It will soon be the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of Madrid’s most eye-catching form of transport, the Teleférico gondola lift. Its unmistakable scent of ozone is reminiscent of the nearby amusement park, itself a little slice of heaven for the children of Madrid and beyond.
A journey on this little aerial bus takes eleven minutes to get there, and eleven to come back, although the return journey can also be done on foot, crossing the Casa de Campo Park through holly oaks and pines to get back to the city.
The gondola lift terminal is located on the Paseo del Pintor Rosales and the closest metro station is Argüelles, on Calle Princesa. There is a modest charm to this area just outside Madrid’s historical centre, little frequented by tourists. Once you find you way here, you are close to the wonderful Temple of Debod, the largest ancient Egyptian temple outside Egypt and a spot that is highly recommended for a visit.
The Moncloa Lighthouse, popularly known as “The Lollipop”, is also within walking distance and offers another bird’s-eye view of the Spanish capital.
The Teleférico’s original cabins were red, back at a time when this colour was considered to be suspicious. They were later painted blue with white numbers, although the interiors are the same as always. Hopping on at either end, whether the Casa de Campo or the Rosales terminal, is a trip back in time, with the creaking and clanking sounds of cable transport from the last century. Here, the giant pulleys, wheels and rivets take us back to the civil engineering of another time.
As the journey begins, a voice, both innocent and enthusiastic, begins to speak: “¡Hola, soy el Teleférico!” in a way that can cause a mild surprise. The same voice goes on to explain what passengers can see to left and right, sometimes correctly and sometimes slightly out of phase.
So what can you see? Almudena Cathedral, the River Manzanares, the buildings of Plaza de España, the Telefónica building on Gran Vía, and, to the north, the four skyscrapers of Castellana. Far away, on a clear day you can make out the snowy peaks of the Guadarrama Mountains. These views are some of the best Madrid can offer.
Why wait until you reach the other end for a snack? If you think ahead, you can take a sandwich and a cold can of something (remember a cool bag for your rucksack). Making a toast to the Madrid skyline is an experience to remember. If you have napkins and cutlery, then even better. And for a little more class, instead of cans, you could open a bottle of bubbly for a proper toast. It is well worth the trouble.
The slight feeling of vertigo that passengers often feel as they slide along forty metres above the ground, is rarely more than a strangely pleasant sensation.
The Casa de Campo Park, below, stands in relation to Madrid much as the Bois de Boulogne does to Paris. In both cases, these green areas are situated just to the west of the two capitals’ centres, and their large areas of biomass help to clear the city air. Here in Madrid, the trees are close enough that the scent of pines enters in through the cabin windows.
If you think ahead and take some binoculars, you can bring the hazy details on the horizon into focus. On some stretches, the Teleférico swings above homes in a way that feels almost as if we are invading the privacy of their inhabitants, who live their lives sometimes just ten metres away from the airborne cabins.
This unusual and little known attraction lets us see Madrid from a perspective that is different from any other, at a price of just five Euros per person. It is important to check the timetable, though, especially for the return journey, since this may change depending on the time of year, or on visibility or weather conditions. Unless you have planned on a walk, being abandoned in this part of Casa de Campo, with just trees and bushes for company, is not everyone’s idea of fun. However, if you want to spend some time in nature, rabbits, and even the odd fox, can be spotted here.
Pokémon hunting, dressing up, playing chess, attending a wedding, having a mini-birthday party (each cabin takes four people) or reciting poetry. You have eleven minutes; make the most of them. And what will Madrid be like in fifty years from now? The answer will be on show from the Teleférico…