Madrid Travel Guide: Crystal Palace - Palacio de Cristal

Located in the centre of the Buen Retiro Park in central Madrid is an imposing glass palace modelled on London's Crystal Palace. It was built around 36 years after its London counterpart in 1887, and designed by the architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco who was responsible for another building in the park, the Palacio de Velázquez. He had also worked on such prestigious restoration projects as the Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra in Granada.

The Palacio de Cristal, in the shape of a Greek cross, is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, which is decorated with ceramics. Its domed roofs makes the structure over 22 metres high. The glass palace was created in 1887 to house exotic flora and fauna as part of an exhibition on the Philippines, which was then still a Spanish colony. The exhibition spilled out into the park itself, and included a reconstruction of a native Philippino village. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions organised through the Reina Sofia Museum.

In front of the entrance to the palace are steps leading down into the large artificial lake of the Retiro Park. The lake contains ducks. geese, black swans and terrapins, who will swim close to the steps, or you can hire boats on the lake for a closer view.

Only 19 years earlier, in 1868, the Parque del Buen Retiro had become the property of the City of Madrid. Prior to that, it had been the site of a Royal Palace and grounds. The original residence, built in 1632 for Philip IV, was located outside the official town limits as a royal retreat, but was destroyed during the Napoleonic period, and in the 17th century the grounds became a focus for festivals, bullfights, mock naval battles and theatre.

The park is set in around 130 hectares with a wide variety of over 15,000 trees, and is the venue for Madrid's annual book fair in May and June, where a long avenue of stalls present literature from all over the world in a variety of languages. There are a number of entrances to the park, the main one being in the Plaza de la Independencia, with other gates in the Calle de Alcala or Calle O'Donnell. The closest metro stations are Retiro and Banco de España.

Address Parque del Retiro
Transport Metro Retiro .
Telephone 91 574 66 14
Open Oct-Apr 10am-6pm Mon, Wed-Sat; 10am-4pm Sun. May-Sept 11am-8pm Mon, Wed-Sat; 11am-6pm Sun.

Admission free.

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