Palacio de Cristal, Madrid

Category: Madrid

If you are traveling to Madrid, Spain within the next few months, one of your biggest challenges is bound to be coming up with an itinerary and then narrowing that schedule down. The city is busting with fun and fascinating sites and attractions to visit, and if your tour schedule is limited it may be impossible to see them all. However, because many of these interesting sites can be found at the famed Retiro Park, while you are there should really check out the Palacio de Cristal. In the following article we will profile this one-of-a-kind Madrid attraction, including some facts about its features, history and some pertinent visitor information.

Palacio de Cristal: A Brief Profile

The Palacio de Cristal is located in the heart of Madrid, situated in the center of the Parque del Buen Retiro, or Buen Retiro Park. Spanish for “Crystal Palace,” the Palacio de Cristal is an impressive structure made almost entirely of glass, and is modeled after the famous Crystal Palace in London. Construction of the Palacio de Cristal began in 1887, some 36 years after the erection of its London counterpart, under the designs of architect Ricardo Velazquez Bosco. In addition to designing the Crystal Palace, Velazquez is also responsible for another building in the park, the Palacio de Velazquez, as well as a number of other notable renovations of Spanish buildings such as Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada.

When the Palacio de Cristal was constructed in the late 19th century, its original purpose was to house a collection of exotic plants from the Philippines, which at that time was a Spanish colony. This exhibit gradually spilled out into the extensive parkland and gardens of Buen Retiro Park, and today the palace is used almost exclusively as a venue for special art exhibits, most of which are sponsored by the Reina Sophia Museum.

The Palacio de Cristal is built in the shape of a traditional Greek cross with glass used as the primary construction medium. It has an iron framework and gorgeous decorations of ceramics. At its highest point, atop the majestic domed roof, it stands some 22 meters high. The front of the Palacio de Cristal boasts a series of steps leading down to the artificial lake in the park, where tourists can get a close-up look at the ducks, geese, terrapin and black swans that inhabit it. They can even rent a small row boat or paddle boat for an even closer look at the lake and its surroundings.

Both the Palacio de Cristal and Buen Retiro park are owned by the City of Madrid, but 18 years prior to the palace’s construction the property was owned by the Royal Family. It was the site of the Royal Palace and surrounding grounds—grounds that in the 17th century played host to a variety of festivals, bullfights and theatrical productions.

In addition to the Palacio de Cristal, visitors will find a number of other fun and interesting attractions at the Parque del Buen Retiro, including an amusement park and wild animal zoo. It is also a great place just to relax and unwind from a long day touring, with over 150,000 trees and countless varieties of plant and animal species at which to gaze. The park is open year round from at least 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and even later during the summer months when the park closes at 8:00 PM.