The Parque del Capricho Park, Madrid Guide
The Parque del Capricho (El Capricho Park) is a pleasant park to the northwest of central Madrid. The Parque del Capricho is off the common tourist trail but is a hidden gem of Madrid as it is considered by many of capital’s residents as the finest park in Madrid. The park was designed as a retreat for Madrid’s nobility, a place to escape the clamour and commotion of the inner city during the 18th century. Hidden within El Capricho is the first example of an iron bridge in Spain, a small chapel and the beautiful ballroom, all interconnected by small streams, lakes and tree-lined paths. The El Capricho Park is a great place for modern tourists to follow the example of the 18th century nobility and come here to unwind and relax.
El Capricho Park Tourist Information
The closest Metro station is El Capricho on line number 5 and bus that pass the park are 101, 105 and 151. One reason the gardens are not on the common tourist trail is due to the very limited opening hours of Saturday, Sunday and public holidays between 9:00 to 18:30 (winter months) and 9:00 to 21:00 hours (summer season). The real disappointment about the park is that the shrub maze is not open to the public.
History of the El Capricho Park Madrid
The gardens were commissioned by María Josefa Pimentel (1752 – 1834) a leading and influential women in the Spanish nobility. She was a great supporter of the arts and sponsored many Spanish artists. The land was purchased for María by her husband, Pedro Téllez-Girón (the ninth duke of Osuna). In 1783 the area was used as farmland but the vision was to create a recreation property and grounds outside of Madrid’s city limits that could be enjoyed by the couple. María Josefa commissioned the royal court architect, Paul Boutelou to design the garden and work began in 1787. The gardens were designed in the French baroque style. The project was completed 52 years later in 1839 but the Duchess died without seeing her beloved park completed, she died in 1834.
The construction of the park took much longer than expected as they were seized by the French in 1808 and the whole site became the property of the French General Augustin Belliard. Augustin did not appreciate the beauty of the El Capricho Park and used the grounds as a base for his troops. After the withdrawal of the French army the place and grounds were reverted back to the Duchess, who continued the transformation of the area. The original gardens contained thousands of lilac as this was the favourite flower of María Josefa.
After the death of the María Josefa the gardens remained in the hands of the family until in 1844. Subsequent members of the family had not lavished the same care and the gardens when auctioned in 1844 were of dire condition. During the Republic the park was declared as a Historic Garden but the gardens remained poorly maintained. During the Civil War several underground bomb shelters were built within the park. In 1974 El Capricho Park was purchased by the City council of Madrid and in 1985 was declared a cultural monument. Since then the park has been slowly improved to recreate the vision of María Josefa.