As the largest park in Madrid, the Buen Retiro Park (Park of the Pleasant Retreat) is the lungs of this grand city. Built originally as the private grounds for the king of Spain’s palace in the 16th Century, the park has changed over time. In the early 19th century the Buen Retiro palace itself was demolished after the monarchy built a larger palace on the other end of the city, and after Napoleon’s army damaged the building beyond repair. In 1767 the park was opened to the public, and in the late 19th century it was given to the municipality of Madrid as a city park.
The Buen Retiro Palace was the seat of power for the Habsburg family during the time that Spain was the world’s dominant super power in the 16th Century. The message of power and control is communicated in the way that the garden is layed out and planted.The gardens of the Buen Retiro are heavily influenced by French and Italian garden design of the 17th and 18th centuries, with long dominant plantings, and strategically controlled views of important buildings.