Autumn Magic at Crystal Palace in Retiro Park, Madrid

Palacio de Cristal, also known as the Glass Palace or Crystal Palace, is the crowning glory of Retiro Park in Madrid.

If you’re wondering whether to include it on your Madrid itinerary, join me for a tour to find out!

I wandered off to Retiro Park from the busy crowded streets of Madrid, full of people in a rush and autumn leaves dancing on the pavements.

Madrid in November is much colder than the rest of the country, but you still get plenty of sunny days which are perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. If you’re planning to visit Madrid in autumn, there’s no better place to witness the change of seasons than in the beautiful UNESCO Heritage site of Retiro Park.

Retiro is also called ‘the lungs of Madrid’ and has a very generous size, so you can easily spend the whole day exploring the park, Crystal Palace and the surrounding areas.

Access to the Park

The park is in the heart of Madrid and easily accessible from a number of entrance points. You can get to it also with the metro – simply get off at the stations of Ibiza, Retiro, Atocha, Estacion de Arte or Banco de Espana.

Right next to the park is the world-famous Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum) and also a beautiful botanical garden, which I haven’t had a chance to see on this trip.

Scroll down further for a detailed map that marks all the interesting sights and features in the park.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
The wide road leading up to Puerta de Alcala, one of the entrance points to the park

Retiro Park in Madrid

The first time I ventured to Retiro Park was late on Saturday afternoon, shortly after I arrived in Madrid.

I have to say, despite how big it is (125 hectares), it was incredibly busy.

The alleyways looked like busy streets with people rushing from each direction, kids running about and locals walking their dogs. It was super busy and far from what I’ve been expecting to be a peaceful stroll in a city park.

On my last day of the trip, on Monday lunchtime, the park completely transformed and it was a lot more tranquil and enjoyable. Something to keep in mind if you’re visiting – you’ll rarely find it peaceful at weekends (or when the good weather strikes in winter).

The park is home to around 15,000 trees and in summer 2021 it has been added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. The park features a lot of small gardens, like the Jardines de Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, Jardín de Vivaces, or the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (check the map for details of locations).

In the middle section of the park, you will find the glorious Crystal Palace which is hosting temporary art exhibitions, an artificial lake with boat rentals and the Palacio de Velázquez, a historic museum with art exhibitions.

In the park, you will also find a lot of beautiful sculptures and monuments, the most notable one is the Monument to Alfonso XII which you can see stretching just next to the artificial lake.

What You’ll Find in Retiro Park

Here is a detailed map with all the interesting sights and things to explore in the park, courtesy of the park’s official website.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
One of the few small cafeterias in the park, this one is by the Puerta de Alcala
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Empty at lunchtime, but filled up very quickly within a few hours
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Gorgeous autumn colours everywhere
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Facing the cold weather with a cold drink in hand.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Fiesta of autumn colours.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
The entrance to the park from Puerta de Alcala.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Chestnut collection in progress.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Treasures of Autumn.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Churros & hot chocolate in the park cafe. As overpriced as you would expect it to be in a prime location.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Monument of Alfonso XII by the lake.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Paseo de las Estatuas (passage of statues)
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
The monument in its full glory.

Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal)

Possibly the highlight of the park, at least for me!

I’ve seen lots of pictures of Crystal Palace on Instagram but I have to say it’s even more beautiful in real life, with the spectacular display of autumn colours all around.

The palace was built-in 1887 as a greenhouse to showcase the fauna and flora of the Philippines, back in the days a colony of the Spanish kingdom. Today the palace is owned and managed by Reigna Sofia Museum which uses it to host various temporary exhibitions.

Continue reading below about the current exhibition and the entry to the palace.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park

Entrance to Crystal Palace

The entry is completely free!

The only limitation is that you have to wait in a queue to get in, they have crowd control in place and only allow up to 100 people inside at a time. From my experience, the line moves very fast and we didn’t wait even 10 minutes to get in.

The exhibition that has opened in Crystal Palace just a few weeks ago was one by Kildad Tahimik, a Philippine artist who has also worked as an actor, performer, writer and, primarily, as a filmmaker. The art pieces exhibited here are loose narratives of his movies. Read more about the exhibition and the author on the museum’s official website.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
The entrance to the palace.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
The exhibition info by the entrance.
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park

Where to from Crystal Palace?

Retiro Park is well located in the heart of the city with lots of travel connections with the metro. If you fancy a walk and dedicating the rest of the day to arts, the world-known Prado Museum is literally across the road from the park.

Just south of the museum you will also find beautiful botanical gardens to explore.

Other Practical Tips

Toilets – there are some public toilets available opposite Bar Mirador, check the location here.

Food & drinks – the park has a number of small kiosks and cafeterias, but don’t expect anything amazing in terms of food options. They also tend to be on the expensive side.

Street sellers & artists – the park is full of street sellers and artists, they’re everywhere! They are mostly located on the main connecting junctions and bigger pathways, and if you want to avoid them (and the crowds), you can use the smaller roads that run across the park.

Parking near Retiro park – there are a few parking options at the edge of the park, these include: C. Julián Gayarre 28 (south of the park), Parking Garage Riviera close to the hospital at C. de Narváez 80 or right next to it is Garaje Aparcamiento Público Costa Azul at C. de Narváez 80.

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