One of our favorite finds in Madrid has been the Madrid Río. I love water and spending time near it - lakes, rivers, oceans, you name it, I'm not picky - so when a friend of a friend recommended the Madrid Río, and then another acquaintance recommended it and said she liked it more than Retiro...well, we figured it was high time we give it a chance. Because you know how much we like Retiro.
We first started out by taking the Metro to Principe Pío, and walking along the river to Puente de Toledo, which is actually only about a 15 minute walk from our apartment. The first part of the river that we walked along is not the most attractive. If we had judged the park by the first 15-20 minutes we were walking, we probably would have never gone back again and thought the people who directed us to the Río were crazy.
But then it got good.
Fountains, unique play structures for kids and adults alike, a great view of the Atlético de Madrid stadium, a swing under an overpass, beautiful bridges - it was really nice! It was a beautiful Friday afternoon (November 6th) before it got cold, and we determined to come back soon.
On Saturday we went to Avila, but on Sunday we came back and started where we went left off. We walked from the Puente de Toledo past the Puente de la Princesa and found it to be even nicer than what we'd explored previously.
Skate parks, puppet shows, zip lines, amazing playgrounds, more beautiful fountains and bridges, places to picnic and walk and relax...it was all just so good.
We went back a few weeks later on a chilly afternoon which made it slightly less enjoyable but there were fewer crowds, so we got to go down the slides and zip on the zip line.
Speaking of crowds, it would seem that the Madrid Río area is almost totally unknown to tourists, which is totally okay with me. As far as we could tell on the three occasions we've visited, it's been us and local Spaniards. It is newer (I think it was finished just a few years ago, maybe in 2011?), and I haven't seen it mentioned in any tour guides or books, so perhaps that's why. The best information I've been able to find on the internet about the Madrid Río in English can be found here, and it is actually in both English and Spanish.
I’d highly recommend the Madrid Río to anyone who lives in Madrid as a great place for walking, biking, skating, reading, and picnicking in any season. If you’re just visiting, and you’re interested in seeing what Madrileños do in their free time and getting a bit off of the regular tourist path, I’d recommend the Madrid Río as well. Maybe not if you’re only in Madrid for a day or two, but if you have a longer period of time and if the weather’s good, I’d say take the Metro to Pirámides and follow the signs – it’s easy to find from there, and a very enjoyable way to spend a few hours.