by Amy Menchhofer
On everyone’s list of must-sees in Madrid is El Parque del Buen Retiro. But when should you visit? A leisurely stroll through the Retiro on a Tuesday morning is a completely different experience than joining the masses on a Sunday afternoon.
Wander through the park on a weekday morning and you’ll likely find yourself alone more often than not. The terrace bars are closed, the chocolate-dealers are absent from the park entrances, your only company will be cyclists and joggers, and you can even find a swing on a deserted playground to pretend you’re a kid again. And you might even want to leave your iPod at home. The sounds of nature and even the occasional complete silence are a treat that will make you forget you’re at the heart of a city of 4 million.
Stop by on a Sunday and you’ll have to watch where you walk so as not to bump into someone. Particularly popular with young families, you’ll dodge as many wagons and tricycles as you do palm-reading gypsies. Despite the crowds, the ambience is a unique one filled with puppet shows, portrait artists, jewelry stalls, and fortune tellers. And should you be so inclined you can park yourself at one of the many terraces and get an ice cream, caña, or coffee – that is, if you can find a seat. Also of note: the Retiro is often host to various special events such as Cibeles Fashion Week, the annual book fair, and last weekend’s Bike Fest. On such occasions the influx of visitors is even greater than on your typical Sunday.
Crowded and festive? Quiet and calming? Which face of the park do you prefer?