Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

Planning to a trip to Madrid in the upcoming future, Spain’s lively and historically-preserved capital city?  Looking for some interesting things to do and see during your stay?  If so, one of the places likely to make your list is the Prado Museum, but after visiting this historic site and enjoying the masterpieces of Spanish and European Art, you might want to take a short walk to the Plaza de Murillo to relax and unwind at the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, the city’s beautiful botanical garden.  To help you become more familiar with this famous garden, below we have compiled a few interesting facts, including some information regarding its location, history and many of its current characteristics.

The Real Jardín Botánico

The Real Jardín Botánico, or in English, the Royal Botanical Garden, is a 20-acre (8-hectare) botanical garden in Madrid, situated at the Plaza de Murillo, next to the Museo de Prado (Prado Museum).

The history of Real Jardín Botánico can be traced back to October 17, 1755, when the garden was founded by King Ferdinand VI and installed in the Orchard of Migas Calientes, near what is now called Puerta de Hierro, on the banks of the Manzanares River.  At that time, Real Jardín Botánico contained approximately 2,000 plants, all collected by the botanist and plant surgeon Jose Quer y Martinez.  The garden would remain at this location for approximately 19 years, but in 1774 King Charles III ordered that it be moved to its current location on the Paseo del Prado.

The new garden was designed by the architects Francisco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva, who together organized the garden into three tiered terraces, arranging the plants according to the method of Linnaeus.  The new site opened in 1781, not merely as a place to showcase the plants, but also as a locale at which to teach botany, promote expeditions for the discovery of new plant species and classify them.  The herbarium housed at the Real Jardín Botánico, which was part of the new design, is now the largest in Spain, with over 1 million species.

In 1794, the collection of plants at the Real Jardín Botánico was augmented by a collection of 10,000 plants brought to Spain by Alessandro Malaspina.  The War of Independence in 1808 caused the garden to be abandoned for a time, but in 1857 it was revived under the new director of the site, Mariano de la Paz Graells y de la Aguera. With his leadership, the garden added a greenhouse and renovated the upper terrace among other improvements.  He even added a zoo at the site, but this was later moved to Retiro Park.  In the decade of the 1880s the garden suffered heavy losses, including losing nearly 5 acres to the Ministry Of Agriculture in 1882, and damage from an 1886 cyclone that wiped out over 550 trees. Since 1939 the garden has been dependent on the Spanish National Research Council for funding, and in 1942 it was declared an Artistic Garden by the State.  The park was ultimately closed in 1974 due to years of neglect and hardship, but it reopened in 1981 under new leadership.

Today the Real Jardín Botánico is a very popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and its proximity to the Prado Museum, one of Spain’s premiere attractions, guarantees plenty of visitors each year.  The garden is characterized by a series of neatly laid out and well-cared-for beds of flowers, plants, medicinal plants and herbs.  Particularly attractive are the native roses, with a variety of hues and varieties, and the Classical Romantic Garden, which features a beautiful duck pond.  Trees and shrubs are also abundant and account for the remainder of the site’s flora.  In total there are now an estimated 30,000 plants and flowers at Real Jardín Botánico and over 1,500 trees.