Urban parks and gardens in Spain’s biggest cities
Every park is different. Some are wild and natural, with wide open spaces for playing sports; others are tourist attractions in themselves, with romantic paths, children’s playgrounds, world-class zoos, or even amusement parks tucked away inside.
Retiro Park is often called the lungs of Madrid. There’s so much on offer here: you can row a boat around the lake, take in an exhibition at the Reina Sofía National Art Museum, or lie on the grass by pretty little palaces. Madrid is full of parks - some of the best are the Sabatini and the Moro, with views of the Royal Palace; the modern Madrid Río; Rococo landscaping in El Capricho; and the spacious Casa de Campo park, with the Zoo and Amusement Park.
Park Güell, created by Gaudí, is all magic and colour, with mosaics, dragons, and curved shapes. We also recommend Montjuïc Park, home to museums like the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the Miró Foundation. Linger until dark to see the lights and colours of the magic fountain. Ciutadella Park is centrally located, next to the Arc de Triomf, for a city breather. But if you want to see a really unusual park, explore the maze at Horta.
An enormous park with over 9 kilometres of walkable green space runs through the city. This is the Turia Gardens, on the course of the rerouted River Turia. At one end is the Bioparc zoo, and at the other, the City of Arts and Sciences. And if you are visiting with children, be sure to find the Gulliver park in the middle, where they can clamber on a giant figure like Lilliputians. Near the central area of the Turia Gardens, we also recommend the Real and Monfortegardens.
Riding through María Luisa park in a horse-drawn carriage (they are known locally as calesas) is a unique and thoroughly Andalusian experience, and a great way to see the gardens, Plaza de España, and other sights, like the Giralda, the Cathedral, and the Royal Alcázar. In fact, as well as extraordinary Mudéjar architecture, the Alcázar also boasts spectacular gardens (and if they seem strangely familiar, they have been the location for quite a few film and TV productions, including Game of Thrones).
For a romantic walk with a little sightseeing thrown in, we recommend the Alameda Park, also known as Parque de Malaga (near the Centre Pompidou). Or relax surrounded by orange trees and tranquil little fountains in the Puerta Oscura Gardens. And visit La Concepción Botanical-Historical Gardens, on the outskirts of the city, to discover sub-tropical plants and feel like you are wandering through a jungle.
The city’s green spaces are concentrated along the banks of the river, close to the Guggenheim and the Fine Arts Museum. For example, the Guggenheim is next to Campa de los Ingleses park. The area closest to the river is La Ribera Park, with sculptures and a walk through Bilbao’s history as a port and industrial centre. And Doña Casilda is the city’s main park, next to the Fine Arts Museum.
In the city centre and near the main sights, the tree-lined walks of Hort del Rei and the Parc de la Mar are cool and welcoming. There are also delightful small gardens in mansions and palaces that are open to the public. For example, the Jardí del Bisbe (Bishop’s Garden). Other parks on the island are well worth a visit, such as Son Marroig (a large, lush garden overlooking the Mediterranean, in Deià).