Lonely Planet review
Sometimes called the ‘lungs of Madrid’, this 17 sq km stand of greenery stretches west of the Río Manzanares. There are prettier and more central parks in Madrid but such is its scope that there are plenty of reasons to visit. And visit the madrileños do, nearly half a million of them every weekend, celebrating the fact that the short-lived Republican government of the 1930s opened the park to the public (it was previously the exclusive domain of royalty).
For city-bound madrileños with neither the time nor the inclination to go further afield, it has become the closest they get to nature, despite the fact that cyclists, walkers and picnickers overwhelm the byways and trails that criss-cross the park. There are tennis courts and a swimming pool, as well as the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid and the Parque de Atracciones . At Casa de Campo’s southern end, restaurants specialise in wedding receptions, ensuring plenty of bridal parties roam the grounds in search of an unoccupied patch of greenery where they can take photos. Also in the park, the Andalucian-style ranch known as Batán is used to house the bulls destined to do bloody battle in the Fiestas de San Isidro Labrador.
Although it’s largely for the better, something has definitely been lost from the days before 2003 when unspoken intrigues surrounded the small artificial lake , where several lakeside terrazas and eateries were frequented by an odd combination of day trippers, working girls and clients. By night, prostitutes jockeyed for position while punters kept their places around the lakeside chiringuitos (open-air bars or kiosks) as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. The traffic in the middle of the night here was akin to rush hour in the city centre. The police shut this scene down and, thankfully, there are no more louche traffic jams, at least on weekends.