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 some 36 years after its London counterpart in 1887 and designed by the architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco who was also responsible for another building in the park – Palacio de Velázquez. Bosco is known for prestigious restoration projects such as the Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra in Granada.
The Crystal Palace, 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. In front of the entrance to the Crystal Palace there are steps leading down into the large artificial lake of the Retiro Park, with ducks, geese, black swans and terrapins swimming close to the steps. The Crystal 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 extended into the park itself and included a reconstruction of a native Filipino village. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions organised through the Reina Sofia Museum.
Parque del Retiro 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. In 1868, Parque del Buen Retiro had become the property of the City of Madrid. 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.
From October to April, it is open from 10am to 6pm, closing at 4pm on Sundays and holidays. From May to September, it is open from 11am to 8pm, closing at 6pm on Sundays and holidays. It is closed to the public on Tuesdays year round.
Cover image Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons