Madrid’s El Retiro a retreat for locals and tourists alike

On a cold winter morning, Madrid's Buen Retiro Park, or El Retiro, is filled with joggers and dog walkers enjoying the fresh air and manicured flower beds of one of the Spanish capital's most visited attractions.

El Retiro (which means The Retreat) was originally a palace and gardens built for the personal enjoyment of King Philip IV in the 17th century, where courtiers sometimes carried out re-creations of naval battles on the boating lake.

Nearly 400 years later, the 1.4 sq km park is now used for boat rides, an annual book fair and road races.

It has a garden with more than 4,000 rosebushes that fill the air with fragrance when the flowers bloom in May and June, and is home to the Palacio de Cristal built in 1887, a glass and iron structure inspired by London's Crystal Palace.

The park is enjoyed by Madridians and tourists alike. It is also a place of work for many.

Mr Nicolas Perez has worked for four years dressing up as characters such as Kermit the Frog, and getting his picture taken with visitors for money. Business is best over the weekend, said the Ecuadorean.

"From Monday to Thursday, I make enough to pay for food. But on Friday and the weekend, I get extra to pay for my utilities," said the 45-year-old. - REUTERS