Green Bike Tour
Every day at 16:00 h
Already come with us on our Highlights tour, and want to discover more of Madrid? Then do as the locals so often do and enjoy a day in Madrid’s fabulous parks!
Madrid is the greenest capital in Europe, and on this tour you’ll see why as we show you our best parks. This time round, cycling and enjoying the sun, the green spaces, and the beautiful views is more important than learning history and facts about Madrid. Let’s just relax and enjoy being outside!
Starting from our shop in the heart of Madrid just a few minutes from Puerta del Sol, we will take you on a bike ride into the main green areas of town – this tour will last around 3 hours and is suitable for those who speak or understand English. We’ll cycle through the Retiro Park, along the riverside of the Manzanares, through the Casa de Campo, and the Parque del Oeste. Bonus: from Casa de Campo you’ll enjoy the most spectacular view of Madrid!
As we cycle to the first park, Retiro Park, we will pass two important points of interest – the Alcalá gate, which in 1788 was the entrance gate to the city of Madrid, and the Plaza de Cibeles which is famous for being the congregation point for sports victory celebrations, like Real Madrid football team wins.
With its 1.4 km2 (350 acres), El Parque Del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park) is not the biggest city park of Madrid, but it’s arguably the most beautiful and popular – it’s a green oasis in the heart of the city. Once a private rural retreat of the royal families that reigned in Spain, it was located for centuries outside of the city walls of Madrid. In the mid-19th century it became a public park, and since then has never lost its popularity – locals and visitors alike consider this park the best place to take it easy. Retiro Park offers enough places to relax with a fresh beverage in the sun or shade (it has more than 15,000 trees!), plus you can skate on the massive avenues that go all through the park.
There’s plenty to see, too – there’s the statue of the Fallen Angel, all kinds of interesting monuments and gardens (such as the Rosaleda rose garden, and the Parterre Francés, which is home to a Mexican conifer that’s nearly 400 years old), and there are also exhibition halls like the majestic Velázquez Palace and the Crystal Palace. The latter is a beautiful glass pavilion built in 1887 to house exotic plants for the Philippines Exhibition, and is one the finest examples of cast-iron architecture in Spain.
What’s more, the park boasts a large artificial lake, where you can rent a rowing boat and spend some time floating under the sun!
After cycling through this charming park, we will pass the Atocha train station, the biggest train station in Madrid. It’s the main railway station for commuter trains into the city, and the main station for the high-speed rail called AVE. It’s definitely worth visiting to look at the fantastic architecture, plus the ceiling of the old part of the building, but most importantly for this tour is the great tropical garden in the new part of the station, which is home to 400 different species of plant, totaling over 7,000 plants.
140 years ago, just a little south of Atocha, there used to be another train station called “Delicias” (delights) – a magnificent example of 19th-century cast-iron architecture, which has since been converted into a railway museum offering all sorts of activities for adults and children.
As we cycle towards the Manzanares river, we will see the former Matadero (slaughterhouse), a set of neo-Mudejar style pavilions built at the beginning of the 20th century on the banks of the river. Today, the whole complex seems like a small city devoted to culture and events. Inside, there’s a cinema, a theatre, a restaurant, a library and many other spaces for exhibitions and other events. Outside, in the middle of the plaza, markets of all kinds take place. This arts centre is real highlight of Madrid’s cultural offerings, and it’s certainly worth spending some time here looking around and taking it all in.
“The blue sky, the white mountains, the golden sun … A pure Madrid day! And I enjoy what Madrid gives, only Madrid. It’s obvious! Who is sad with this glory of heaven and this blessing of the sun?” (Benito Pérez Galdós)
As we continue on, things become a bit more modern – we’ll shortly arrive at the large park that runs along both banks of the Manzanares river, which flows through the city. This relatively new leisure area (which features children’s parks, sculptures and long cycling paths) has a very futuristic and iconic bridge called the Monumental Arganzuela Bridge – it’s a major walkway designed by the eminent French architect Dominique Perrault, inaugurated in 2011.
As a contrast to this modern bridge, there are also some old bridges that cross the Manzanares river: one is the impressive Baroque-style Toledo Bridge built in 1724, and another is the Segovia Bridge, the oldest bridge in Madrid. Its was constructed in the 16th century. There’s also the King’s Bridge, at one of the entrances to Casa de Campo Park – designed by Royal Architect Isidro González Velázquez and built in the 19th century, in its early days it could only be used by the King, giving him access to Casa de Campo from the Royal Palace.
Would you believe that Madrid has a huge forest-like park just outside the city? With 1,722.60 hectares (4,257 acres) of natural space, the Casa de Campo (country home) park is the largest public park in Madrid. The history of Casa de Campo began with the decision by King Philip II to move the Court to Madrid, and live there. The King built a manor house in the 16th century, linking the Palace to the hunting area called El Pardo, and later on farms and fields bought from the surrounding areas were added which built up the size of the park. The park would eventually be donated to the Madrileños, and opened to the public in 1931.
We are now cycling through the park and will cross the Manzanares river! There are lots of fantastic cycle paths and hiking trails, which give you a feeling of being in the countryside far away from the city. Plus, throughout the Casa de Campo you’ll also find a zoo and aquarium, an amusement park, various restaurants, a boating lake, an events arena, and outdoor pools. Best of all, you’ll get to experience the most breathtaking view over Madrid from the top of the hill, which you access via the Teleferico cable car.
Next up we’ll turn back and make our way towards the city centre, passing the picturesque Bombilla (bulb) Park, which hosts a summer film festival – the FESCINAL open air film festival – each year. From the end of June until mid-September, the best films in digital format are screened under the Madrid sky, using the latest technology.
As we cycle along, we will come to another park called Park del Oeste (west), and we will also be able to see the San Antonio de la Florida royal chapel – this is home to ceiling and dome fresco paintings from Francisco Goya, and it’s also the famous artist’s resting place. The chapel is famous for its San Antonio (the patron saint of love and devotion to the sick and poor, and of lost objects) celebrations on the 13th June, which feature music, processions and other typically Spanish religious customs – the Saints in Spain are very important and Spaniards love to celebrate them.
Next, how about seeing a little bit of Egypt in the middle of Madrid? We’re not joking – there’s an Egyptian monument called the Debod Temple, which is a traditional Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. It was transported to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park and rebuilt in the early 1970s; interestingly, the Egyptian government donated the temple to Spain to save it from floods, following the construction of the great Aswan Dam. Not very editerranean at all, and a curious sight compared to the rest of the traditionally Spanish architecture you’ll see!
As we meander through some smaller streets of Madrid, we will see another point of interest: the Madrid History Museum. Housed in an impressive Baroque building, formerly the San Fernando Hospice, the History Museum provides an overview of the arts, industries, lifestyles and customs of Madrileños from 1561, when Madrid was established as the Spanish capital, to the present.
And now, after all these wonderful sights, we will be coming to the end of the Green Bike Tour, and it will be time to cycle back to our shop.
As well as the green areas of Madrid, on this bike tour you will also get to see many other points of interest that you don’t usually see on the Highlights tour, such as:
- Atocha and Delicias train stations
- Matadero cultural complex
- Manzanares leisure area
- Casa de Campo
- Retiro Park