El Estanque del Retiro, Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

Are you traveling soon to the beautiful and very cosmopolitan city of Madrid, the capital and largest city in Spain?  Have you been busy planning out an itinerary for your upcoming jaunt, jotting down the various sites and attractions you’d like to visit during your stay in this tourist’s haven?  If you have, you have no doubt noticed that this is not an easy task.  Madrid is a city that is perhaps without equal in Europe in terms of the number of potential tourist stops for interested visitors.  The city boasts an appealing mix of ancient and modern architecture, scores of glorious and very prized historical monuments, and literally hundreds of museums and galleries to visit.  This can make for a very busy tour schedule for those hoping to squeeze the most out of every day.  However, if you’re looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of this very busy city, you should really consider paying a visit to the Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park) and relax along the banks of El Estanque, or “the Lake,” the centerpiece of this massive urban green space.

El Estanque

El Estanque, or as it is sometimes referred to, “the Lago de Retiro,” is a very attractive man-made lake located in the center of the popular El Retiro Park.  The park and the lake are open year round for the enjoyment and relaxation of their guests, but in the late spring and summer months, under the blaze of the warm Mediterranean sunshine, El Estanque becomes an especially alluring draw that most people find hard to resist.  During this time, everyone visiting the park seems to navigate automatically to this area, from the locals and tourists to the mime performers and vendors, selling souvenirs, tasty snacks and cool refreshing drinks.  Rowboats and canoes are available for rent, and on any given day you’ll find scores of people dotting the lake and enjoying the spray of its cool clean water.

The focal point of El Estanque is the massive memorial dedicated to King Alfonso XII.  Inaugurated in 1922, the monument is 30 meters high at its apex and a whopping 86 meters in length.  It features a large colonnade in the rear, decorated in the Baroque style of the period.  At its front is a brilliantly detailed statue depicting King Alfonso XII on horseback, created in bronze by the artist Mariano Benlliure.  At the base of the monument are four carved lions that seem to guard the statue, sculpted by some of the most famous artists of the day, and on each side of the monument there are two more sculpted lions with cupids, the splendid work of the Spanish artists Escudero, Bofill, Arnau and Campmany.

Visitors of El Retiro Park can often be found sitting or sunning themselves on the large series of steps that connect the King Alfonso II monument to El Estanque; steps that lead down to the lake from the front and on each side of the statue.  Others visitors are content to walk along its banks and gaze at the many varieties of fish that inhabit it.

In addition to the several kiosks that are set up along El Estanque’s banks, selling ice cream and other cool treats, there is also an outdoor restaurant offering traditional Spanish fare and other mouthwatering favorites.  This is a wonderful place to have lunch and refuel before returning to your busy tour schedule.

Buen Retiro Park is open year-round from 10:00 AM until at least 6:00 PM (it is open until 9:00 PM during the summer) and admission is free for children and adults.