A quintessential run in the heart of Madrid.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Terrain: Pavement and well-groomed packed dirt trails
- Length: About 4 km loop (around perimeter)
- Flow: Excellent
- Scenery: Landscaped park with rose gardens, sculptures, monuments, and a small lake, surrounded by historic Madrid.
- Safety Issues: None
- Bathrooms: Yes
- Drinking water: Water fountains
- Transit Access: Yes – Metro: Retiro (L2), Príncipe de Vergara (L2, L9), Ibiza (L9), Atocha (L1)
- Parking: No
- Night Access: Closed at night (10pm-6am winter, 12am-6am summer)
- Special Features: Being part of the local Madrid run scene!
- Nearby Attractions: The Prado Museum, Flamenco!
I love Spain, and I love Madrid. On the trip that I found El Retiro Park, it was summer, and Madrid in summer is wonderful: a vibrant city where busy cafes spill onto the streets and fragrant flowers brighten everything. On the edge of historic Madrid and right in the city center, a tourist destination in its own right, El Retiro Park is a quintessential part of summer in Madrid, and in the early morning and evening, when the temperatures are a little cooler, it is filled with local runners. In fact, it was right here, in this park, that I first had my epiphany about how travelling and running, from my first run here, I was smitten, and I became determined the repeat the experience everywhere I went: to have epic travel experiences by find amazing local run spots wherever I went. I have to apologize that, since at the time I didn’t understand the importance of that run, I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but a quick google search will find you a virtual gallery of this parks beauty.
The park was originally part of the Spanish Monarchy, but became a public park in the late 19th century. It retains much of its original features, which provide beautiful scenery for a run around the trails of the parks perimeter. It is lovely to run around a bend and find yourself face to face with a sculpture, or to run amongst fragrant roses in the rose garden.
The trails are either paved, or well groomed packed dirt, and they are wide in order to accommodate flow in both directions. The park is pretty flat and the perimeter makes a 4.5km loop, but there are also many trails crisscrossing the center, so you can have fun randomly choosing trails for variety, it is hard to get lost because you can just run in one direction until you hit the perimeter trail again. There is a reasonable amount of shade where tall trees line the trails, but do be aware that Madrid can be very hot in summer, so early morning or late evening runs may be preferable.
The park is fenced in and must be accessed through one of several gates. A large park, it is close to several metro stations (Metro: Retiro (L2), Príncipe de Vergara (L2, L9), Ibiza (L9), Atocha (L1)) or by bus (although I don’t know the route numbers). It is also easy walking distance from several hotels.
We found El Retiro Park in our trip planning stages, in fact, it was for this trip to Madrid that I determined, I wanted to find a great place to run while I travelled, and I wanted a nice hotel nearby. We searched for hotels in the area and found the lovely Artrip Hotel, which we can recommend as being a good combination, of charm, convenience and reasonable price.
The Hotel is about a 15 minute walk to Retiro Park, and also only a 15 minute walk in another direction to Plaza Mayor and the center of tourist Madrid, so it is very well located for both running and other tourist activities. Between the Retiro Park and the Artrip Hotel is the famous Prado Museum, which is free in the evenings from 6-8pm! With close proximity to the hotel, it is easy to take advantage of the free hours to see the outstanding art housed here, among my personal favourites is the masterpiece Guernica by Picasso. Another nice thing about this hotel was the proximity to nightlife including a place recommended to see Flamenco. We enjoyed the amazing performance, and than walked home in less than 10 minutes.
Retiro Park will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was here that I first realized that running and travelling, two of my most favourite things, needed to become intertwined in my life. I had one of my first amazing travel run experiences: I breathed the early morning air and absorbed the scenery of running in Madrid, for a moment, I was one of them, a Madrid runner doing my thing.