All too often overlooked in favor of the nearby Royal Palace gardens, the Royal Botanic Garden, or Real Jardín Botánico, is an exquisite pocket of greenery, showcasing over 5,000 different plant species. Situated next door to the Prado museum, the Botanic Garden was designed in 1755 by architects Francisco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva under commission from Ferdinand VI, and makes a tranquil picnic spot for those visiting the museum.
Stretching over 20 acres, the garden manages to cram an impressive variety of trees, plants and flowers within its walls, featuring native plant varieties that span 5 continents. As you stroll through the three terraced gardens, keep an eye out for pomegranate trees, South African irises, Japanese raisin trees, Chinese peonies and a wide selection of Bonsais. Those intrigued in learning more about the world’s varied plant life will find plenty to look at in the three exhibition greenhouses, mimicking tropical, humid and desert climates, as well as the exhibit of medicinal plants and herbs.
It’s not just the plants that deserve a mention – the beautifully landscaped garden boasts a number of design features. Highlights include the ornate Puerta de Murillo and the Puerta del Rey gates; the central Villanueva Pavilion; and the Classical Romantic Garden, which features a duck pond and scores of colorful wild roses.