The Retiro Park

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Its name come from its original function as a place of retirement ("retiro") when it was an uninhabited area in the east of the city, around the Monasteries of Saint Jerome and of Our Lady of Atocha.

It was created during the reign of Philip IV, who built a palace there, outside the city walls, as a second royal residence, of which only El Casón (the Dance Hall built in 1637) and the Hall of Kingdoms or Large Hall (today the Army Museum) remain.

Around the complex palace, elegant gardens were designed by using several terraced garden areas without a general overall master plan. Today it is the most important park of the city from historical and artistical point of view, with a surface area of 116.84 ha and approximately 15,000 trees, many of which are very valuable.

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Most important as attractions are the following: the Vivaces Garden, the Don Cecilio Rodríguez Gardens, the Gardens of the Architect Herrero Palacios, the rose garden ("Rosaleda") and the French Parterre with the famous "Bald Cypress".

The large artificial lake for rowing and other artificial watercourses and lakes, enormous fountains, the Velázquez and Crystal Palace, with their exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, the restaurant and night club. The open-air concerts. The glass houses and nurseries of the city, the track for jogging and several other sports installations.

The Country House Park

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It is the most important wooded area of Madrid. It is also the oldest because it dates from 1562, when it became part of the Royal Residences which king Philip II founded around Madrid.

For centuries it was a place for the recreation and enjoyment of the royal family, mainly for hunting and shooting, among other activities taken place there as well, such as animal raising and agriculture. This brought about the establishment of a complex of gardens, woods, orchards, artificial lakes and buildings.

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Today, the Country House Park has, among others, the following public facilities: IFEMA; the Country House Fair; the Zoo; an Amusement Park; an 8.5 ha lake; a Municipal Swimming Pool; a track for jogging and other sports facilities; a cable car and a municipal nursery for decorative and wood plants.

The Country House Park is today an important cultural centre. In the fair site of IFEMA (Madrid Fair Institution) every year fairs are organized, such as ARCO (Contemporary Art), FINART (Crafts), FERIARTE (Spanish Antique Dealers) or LIBER (Book exhibition) with thousands of visitors from other countries.

The West Park

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In the decade of 1890, it was promoted by Celedonio Rodrigañez y Vallejo, Gardens and Cultivated Land Delegator. This area has all the features required by this type of gardening; varied topography, winding layout, tridimensional effects, etc.

Especially important is the competition rose garden ("Rosaleda"), where annual international competitions take place and the most spectacular and exotic varieties of the flower can be seen, especially in May and June.

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At the end of its southern area, relatively close to Spain Square, the West Park becomes the Ferraz gardens on the land where the Mountain Barracks was built in 1869 and where the Temple of Debod (4th. century BC) was rebuilt in 1970. This religious Egyptian construction was moved to Spain, to save it from disappearing under the water of the Assuan Dam, which had just been built at the time.

The Botanical Garden

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The Botanic Garden built by Juan de Villanueva in 1781, was part of the transformation programma of the lower Abroñigal valley, which was to be the Enlightened City, dedicated to the study of science - Natural History (today the Prado Museum), the Botanic Garden and the Observatory - promoted by Charles III.

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The garden consists of three terraces, the two lower ones designed in geometrical squares similar to neo-Classical gardens (ie: Squeares Terrace and Schools Terrace), whereas the top one was remodelled in the 19th. century with landscaped features (the Flower Plan).

It contains the only construction in the garden, the magnificent Villanueva Pavilion, which was built as a greenhouse or glass house, without artificial heat, by the architect Villanueva because of whom it was named so. It fits perfectly in the idea of neo-Classical architecture.

It contains about 30,000 different species of trees and plants from all over the world, and they are beautiful in bloom.

The Sabatini Gardens

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They are the northern boundary of the Royal Palace and were built in the 30's, where the palace stables built by Sabatini used to be. Their design is geometrical and their situation privileged. They are a natural complement of the Palace on its northern side, isolating and emphasizing the royal building.

The Moorish Camp Gardens

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The gardens of the Royal Palace date from the Middle Ages when they were the Park of the Alcázar (ie: fortress). After the construction of the New Palace (1738-1764), there were several projects for building the gardens (Sachetti, Sabatini).

They received their definitive shape in the second half of last century, thanks to Ramón Oliva, the Gardens and Cultivated Lands Delegator, in the time of the Restoration.

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