Sabatini Gardens: Chilling With the Kings
Of course, it's not the quirkiness that draws hundreds of people here every day - the gardens are beautiful and for anybody who's tired of the city's heat (in summer), or crowds (all year round) it's a perfect place to chill, relax a little bit, read or just people-watch. And did I mention the location? Quite literally in the shadow of the Palacio Real, perhaps Madrid's most famous landmark: it just doesn't get more central than that.
But still, that's not the whole story. The whole story would need to mention a few quirky facts. Here's one, for example: the Sabatini Gardens are named after Italian architect Francesco Sabatini who... had nothing to do with them.
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Well, almost nothing. Sabatini died in 1797 and the gardens' construction began in 1931. The public got to see the gardens only after Franco's death, in 1978 - they were open to the public by Juan Carlos I.
The connection exists, however, and it explains the name: Sabatini was the architect of the royal stables which occupied the exact same location. Regardless, the gardens is one of the few landmarks in Madrid whose name refers not to their creator, but to the creator of something that stood it its place before.
The layout of the Sabatini Gardens is influenced by French landscape design and is based on strongly symmetrical patterns.
I am neither a botanist nor a zoologist, so I won't go into lenghty descriptions of the gardens' flora and fauna. Suffice it to say that it's nice. Some of the trees (mostly pine and cypress trees) are curiously shaped because apparently, they were planted very close to each other.
The gardens are adorned with numerous statues of Spanish kings who look quite at home in their green surroundings. As one should probably expect by now, therein lies another contradiction of sorts: the statues were actually never meant to be placed in the garden. There was simply not enough space for them at the Palacio Real, so the architects moved them here.
Because the park has opening hours (see below), the statues and the whole landscaped ensemble are relatively protected from vandalism.
So, that's the Sabatini Gardens in a few paragraphs: a beautiful (if completely artificial) place set out in central Madrid, named after an architect who didn't build it, filled with statues that were never meant to stand there. I love it and you probably will, too.
(Jardines de Sabatini)
Calle de Bailén at Cuesta de San Vicente
Hours: October - April: 9.00am to 8pm; May - September: to 9pm