Retiro park: Madrid's green lung

MADRID, Dec 20 (Reuters) - On a cold winter morning, Madrid's Retiro park is filled with joggers and dog walkers enjoying the fresh air and manicured flowerbeds of one of the city's most visited attractions.

El Retiro ("The Retreat") was originally a palace and gardens built for the personal enjoyment of King Felipe IV in the 17th Century, where courtiers sometimes carried out recreations of naval battles on the boating lake.

Nearly 400 years later, the 350-acre park is used for boat rides, an annual book fair and road races.

It has a garden with over 4,000 rosebushes which fill the air with scent when the flowers bloom in May and June, and the "Palacio de Cristal" built in 1887, a glass and iron structure inspired by London's Crystal Palace.

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Inside Madrid's Retiro park
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Inside Madrid's Retiro park

A man sits in the sun by a pond in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, June 28, 2017.

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A streetlight is lit at sunset in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, March 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A man and a woman embrace on the grass in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, April 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A man picks up his blanket in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, June 14, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A street performer dressed as Mickey Mouse rests on a bench by a pond in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, March 6, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A woman checking her phone is seen reflected on the windows of the "Palacio de Cristal" in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, April 6, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Two women have their pictures taken in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, October 17, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Yan Zhang practices tai-chi in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, March 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A man exercises in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, February 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A man walks in the rain in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, October 18, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Two elderly men chat as they go for a walk with their canes in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, February 8, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

The moon is seen over Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, April 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

People stroll in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, April 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A woman protects herself from the occasional ray of sun at La Rosaleda garden in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, June 28, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A young girl jumps in between water sprinklers in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, June 14, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A sculpture is seen behind scaffolding in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, March 7, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A man and a woman lie down on the grass in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, September 5, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Fallen leaves cover a table and the ground in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, October 18, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

A skater stands by a water fountain in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain, June 14, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Susana Vera)

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The park is enjoyed by "madrilenos" and tourists alike.

"This is a beautiful park, particularly for couples, it's very romantic," said Flora Werner, a 28-year-old Londoner visiting with her boyfriend.

"I like it better than (London's) Hyde Park because it's less hectic, people here seem to be more relaxed," she said as she took selfies of herself kissing her partner beside the boating lake.

The Retiro is also a place of work for many. Nicolas Perez has worked for four years dressing as cartoon characters like Kermit the Frog and getting his picture taken with visitors for money.

Business is best over the weekend, says the 45-year-old 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," he said.

(Additional reporting by Susana Vera; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)

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