Throughout its history, the park has boasted a number of whimsical structures whose existence was solely for the amusement of the passerby. Such was the purpose of the Casa de Vacas, built in 1874 as a cowshed and milking shed for both commoners, nobility and kings, to come and see the cows as well as to enjoy a recently milked glass of milk. A fire destroyed the original building, which was rebuilt by the town hall and dedicated today to exhibiting art shows.
Also dedicated to culture, are the two pavilions built by Ricardo Velasquez Bosco towards the end of the 19th century: The Velasquez Palace and the Crystal Palace, which is one of the best examples of iron-work architecture in Madrid. The former was created to host a temporary exhibit of Mine and Metallurgic Arts while the Crystal Palace also served as am exhibition space. Three years after the Mine expo it held an exhibit on the Philippines. Originally intended as a hot house to show off the fauna of the previous Spanish colony, the building is among the most luminous and elegant ones in the park, and is almost entirely wrought of steel and glass.
As in any self respecting park the Buen Retiro has its share of beautifully designed fountains. This Madrid park is home to the only monument to the devil that exists in the whole world. Set amidst the waters of the Fountain of the Fallen Angel it represents the moment when Lucipher is expulsed from Paradise, a work of art that was the creative brainchild of Rocardo Bellver.
The Galápagos fountain was created to honour the birth of Isabel II, and is also one of the more notable artistic works in the park. Built in 1832 by José de Mariategui, it consists of three different tiers decorated with water plants and equipped with water spouts that jet from Galapagos tortoises and frogs. Four small angels, with dolphins and a snail surmount the ensemble and adorn the top of the fountain. The structure has symbolic meaning which all sought to emphasise well-wishing on the occasion of the birth of the queen, so there are allegories of long life, fertility, and the upholding of traditional values such as wisdom and rectitude.
In the Plaza de Honduras, there is another fountain that is also quite popular among Madrilenios. It is called the Fountain of the Artichoke and is the work of Ventura Rodriguez. The original inspiration and dedication was as a fountain to adorn the Roundabout of the Emperor Carlos V, and in fact was situated there until 1880 when the widening of city streets and publics works expansion drove it to the quiet environs of the park. It represents an allegory of Spring, made up of one tier on which there is a Triton and a Water Nymph along with Madrid's official shield. Children hold up the platter bearing the artichoke.
Facing the only part of the Buen Retiro Palace which is still standing, the Casón, there is park area which was designed as a French style 'parterre' and which goes back to Isabel II. The symmetry inherent in this part of the park is broken up by the presence of large towering cedar trees and the 'bald cypress'. This is the oldest tree in Madrid. Actually it isn't a cypress at all but a specie of taxodium, which is native to Mexico and which may be over 400 years old. A witness to the historical events of its earliest days in this part of Madrid, it is said that the tree's branch forks, served to rest the canon of the French troops who were aiming them at the old palace.