Palacio de Cristal – Madrid, Spain - Atlas Obscura

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Palacio de Cristal

Jardines del Buen Retiro

Madrid's romantically ornate crystal palace has been offering shelter to plants and art for over a century. 


Built to mirror a similar structure in London, which was installed just over 30 years earlier, Madrid’s Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) is a lovely architectural jewel that recalls an era when spaces were built simply to be beautiful.

The ornate glass and steel greenhouse that sits on the edge of a lake in Buen Retiro Park was finished in 1887 as a space to exhibit arts and wonders in a setting that was both lovingly baroque and still naturally stunning. From the high glass dome to the bright red brick foundation, the building is a thing of beauty. Since the walls are glass, the park’s lush green surrounds can also be appreciated in addition to whatever exhibition is on display inside. The palace is also outfitted with a boat landing on the waters of the park’s small lake and an entrance fitted out with classically styled columns. 

Since the palace is essentially an elaborate greenhouse it is no wonder that the first exhibition in the space was a display of exotic Vietnamese plants that were brought into Spain for the event. The intention was originally to continue displaying wondrous plants in the space, but as time went on the palace began showing more art than flora. Today, the Crystal Palace can still be visited by anyone who wants to take in the art on display inside or the natural vistas outside, or both at the same time.

Know Before You Go

Although the crystal palace is a beautiful site to visit at any time or season of the year, it is particularly impressive to see during fall, with the autumnal light and backdrop of the trees shedding their leaves.

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