thanks to a large area of glass. Conceived as the main pavilion for the International Exposition of Mining, Metal Arts, Ceramics, Glasswork and Mineral Waters of 1883, it follows the model used by Joseph Paxton for the Crystal Palace of London, built in 1851. Since 1987 it has provided a venue for monographic exhibitions by artists such as Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Juan Muñoz and José Manuel Broto, and others. It was closed for renovations in 2005 and opened in 2010 with a retrospective on Miralda, captured in these pictures.” Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia


“Built between 1634 and 1636 by the architect, Cristobal de Aguilera, this lake was the heart of the Buen Retiro Palace garden  and was used to hold  water shows, such as navy battles or mock battles, and boat rides for the King and Queen and their Court. At that time it was linked by a stream to the chapel of Saint Anthony of Padua, which no longer exists, and the Retiro had its own shipyard to build boats. In the middle of the lake there was an oval-shaped island which was used for theatrical and musical performances. On the same spot, almost a hundred years later, Farinelli delighted the court of Philip V with his singing. In the last third of the eighteenth century the island in the centre was covered by the waters of the lake and in 1902 the monument to Alfonso XII was erected. Financed by popular subscription, it is an outstanding example of historicist architecture. The monument was designed by José Grases Riera and completed by Teodoro Anasagasti, while the equestrian statue crowning it is the work of Mariano Benlliure.”

These markers date back to a law from 1273, at the time of King Alfonso X. As livestock owners needed to move their herds south for the winter, the Honrado Consejo de la Mesta (Honorable Council of Livestock Owners) was founded. These established set paths were maintained for livestock. As these became obsolete, the markers vanished. The annual migration was re established in 1994 and a festival was created around the event. At the end of autumn each year, the Fiesta de la Trashumancia (Flock-moving Fiesta), more than 2000 sheep are ceremoniously walked through these markers.

National Geographic article on the Fiesta de la Trashumancia

Carlos III wanted to build a monumental entry into Madrid. The architect Sabatini proposed two designs, of which Carlos III could not decide which to use. Therefore both sides are different. Notice the bullet holes

“Cibeles Fountain has been standing in this emblematic square since 1782. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, it depicts Cybele, the Great Mother of the gods and Roman goddess of fertility, atop a chariot drawn by two lions. It stands in the centre of the Plaza de Cibeles, the square to which it has lent its name and which marks the start of Madrid’s avenue of art, the Paseo del Arte. The fountain is flanked by four magnificent buildings: Buenavista Palace (the Army’s General Headquarters), Linares Palace (which accommodates the Casa de América cultural institution), Cibeles Palace (previously the main Post Office, it now houses Madrid City Hall and CentroCentro cultural centre), and the Bank of Spain. Commissioned by King Charles III it was designed by renowned Spanish architect Ventura Rodriguez, the man behind Liria Palace and Neptuno Fountain All three figures were made with purple marble from the town of Montesclaros, in Toledo, and the rest of the monument was carved from stone from Redueña, an area 53km to the north of Madrid, close to the La Cabrera mountain range. When it was first erected, the monument was not only intended to be decorative but also functional, providing water for the official water carriers – who would deliver water to houses – and for the general public. It was also used by the cavalry as a water stop for their horses. Today, as well as being one of the city’s famous landmarks (and having an identical twin in Mexico City), it’s where you should head to if you want to join Real Madrid fans celebrating their team’s many victories.”


Ham, Anthony; Quintero, Josephine. Lonely Planet Madrid (Travel Guide). Lonely Planet Global Limited, 2021.

Phillips, Jr, William D.; Rahn Phillips, Carla. A Concise History of Spain (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Shields, Graham. Madrid (World Bibliographical Series). ABC-CLIO, 1996.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain (Travel Guide). Avalon Travel, 2016.

John William Bailly 08 June 2022

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