Whether you are an experienced visitor to Madrid or a newcomer, you will learn today 10 fun facts about El Retiro Park that you probably don`t know.
Please share in the comments section at the end of the article how many of these interesting facts about the most famous park in Madrid you already knew.
Do you know any other cool facts about El Buen Retiro Park in Madrid?
Table of contents
- 1 1. Ramon y Cajal detested his own Memorial
- 2 2. A Human Zoo in El Retiro Park
- 3 3. Is there a goblin in El Retiro park?
- 4 4. John Wayne visited El Retiro
- 5 5. The Devil has come to the Park
- 6 6. The Porcelain Factory
- 7 7. Paseo de la Argentina
- 8 8. The oldest tree in Madrid
- 9 9. El Retiro houses an 11th-century church built in Avila
- 10 10. Treasures hidden at the bottom of the Pond
1. Ramon y Cajal detested his own Memorial
Ramón y Cajal was the first person in Spain to win a scientific Nobel Prize due to his innovative investigations of the structure of the brain.
That is why, a monumental fountain was built in El Retiro Park with the bare-chested figure of the doctor, two fountains representing life and death, and a sculpture of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.
The fun thing is that Ramón y Cajal did not like the monument at all, and commented that he had never undressed in front of any man.
Moreover, he did not attend the inauguration of the memorial and he did not even enter El Retiro park again, which, until then, had been his favorite park.
2. A Human Zoo in El Retiro Park
The second fun fact about El Retiro Park is related to the Casa de Fieras, the city´s former zoo.
Few locals remember that until the 1970 decade El Retiro had its own urban zoo, including tigers, elephants, hippos, and even a polar bear.
One of the most famous animals was Pizarro the Elephant, which was acquired for the fights against bulls that were so famous in the 19th century. Even more grotesque, the elephant was taught to uncork bottles of wine with his trunk and drink the alcohol in front of the spectators.
Furthermore, in 1887, 43 indigenous people from the Philippines arrived in Madrid and were exhibited next to the Casa de Fieras. The visitors accessed the enclosure by paying an entrance fee to see what the Filipinos were like and how they behaved.
3. Is there a goblin in El Retiro park?
According to legend, King Philip V was stunned by the plants in El Retiro Park, as they seemed to grow from absolutely nothing. Moreover, the flowers seemed to move from place to place every day, ensuring that the monarch’s stroll was special and unique every day.
The existence of a goblin in El Retiro was the only logical explanation! As you might expect, there is no proof that anyone has ever discovered this peculiar character.
Will you be able to find the small statue that was placed in the park in 1985?
4. John Wayne visited El Retiro
It is widely unknown that the Pond in El Retiro was drained to film the American movie “Circus World” with John Wayne, Claudia Cardinale, and Rita Hayworth.
The film was full of anecdotes due to Rita Hayworth`s drinking habits and her incipient Alzheimer’s. Also, John Wayne suffered some minor burns when he was shooting the scene of the fire in the tent.
5. The Devil has come to the Park
One of the most famous fountains in the park represents an angel falling from Heaven.
Together with the monuments in Turin (Italy), Quito (Ecuador), and Liège (Belgium), it is one of the few representations of the devil in the entire world.
But the most interesting fact relates to the fact that the statue is located 666 meters (the number of the beast) above sea level. Is it just a coincidence?
6. The Porcelain Factory
Next to the Fallen Angel Fountain, there used to be a porcelain manufacturing factory since the 18th century.
The porcelain’s quality was internationally recognized, and its manufacturing techniques were kept a state secret. Some of its best works can be currently admired at the Royal and the Aranjuez Palaces.
But when the French invasion took place in 1808, the park became the scene of intense fighting.
The factory was fortified by the French, and attacked by the British that finally ordered to blow up the building so it could not be reused by the French.
Or it was done to remove a commercial competitor? Let´s remember that Spanish porcelain was the biggest competitor of the British one.
What do you think about this curious fact about El Retiro Park?
7. Paseo de la Argentina
It is also known as Paseo de las Estatuas, due to the 14 statues of kings and queens which flank this impressive corridor.
These statues, which were supposed to adorn the Royal Palace’s cornice, are thought to have been moved from their original placement when Queen Isabella Farnese had a dream that the Palace could not take the weight.
An additional interesting fact that you could not know is that there are two different statues of the same king, Sancho IV.
8. The oldest tree in Madrid
El Retiro Park houses the oldest tree in Madrid, an Ahuehuete with an estimated age of over 400 years.
9. El Retiro houses an 11th-century church built in Avila
Locals and visitors to El Retiro Park can admire the ruins of this Romanesque church dating from the 11th century.
This historic place was originally built in the city of Ávila, outside the city walls. But in 1896 the ruins were moved to Madrid, do you know why?
Around 1854 the building was badly damaged and the City Council ordered its demolition. However, it was not until 1876, when the State applied the law of Confiscation, that the church was demolished to sell the remains to a local businessman.
The ruins were later sold to the Royal Academy of History and transferred to the Madrid City Hall, when they were finally located in El Retiro Park.
The large artificial pond is currently used as a place for recreation and water sports, and renting a boat is one of the best things to do in El Retiro Park. However, it was originally used by King Philip IV to hold mock navy battles.
But the most curious fact relates to the treasures found when the pond was last emptied in 2001 for maintenance and cleaning.
The workers found, among others, 92 chairs, 41 tables, 20 litter bins, 20 metal benches, 40 boats, skateboards, supermarket trolleys, shoes, cameras, wallets, cell phones, and even a gumball vending machine.
So, did you already know any of these 10 fun facts about El Retiro Park? Leave your comments below!