Many of Europe’s parks and gardens were created at the request of the kings, queens, princes and princesses who once ruled over the Old Continent. Some have exceptional qualities or stunning styles that put them on the map for visitors vacationing in Europe, such as the Real Jardin Botanico in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
The royal connection: Fernando VI, King of Spain, ordered the creation of Madrid’s royal botanical garden on the banks of the Manzanares River, near what is today the Puerta de Hierro. King Carlos III then moved the garden to its current location on Paseo del Prado, where it opened in 1781.
The Real Jardin Botanico: When it was founded in 1755, the garden contained more than 2,000 plants. These were collected by the botanist and surgeon José Quer, who brought them back from his travels on the peninsula or obtained them from other European botanists. When the garden was moved to Paseo del Prado, Carlos III enlisted architects Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva, who built three tiered terraces and arranged the plants according to the method of Linnaeus, one of the most renowned botanists of the time. Fencing and pergolas were also installed. Since its creation, Madrid’s royal botanical garden has played an educational role in the teaching of the discipline. Subsequent expeditions to America and the Pacific enriched its collection with plants, drawings and new species.
At the end of the 19th century, the garden lost two of its 10 hectares to the Ministry of Agriculture and 564 of its trees to a cyclone.
Since 1939, the garden has been dependent on the Spanish National Research Council. It was named an “Artistic Garden” in 1942. In 1974, the Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid closed for restoration and reopened in 1981. In February 2005, the exhibition space was increased by one hectare.
What to see: The gardens have a rosary that borders its royal way, occupying three-quarters of the lower terrace. The garden is also home to medicinal plants, herbs and aromatic plants and ornamental plants.
Between the lower terrace and the “Terraza de las Escuelas Botánicas,” the garden’s “Paseo de las Estatuas” is a pathway lined with four statues of the most eminent botanists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Don’t miss the bonsai trees and the Graells greenhouse, which dates from the 19th century.
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