Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know: over 25% of the area within Madrid’s city limits is a nature reserve. Here’s another one: we have one of the best Mediterranean forests in Europe just 20 minutes from Puerta del Sol.
I’m not talking about Casa del Campo, I’m talking about El Monte de El Pardo — an area protected as a regional park where you can go for a walk any day of the year. It’s a great place to go exploring at the weekend, and it doesn’t require setting aside a whole day like some of the other nature walks in towns around Madrid.
It’s just a quarter of an hour bus ride from Moncloa to the center of El Pardo, a little town with a Royal Palace and several military installations. From there you can walk along the upper Manzanares River, either to the north or south. It’s a popular route for families with children, as the walks are all easy. If you want, you can also strike off across the forest to the east.
The main drawback is that a large area is fenced off as part of the King’s hunting grounds, and other areas are military training facilities, so some parts of the park are inaccessible. However, the hunting grounds are stocked with animals, and on some days, you can see wild boars and deer.
In early autumn (around the end of September or beginning of October) you can check out la berrea — deer mating season, when the stags bellow out their mating calls and butt heads to claim territory and impress females.
The town of El Pardo (now technically a district of Madrid) was once home to several Spanish monarchs, as well as the residence of Francisco Franco during the dictatorship. The palace where they lived is still used occasionally when foreign heads of state come to visit, but most days it’s open to the public as part of the Patrimonio Nacional.When you’re there, by all means try the local culinary specialty of stewed deer meat — gamo estofado. There are several bars that serve it, and it’s locally sourced, although as far as I have been able to determine, it’s not deer that have been shot by the King himself.
I can recommend Restaurante Stars, which has a large terraza that’s great to relax on in warm weather. The address is Calle Carboneras, but the entrance is around the corner on the plaza.
Bus 601 leaves from Moncloa about every 15 minutes, all day long. You can use your Abono Zona A. The trip to the center of El Pardo is about 15 minutes. Specific details including bus schedules can be found on El Pardo’s website.
There’s a convent called Cristo del Pardo, which has an important 17th-century image of Christ and still attracts some nostalgic Falange types for mass.
La Quinta del Duque de Arco is a small palace with a formal garden a couple of kilometers to the east, closer to the Montecarmelo neighborhood of Madrid.
The cemetery at Mingorrubio has the tombs of prominent fascists like Luis Carrero Blanco (Franco’s right-hand man and supposed heir who was killed in 1973) and Carmen Polo, Franco’s wife.
Daniel Welsch is a teacher and author who moved to Madrid at a ridiculoulsly young age. Now, he's not as young as he used to be. He writes a blog for ESL students at madridingles.es and books which are available on Amazon and many other places online. Check out his personal blog at The Chorizo Chronicles.