Enjoy a nice self-guided photo tour through Madrid’s parks located at the east of town. This tour is perfect for a hot summer day with lots of shade from the trees, or just to relax for a while from the busy touristy areas in Madrid’s city center. Since the route will take you mostly from west to east, it’s best to take the tour in the afternoon to avoid facing the sun most of the time.
Príncipe Pío Train Station
The tour starts at the train station “Principe Pío” at the west end of Madrid. The station itself is more than 100 years old and was first called “Estación del Norte”. Apparently at its opening in the 19th century it was described as “ugly” and was the only train station without a proper inauguration in Madrid. After a century of remodeling and restoration, the current building was introduced to the public and the station was reopened to train traffic in 2004. Parts of the old building are still in use today though and it is a nice walk through history and nowadays also a big shopping center.
Puerta de San Vicence and Casa de Campo
From the train station, head south on Paseo de la Florida until you reach a big roundabout with a huge portal in the middle (you should already see it from the station).
This replica is called “Puerta de San Vicente” and has been at its current location since 1995. The portal, much like the train station “Príncipe Pío”, has quite the turbulent history, and was demolished and relocated a couple of times before being re-built and placed at its current location, the “Glorieta di San Vicente” roundabout. The first portal was built in 1726 and replaced an older one called “Puerta del Parque” (Portal of the Park). In 1775 the portal was located at the current location (which was by then one of the entrances to the city), but only until 1892 when it had to make space for the increasing traffic. But it seems the city of Madrid missed its portal and in 1995 it was once again placed at its current location, replacing the “Fuente de Juan de Villanueva” which had been there since 1952 but was then moved to the Parque del Oeste.
After that, you can make a short detour to the park of the “Casa de Campo” on the other side of the Manzana river. You can go in as far as you like, but the six pillars just at the beginning of the park make a nice frame of the palace and the “Catedral de la Almudena” (just north of the palace). If the sun is low enough you can also get some nice shadows and experiment with photos taken against sunlight.
Campo del Moro to Plaza Oriente
Continue your photo tour heading east to the park “Campo del Moro”. Be aware of the opening hours: 1st of April – 30th of September: 10am – 8pm. 1st of October – 31st of March: 10am – 6pm.
The entrance is just west of the pillars, on the other side of the river and street. It is said that the Muslims army once set camp here which later gave the park its name. It was also used as a connection from the palace to the Casa de Campo parklands. Once you’ll have crossed the street follow the fence until you reach the entrance. Enjoy a nice view of the palace surrounded by trees and with a huge fountain in the middle. Walk towards the fountain and then head north, following the main path. You will see a little abandoned wooden hut to your left. Walk around it and see if you find an interesting angle for your shot. I liked the color play of the windows.
Wonder around the park to find nice and hidden photo opportunities. There is an exit on the north side of the park but if you don’t find it, simply go back to the main entrance to find your way out. (It’s easy to get lost in the park… I did. Simply remember the exit is at the east, directly opposite to the palace.)
From the Campo del Moro make your way further east to the Jardines de Sabatini. Don’t get confused if Google maps is showing the Sabatini Gardens at the location of Campo del Moro. These are two different gardens with the Campo del Moro being located directly west of the palace whereas the Sabatini Gardens are a little smaller and located north of the palace. Opening hours are: 1st of May – 30th of September: 10am to 20:00. 1st of October – 30th of April: 10am – 6pm.
The grounds first served as the royal’s stables designed by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini (hence the name) and opened as a park to the public in 1978. The statues in the park (as well as the ones at the Plaza Oriente) were at first meant to decorate the roof of the palace but never made their way up there. Watching the sunset from the quadratic pond in the middle of the park is supposed to be really nice.
After that, exit the Sabatini Gardens at the southeast exit and make your way up Calle Bailén to reach the end of the tour, Plaza Oriente, with the prominent monument to Philip IV of Spain in the center. It was created by the Italian sculptor Pietro Tacca who had difficulties figuring out how the statue would stand upright due to the rather uncommon position. Luckily, he knew Galileo Galilei who figured out how to balance the statue correctly (put all the weight in the back part by making the back out of solid bronze and attach the tail of the horse to the ground). Before that, bronze statues were hollow inside.
Guide to Madrid’s Parks
Photos of the Tour
Go Madrid: Estación Príncipe Pío. http://www.gomadrid.com/transport/estacion-principe-pio.html
Príncipe Pío: A Center with a History. http://www.principepio.es/a-center-with-a-history
Arte en Madrid: Patrimonio Recuperado. http://artedemadrid.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/patrimonio-recuperado
Wikipedia: Puerta de San Vicente. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerta_de_San_Vicente
Spain Info: Campo del Moro. http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/arte/jardines-historicos/madrid/campo_del_moro.html
Spainexchange: Sabatini Gardens, Jardines de Sabatini, Madrid, Spain. http://www.spainexchange.com/spain/madrid/parks/sabatini-gardens-jardines-de-sabatini