AllWorldGuides
AllWorldGuides


w3c
Madrid Travel Guide.
Author: David Mora Diez.

2013 -January

©Copyright: AllWorldGuides.
All Rights Reserved 2015.
145-157 St. John Street, London
EC1V 4PW - United Kingdom info@allworldguides.com
w3c


From Madrid to the heaven, and there find a hole to keep watching it, says a former XVIII century expression that was later turned into the slogan that the capital of Spain scattered to the four winds to attract tourism after the first time that the isolated Franco´s Spain opened its barriers for tourism.

At that time ... and still today .... Barcelona was the benchmark of international tourism in Spain, but recently it seems that Madrid is becoming a well-deserved spot in the plans of millions of tourists thanks to its cultural, culinary and nightlife outstanding offer. In the year 2006 Madrid became the fourth most visited city in Europe and the first in Spain which received more than 3.9 million visitors this year.

Today Madrid has consolidated this level and the city receives about 4 million of tourists a year, which keeps the city in the top 10 of the world ranking.

Madrid is the capital of Spain and as such, a vibrant metropolis where the big business issues are mixed with the daily life of the locals and the hundreds of tourists which every weekend invades the monumental streets of the city.

Madrid is somehow comparable to a small New York at the center of the Iberian Peninsula. Since the 60s Madrid has been welcoming thousands of immigrants who come to the capital from the countryside to make their fortune in "the big city", as in the early twentieth century Irish and Italians did in the “Big Apple”. It should also be noticed that this city is also famous because it never sleeps.

The cultural offer is amazing. Three of the best art galleries in the world are separated by less than a mile away and the splendid architectural heritage of the city allows us to admire the fascinating monuments that Carlos III erected in the capital of his empire, to lost themselves among the narrow labyrinthine alleys that transport us to its most glorious past during the Golden Age, or to walk below the shade of some of the tallest skyscrapers in XXI century Europe.

Despite of all these virtues, what it really makes Madrid famous all around the world is its nightlife and its universal cuisine, present at almost any time of the day and in almost every street.



Basic.
Name
Madrid
Business hours
Liberalized
Population
3.265.000 hab.
Plugs
220v/50Hz B type
Density
5.390 hab./km²
International code
0034
Time zone
GMT+1 (+2 in summer)
Prefix
91
Money
Euro €
Mobile bands
GSM 900/1800, UMTS
Police
112
Ambulance and fire department
112


 Geography and administration.


The administrative area of Madrid covers just 45 km ², a relatively small area compared with other European capitals. This is because the method of construction in Spain during the 60´s, when the demographic expansion of the capital experienced its most significant growth, was based on upward construction instead of widthwise construction.

Despite of the extensive open areas of Madrid, the most part of the space managed by the council is occupied by the city itself. Madrid reaches 6.5 million habitants if we add its metropolitan area, which place the city in the position 51 of the number of inhabitant’s world ranking.

The city is situated in the central area of the Iberian Peninsula, few kilometers from the mountain chain of Guadarrama and from the Cerro de los Angeles, considered the geographical center of Spain.

Madrid is encased in the Tagus river basin and its height above sea level is 667 meters, which makes it one of the highest capitals of Europe.

The land on which it sits is dotted with several hills of varying magnitude produced by the course of the Manzanares River.

The river crosses the city leaving the southwest area of Madrid to his right and the rest, including the city center, to his left. Despite of being a small river with little geographical relevance, the Manzanares has played an important role in the history of Madrid thanks to its close relationship with the city.

madrid guide Distritos de Madrid

The last administrative division of the city took place in 1988 when the political transition was completed by the gradual implementation of the General Urban Plan. This new method combated the social and functional segregation by imposing a more efficient municipal administration.

The city was divided administratively into 21 districts, each one headed by a District Municipal Board whose powers promotes the citizen participation.

The needs that exceed the capacity of the Boards are centralized in the city council of Madrid, which governs and administers the city's municipal taxes and whose representatives are elected every four years by universal suffrage.



 A little bit of history.


Madrid hasn´t been a historically important city until 1561, when Spain was consolidated as a country and the old village was chosen as the capital for the empire. However the land now occupied by the city was chosen as a settlement by many cultures from the prehistory.

As demonstrated by the discovery of many different objects found during excavations along the banks of the Manzanares river, small sedentary groups settled on the current area of Madrid, however, the size of this settlements wasn´t important during the prehistoric or the Roman and Visigoth times.

These anonymous people were nonetheless the ones who named the city. Recent studies indicate that the original name of the main settlement in the area was Matrice, a pre-Islamic word that refers to the waters of the stream that once ran down the Segovia street.

madrid guide Remains of the old Arab wall of Madrid at the foot of the Almudena
Remains of the old Arab wall of Madrid at the foot of the Almudena.

The name of Madrid is not mentioned in any chronicle till the end of the ninth century, when the Umayyad Emirate leaders of al-Andalus erected a fort in the area now occupied by the Royal Place.

The Muslims who occupied this poor strategic area called the Manzanares River al-Magrit, which means water source, and called the village stretched at his feet as Magerit, name which has finally derived to the present name of Madrid.

During the re-conquest of Hispania, the Caliphate of Córdoba Warriors held off Christians until 1085, when Alfonso VI conquered the city for the kingdom of Castile in his advance towards Toledo.

The king ordered the purification of the main mosque and dedicated the site as a new Catholic church under the guidance of the Virgin of Almudena, the patron saint of the city today.

Madrid then becomes an important village strongly linked to the crown and its strategic importance increased due to its close location to the new cattle trails to such an extent that in 1329 Madrid hosted for first time a meeting of the Castilian Court.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the kingdom of Castile faced multiple internal conflicts between the aristocratic class and the Crown which favored the consolidation of a centralized government, stronger and able to destroy the nobility privileges. During this period Madrid became one of the favorite residences of the kings and the Court began to meet there frequently.

Despite the support of the people of Madrid to Pedro I of Castile, who belongs to the Burgundy house, the Castilian rulers, who belonged to the house of Trastámara, still frequented the town thanks to the abundance and quality of their hunting grounds.

Alfonso XI noted down in his hunting book: "Madrid is a good place for pork and bear", and it is probable that from this phrase derived the coat of arms carried by the Madrilenian troops during the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which has became in the official coat of arms of the city.

Enrique VI gave Madrid the title of "Very Noble and Loyal Villa". The king died without a clear inheritance and then unleashed a war of succession. Isabel, sister of the king, was victorious and with her husband Fernando, known as the Catholic kings, conquered the kingdoms of Navarre and Granada and ruled over all the kingdoms of the peninsula.

After Catholic kings Juana la Loca ruled the kingdoms and then Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany, inherited the Spanish Crown in 1516 to eventually unify all peninsular kingdoms in the Kingdom of Spain under the Habsburg lineage.

Felipe II, heir of Carlos I, was the one who finally moved the entire Imperial Court to Madrid in 1561. Since then the quiet town of Madrid would never be the same again. A new enormous fortress was built while the best buildings of the town were assigned to ministries, boards and tribunals and the arrival of thousands of officials, monks and a countless number of rascals increased the city's population to around 25,000 people.

During the early years the former defensive wall was simply overflow and it became necessary to build a new wall, this time lower and cheaper, in fact a simple fence, since there were no more threats to the city than thieves and swindlers who already rampant through its narrow streets.

madrid guide Anonimous picture of the ancient fortress of Madrid
Anonimous picture of the ancient fortress of Madrid.

Felipe II's weak son, Felipe III ruled surrounded by favorites who governed in his name due to its demonstrated inability. The Duke of Lerma, was the virtual ruler. He had many farms and lands in Valladolid and decided to move the Court and almost the entire capital with him to the Castilian city but the Madrid most powerful people reacted and got the king and his Court back to Madrid in 1606.

Felipe III was forced to undertake major reforms in the city to ensure the supremacy of Madrid over Valladolid and Toledo. In 1616 he ordered to build the Plaza Mayor and in 1618 he acquired the Retiro park´s land where beautiful gardens and ornamental fountains were then settled.

Madrid lived the most important cultural revolution till then during the reign of Felipe IV. The Spanish Golden Age filled the streets of Madrid with the presence of literary geniuses like Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo or Lope de Vega, who described the adventures and misadventures of the more representative people of the society of Spain at the time in his works. And most of all, Velázquez painted.

The time of the Habsburgs was over in Spain. Carlos II heir of Felipe IV, suffered such degeneration after the successive intermarriages of the royal family that grew feeble, sickly and short of intelligence, as well as sterile. Madrid barely noticed the 25 year of reign of the spellbound King, as he was known jokingly in the taverns of Madrid.

After the death without issue of Carlos II, the Crown of Spain passed to Philippe d'Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France and great-nephew of the last of the Habsburgs. He was crowned King of Spain in 1700 and his name was changed to the Spanish form as Felipe V de Borbón.

Following the French current which considered the culture and the art as the guarantors of royal grandeur, Felipe V promoted the artistic and cultural development of Spain and founded prestigious cultural organizations in the capital like the Royal Spanish Academy and the Royal Academy of History.

He also expanded and renovated significantly the Palace of Aranjuez and ordered the construction of the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, inspired by the Palace of Versailles, where the nobility found a new place for hunting and recovering from the stress of the capital.

During Christmas 1734 the fortress built by Felipe II was destroyed in a terrible fire in which a huge historical treasure consisting of hundreds of paintings as well as furniture and carpets was also lost. The king Felipe ordered then to build a new palace over the smoldering ruins. It was finished 30 years latter for Carlos III, the next Spanish king immortalized by history as the best mayor ever Madrid has had.

madrid guide Retrato de carlos III
Portrait of Carlos III by Rafael Mengs.

The reign of Carlos III contributed to improve significantly the appearance of the city. The streets were cleaned, stoned and illuminated, a garbage collection service, was established, the streams were channeled and sewers and countless fountains as well as monuments and public buildings were built.

When Carlos III died in 1788, his son Carlos IV acceded to the throne. He was supposedly well qualified and extensive experienced in policy matters but the events that happened in France during the French Revolution quickly discouraged the king.

Due to his lack of vigor, his wife Maria Luisa de Parma and his favorite Manuel Godoy, who was believed to be the queen's lover, were the real governors of the country.

During the Carlos IV reign some notable mansions were built in the streets of Madrid, as the Palacio de Buenavista, now Ministry of the Armed Forces or the Palace of the Dukes of Liria, located in Princesa Street.

The last years of the mandate of the king were quite dark. The Treaty of Fontainebleau, signed in October 1807 between Spain and France, agreed the occupation of Portugal, allied nation of England and therefore an enemy of Napoleon. One of the clauses of the treaty allowed the transit and housing of the French troops in Spanish territory.

When the French armies were installed in the main cities of Spain the occupation of the country was a fact. Napoleon's real plan was to end with the weak and corrupt Borbón monarchy and install a modern satellite government led by his brother Jose Bonaparte, based on the ideals of the Enlightenment.

The situation became untenable for Madrilenians when the 2nd of May, 1808 the French troops prepared to move the princess Maria Luisa and the prince Francisco de Paula to Bayonne from the Palace of Aranjuez. The people who witnessed the scene didn´t bore for longer and the locksmith Jose Blas Molina entered the building. From one of its balconies he shouted: Treason!, They have taken our king and they now want to take all the royal family! Death to the French!.

This proclamation was the trigger for the famous 2nd of May Uprising, when the population of the area upraised against the French troops to prevent the children of Carlos IV were kidnapped. The French repression against the crowd was immediate and the uprising spread throughout Madrid.

The artillery captains Daoíz and Velarde joined the popular uprising and died presenting heroic resistance against the French invaders in the Artillery barracks of Monteleón.

Thus began the so-called War of Spanish Independence, that despite the fanciful stories of famous and intelligent fighters that are told, the sad reality is that the people of Spain, unable to free by himself, defeated Napoleon thanks to the British intervention and the excellent strategic skills of general Wellington.

Spain missed the anti-Catholic and progressive ideas imported from France when the last of the French left Madrid on 27th May, 1813 and the new king Fernando VII, one of the worst kings of the recent history of Spain, entered the city.

In 1835 the prestigious Alcalá de Henares University was moved to Madrid to became the Complutense University of Madrid. The new College of Sciences was added.

madrid guide Death of Daoiz and Velarde
Death of Daoiz and Velarde.

During the reign of Isabel II, the city continued to improve. Many old houses were restored or replaced, such as the ones which forms the Puerta del Sol square and new public buildings such as the House of Representatives or the Teatro de la Zarzuela and infrastructures as the Canal de Isabel II were built.

In the early twentieth century the population of Madrid reached half a million people and began to forge the current cosmopolitan nature of the city thanks to a frenzied economic and urban activity. New venues for public administrations, large markets and the subway system were installed to satisfy the demands of a growing population that walked through the magnificent new Gran Via, where many of the most emblematic buildings of the city as the Fine Arts Building, the Metropolis Building, or the headquarters of Telefónica were being built.

The Civil War brought the destruction to Madrid, but despite that it was one of the cities hardest hit during the war, a huge reconstruction effort accompanied by the strong industry development of the 60s, resurrected the capital from its ashes.

Since then the political transition and the advent of the XXI century accelerated the urban progress of Madrid to the level of one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe, equipped with great services and infrastructure and pleasant both for its lively spirit and its eclectic aspect, combination of the maximum modernity with the most beautiful classicism.



 Weather.


Madrid has a typical continental climate characterized by the large difference between the temperatures of the winter and summer days. Like the general climate of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is quite dry and sunny, which doesn’t mean that it never rains as during the spring and autumn we can always expect some showers on the capital.

The city is situated about 650 meters averaged over sea level, accentuating the extremity of their temperatures. During a hot summer the temperature easily reach 40°C during the days of July and August, while in winter the mercury can drop to 9°C in a sunny December day.

Summer nights are great, the average temperatures are around 18°C, which favors the proliferation of terraces at night in the streets and squares of the city, while in winter the nights can become harsh with frequent records below 0°C, especially during December, January and February, when it snows occasionally.

During spring and autumn the average temperatures reach 17ºC and drops 6 to 8 degrees at night.

The most pleasant time to visit Madrid are the seasons of spring and fall but the heat of late July and August left the city almost deserted, which can be an advantage if we want to avoid crowds.



 Visa.


Spain is an integral member of the European Union since 1986 whereby all EU passport holders are entitled to move freely within Spain and across the European Union as long as they wish.

For all other nationalities, except for Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you must obtain a tourist visa which allow you to stay and transit during a maximum of 90 days in all European countries members of the Schengen Agreement.

Visas are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the embassies and consulates worldwide. Before traveling to Spain it is necessary to obtain the visa in the country of origin (it is recommended to apply at least one month in advance). Do not try to enter Spain without a valid visa, there are no procedures for such cases and the embassy of your country can not do anything, so you will be refused entry.

The tourist must demonstrate that has reasons to return to their country of origin and must present the following documents in the embassy: visa application form (available at the Embassy) , 2 photographs, passport valid for at least 120 days, insurance payment, confirmed flight booking and proof of accommodation.



 Money.


madrid guide billetes de euro

The official currency in Spain since 2000 is the Euro (€), equivalent to 100 cents (c). The coins has various values ranging from 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents and 1 Euro and 2 Euro.

The conventional notes have values of 5 Euros (gray), 10 Euros (brown), 20 Euros (blue) and 50 Euros (yellow). There are also notes of 100, 200 and 500 Euros, but far from being useful for a transaction, it is very difficult to pay in any establishment with them unless it is a large mall and even these facilities are not required to have change enough in their tills.

In addition to the airport and Chamartín Station there are some exchange offices around the Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía and in the Customer Service Office of the Corte Inglés shopping centers located in the city center. We may also change money in the banks, but the fees charged are higher.

Of course there are ATMs for the most popular international network of the world's as Visa or Master Card scattered throughout the city. Also you can use credit and debit cards to pay in the vast majority of shops and restaurants.



 Tourist information.


The tourist information office and Madrid official agency is headed by a semi private non-profit organization known as Madrid Visitors & Convention Bureau (MVCB), which is responsible for providing practical information to support tourist to book vacancies and enjoy cultural activities and visit city.

Its main office is located in the Hall of Columns of the Casa de la Panadería, in the Plaza Mayor, 27 and offers to its visitors all kinds of information, maps, brochures, etc.. It also provides information on tour operators and travel agencies, as well as excursions around the city.

Other similar office is located in the basement of the Plaza de Colón underpass, next to Paseo de Recoletos. Both are open between 9:30 and 20:30 every day.

This two tourism offices are supported by smaller information points located in the main access points to the city.

Barajas Airport has information offices available in the international arrivals area of the T1 and in the lounges 10 and 11 of the disembarkation area of T4. They are open daily between 9:30 and 20:30. The railway stations of Atocha and Chamartín also have two small tourist information points.

Additionally, there are several information kiosks scattered around the city and located in the most tourist spots of the city such as the Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza de Callao and el paseo del arte, next to the National Museum Reina Sofia Art Center.

madrid guide Punto de informacion y turismo

Apart of all this tourist offices provided by the city council, the Community of Madrid has its own one located in the Duque de Medina Street, 2, which provides more detailed information about other tourist destinations around the capital. This one is open from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 15:00.



 



 Madrid Barajas International Airport. MAD.


The Madrid Barajas International Airport is located in the district of Barajas, about 15 kilometers northeast of the city center. It is considered the fourth largest airport in Europe and the eleventh in the world with a traffic of about 50 million passengers per year.

Its four tracks serve nearly 70 airlines from more than 80 countries worldwide that operate regular flights between Madrid and the most part of capitals and major cities across the globe.

To manage such number of flights, the Madrid Barajas International Airport has 192 operational gates spread along its 4 terminal buildings. Car rental offices, hotels, parking and miscellaneous services are distributed around them.

The terminals are interconnected by a free bus service for passengers without boarding pass that connects the terminals T1, T2, T3 and T4, during 24 hours a day.

The bus frequency during the most part of the day is one bus each 5 minutes but it decreases from 23:00 to one bus each 20 minutes and from 1:50 to 6:30 it only passes one bus each 40 minutes.

madrid guide Check-in facilities in the new Barajas T-4.
Check-in facilities in the new Barajas T-4.

The T-4 has a satellite building attached to the main structure by an automatic underground train. It takes about 4 minutes to cover the distance between them and that works whenever flights are scheduled.

Official website of the Madrid Barajas International Airport

    Train.
    The line C-1 commuter rail system connects Madrid Barajas T-4 with Chamartín, Atocha and Príncipe Pío, main railway stations of the city and with Mendez Alvaro, linked to the Southern Bus Station.

    Trains depart from Principe Pío from 6:02 to 23:32, while the last train of the day from the airport leaves it at 22:30. The complete journey takes about 40 minutes and the average frequency is one train every 30 min for both direction.

    Tickets can be purchased from vending machines placed in the lobby of the station and have a cost of 1.55 €.



    Metro.
    Madrid Barajas is conveniently served by metro line 8 to Nuevos Ministerios station, where you can also take most commuter rail system lines of the Community of Madrid, and Metro lines 6 and 10.

    The Metro stations are available on T-4 and T-2 building, from where you can easily walk to T-1 and T-3. The distance between the center of Madrid, for example from Sol station, to the T-4 is covered in just 40 minutes.

    The ticket is not regular. It includes the airport fee and can be purchased at any station on the network for 4.50 € if the distance traveled is 5 or fewer stations and 6 € for the rest of the network. If you do not have the ticket that includes the fee you can anyway reach the airport stations and there pay for the 3 € fee before leaving the station exit and access to airport facilities.

    The system operates from 6:05 to 2:00 on both ends and the average frequency is about 5 minutes.



    Bus and taxi.
    The public transport company of Madrid has recently opened a great shuttle service known as Airport Express. It takes about 40 minutes if traffic level is normal to connects T-1, T-2, and T-4 with O'Donnell, Cibeles and Atocha, where you can connect with the rest of the transport network of Madrid.

    The average frequency is 18 minutes from 6:00 to 23:00 and 35 minutes during the rest of the time. Night services do not stop at Atocha. The cost is 5 €.

    In addition to this dedicated line to the airport, the local bus line 200 links terminals 1,2 and 4 at Avenida de America, where there is a major bus station and an important metro network node with access to Metro lines 4,6,7 and 9.

    Another local line, the 101, connects terminals 1 and 2 with Canillejas, located at the northwest of Madrid, where we can take the Metro line 5.

    Both the 101 and the 200 are urban services and the journeys are full of stops. The fee is 1.50 € and the service run from 6:00 to 23:25.

    As for the taxis in Madrid, they are notorious for their willingness to cheat customers not used to the city and although they are much more comfortable, they hasn´t any advantage over other public transports to reach the city center at rush hour.

    For a normal journey by taxi to the airport from the city center the price will be between 30 and 35 €, including the airport surcharge, while at night the price will increase about 6 €. If no traffic, a taxi reaches Barajas in just 25 minutes.



 Railway.


Madrid has two railway terminal stations for middle and long-haul destinations. Each one of them are located at each end of the Prado-Recoletos-Castellana hub, which crosses the city from north to south. Under the long avenue, two underground tunnels connect both stations by the commuter train system of Madrid.

madrid guide AVE Train in Puerta de Atocha
AVE Train in Puerta de Atocha.

North, the Chamartín Station is connected to line 10 of the metro network and serve as the starting point and destination for regional and intercity trains bound for most major cities and towns located in the Spanish railway network.

In 2007 the station was added to the high-speed trains system and since then the long-haul services changed their itinerary to take advantage of this new branch line, much faster than the conventional (known in Spain as imperial).

The high-speed AVE train from Chamartín reaches Valladolid in just an hour, while the rest of long-haul services from the station links to destinations in the north and east of the peninsula.

The Train-Hotel Lusitania and Francisco de Goya special services cover international routes to Paris-Austerlitz and Lisbon-Santa Apolonia daily.

The other station is the old Atocha station, located at the south of the Paseo del Prado. It have recently been converted into a twenty-first century brand-new high-speed terminal train station for the AVE trains which runs the Madrid-Seville, Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Levante branches faster than 300 Km/h.

Besides the important high-speed lines from Atocha another long-haul services that combine the high-speed branches with the old imperial ones reaches the major southern cities like Albacete, Cadiz, Granada and Algeciras. Northbound trains runs to destinations distributed along the Madrid-Barcelona branch like Huesca and Logroño.

The services are managed by the national Spanish rail transport company, Renfe, which issues the tickets and planned national and international journeys to and from Madrid.

Official website of Renfe



 Bus.


Madrid South Bus Station is the main long-distance bus station in the city. Routes to all major cities and provincial capitals of the country as well as several international destinations in Western and Eastern Europe departs and arrives from there.

The station is located just 600 meters from Atocha Station and is part of Mendez Alvaro Transportation Interchange Complex, which is connected to line 6 of the Metro and C-1, C-5, C-7 and C-10 of the commuter trains of the Madrid region.

Its modern facilities are distributed over two levels: The first, at ground level, contains all the needed services for this type of facility while the second, semi-buried, is equipped with more than 50 docks where more than 80 companies operate the services. The most important bus company is the ALSA.

Official website of ALSA

For the intercity buses Madrid has an excellent system of several Transportation Interchange Complex located in the confluence of the center of Madrid with the seven major radial road corridors through which the intercity bus lines are channelized.

Each one of those Transportation Interchange Complex has several underground levels which distribute the entrances to the Metro system, commuter trains and buses and coaches.

madrid guide Southern Bus Station
Southern Bus Station.

The Avenida de America Transportation Interchange Complex connects the cities and towns located northeast of Madrid and serves some long-haul services to destinations in País Vasco, Aragón, Logroño, Navarra, Castilla y León y Cataluña.

At its deepest ground the complex is connected to Metro lines 4,6,7 and 9, while four urban buses lines links the second floor with the north neighborhoods of the capital.

The Plaza de Castilla Transportation Interchange Complex serves intercity services to northern Madrid and is linked to the Metro lines 1, 9 and 10 and to 25 local bus lines that extend across the capital.

Buses depart from Plaza Elíptica Transportation Interchange Complex to major dormitory towns in southern Madrid. It is linked to the Metro lines 6 and 11 and to 12 local bus lines that extend across the capital.

Principe Pio Transportation Interchange Complex is reserved for the eastbound routes and its docks also provide long haul services to Segovia, Sepulveda and Talavera de la Reina. 16 local bus lines operates from the complex and Metro lines 6, 10 and Ramal Opera-Principe Pío as well as C-1, C-7 and C-10 of the commuter trains of the Madrid region are linked to the station.

Finally the Moncloa Transportation Interchange Complex serves the intercity bus services northbound and westbound and long-distance buses to Valladolid, León and Palencia. It is linked to the Metro lines 3 and 6 and to 20 local bus lines.



 



 Metro.


The Metro de Madrid subway system is considered the sixth largest in the world. Its 12 lines run through 293 kilometers of rails and provide service to 300 stations scattered across the city from north to south and from east to west. It connects radially each one of the 25 districts of the city with the center, encircled by a circular line linked with the most important stations on the network.

madrid guide Nuevos Ministerios Metro station
Nuevos Ministerios Metro station.

The origins of the Madrid subway date back to 1913, when the battered city streets suffered tremendous traffic problems due to the slowness of the carriages and the excessive number of operating trams.

The first line was inaugurated in 1919 by King Alfonso XIII. It had 8 stations and covered the 3.48 km between the Puerta del Sol and Cuatro Caminos.

Unfortunately a very insensitive policy of improvements and extensions has destroyed most of the historical remains of that primitive Metro. The oldest stations has lost their original appearance, designed by architect Antonio Palacios, in the benefit of modern and aseptic facilities more appropriate for the XXI century than for those early romantic first years of the system.

The entire network is characterized by a simple and effective use and is certainly the best means of transport in terms of speed and practicality of Madrid.

Each line is designated by a number and a color and the direction of the platforms is marked with the name of the last station of the served line.

Each station normally has ticket vending machines available in each one of its entries and an information office in the main lobby. The cost of a single ticket is 1.5 € for the first five stations reached. This price is increases by 0.10 € for each new station reached till the tenth, which fare reaches the maximum price of 2 €. The 10 trips tickets costs 12.2 € and it is valid for both the Metro and local city buses.

Last enlargements carried out in 2007 took the Metro system to the closest cities around Madrid so new rates were applied to these networks. The South Metro (line 12), the line 7 (Metro East) and the line 10 (Metro North) extensions require the use of its own ticket at a cost of 1.50 €. You can buy combined tickets for these three extensions and conventional Metro network for 3 €.

To get the airport Metro stations it is necessary to pay a supplement of 3 € which can be paid either at the time of purchasing the ticket and in the lobbies of the airport exit.

Official website of the Madrid Metro.





 Local buses.


The public bus system is managed by the Madrid Municipal Transport Company (EMT), which is responsible for the smooth operation of over 2,000 city buses that run through the 217 daily routes, 171 of which are conventional, 8 are special and 38 are nighttime.

Most EMT buses feature a bright blue color that distinguishes them from other services, but there are still some of the old predecessors painted in red. The fleet consists of modern biodiesel fuel vehicles and mostly of hem feature low-floor, free WiFi and air conditioning, very important during the Madrid hot summers.

The maps of the lines which indicate the stops and schedules can be found printed on the post that marks each stop and there is normally also a large map of the entire network framed on the marquee.

Regular EMT lines circulate daily from 6:00 and 0:00, while during the rest of the night, 37 lines replace the day services.

The night bus network (Búos) consists of 26 service lines, all departing from Plaza de Cibeles and a second network called MetroBúhos, which lines follows the same ways than the 11 Metro lines during weekend and holiday eves.

madrid guide EMT bus
EMT bus.

The cost of a single ticket is 1.50 € and it can only be purchased on the bus, while the ten trips ticket can also be purchased at Metro stations. This Bonometro cost is 12.20 €.

Official website of the EMT.



 Cercanías Madrid.


Renfe railway network has more than 20 stations located throughout the metropolitan area of Madrid and connected to the terminal stations of Atocha and Chamartín. However it is not a means of local transport itself. Its purpose is to link the main towns of the Community of Madrid with the capital city.

madrid guide Cercanías train
Cercanías train.

The historic center of Madrid is crossed by most of the system lines making it very useful for getting in and out Madrid, but as a mean of local transport only the Atocha, Sol, Recoletos and Principe Pío stations are located in tourist areas.

Schedules depend on each line, but all services start about 5:00 to 05:30 and end more or less at midnight.

Similarly, the frequency of trains pass depends on the population of the cities which each line through, being an average waiting time about 3 or 4 minutes for the busiest lines during business hours.

The tariff system is divided into seven concentric zones. Zones 0 and 1 correspond to the boundaries of the city center and the cost of a single ticket is 1.55 €.

Prices are increased depending on the number of zones that are crossed during the journey to the top price of 5.15 €, which is the costs for reaching towns included in zone 7 from the city center.

10 trips tickets, valid for one month from the time of purchase, are availables. The cost has a discount of approximately 40% of the price of a single ticket. The 10 trips ticket for two areas has a cost of 9.45 €.

Each station normally has ticket vending machines available in each one of its entries and an information office in the main lobby.

Cercanías Madrid official website.



 Taxis.


The Madrid taxi fleet remains tirelessly operational 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. The cars are painted in white and has a red diagonal stripe painted on the front doors and a luminous sign of "taxi" attached to the roof of the vehicle. Any other things than this is not a taxi, although much the driver insist.

It is very easy to find them moving through the streets. To stop them we only have to raise the hand to any cab showing the luminous sign in green. Normally there are taxi stops in commercial areas, stations and Transportation Interchange Complex.

Taxis can be the most convenient mean of transport for certain routes, especially at night or on the way to the airport, when carried too many bags, but even though the price of the journey in Madrid is lower than in other European capitals, it cannot be considered economic.

Madrid taxi drivers have certain fame of scammers. Never pay any extra charge for carrying luggage or pets. Closed prices are illegal and all supplements must be clearly indicated on the information panels in the rear windows of the taxi. The driver should always charge according to the price indicated on the meter.

madrid guide Madrid Taxi
Madrid Taxi.

The meter starts increasing the price from the "bajada de bandera", as Spanish calls the start, which cost ranges from 2.15 € during the day to 3.10 € at night. Since then the price will increase depending on the distance traveled, the urban area, the day of the week (higher rates during holidays) and the collection point. The supplement at railway and bus stations is 3 €, while the airport is 5 €. It should be kept in mind that the nightly rate is always higher throughout the day.



 Cableway.


Madrid has since the early 70's an unusual method of transportation for a city of relatively flat terrain: the cable car, which is actually easier to classify as another tourist attraction than a public transport mean itself although it carry people from one place to another.

madrid guide Views of the <i>Plaza de España</i> from the cable car
Views of the Plaza de España from the cable car.

The row of blue retro cabins depart from the motor station located on Paseo del Pintor Rosales street, near Parque del Oeste. It overflies, besides the park itself, Principe Pío station, the chapel of San Antonio de la Florida and the Manzanares before entering the Casa de Campo park to end in Cerro de Garabitas.

The cable car from Madrid covers a total of 2457 meters between Rosales and casa de Campo park. It has 80 cabins for up to five people, each one of this only need 11 minutes to make the journey. It is not too high, the farthest point from the floor is only 40 meters high but it offers unbeatable views of the city.

The cable car operates daily uninterrupted from 12:00. Closing time depends on the weather, but it is around 16:00 in winter and around 20:30 in summer.

The cost of a single ticket is 3.85 € while Return costs 5.60 €.

Official website of the cable car.



 Bicycle.


The center of Madrid is not really prepared for the use of bicycles. In recent years they have begun installing radial bicycle lanes on most of the districts that enclose the historic city center, but despite being very helpful for locals, they don´t have any tourist interest.

However there are two sections that cross the center of Madrid: The Calle Mayor-Alcala hub links Madrid Rio with Retiro park. This one can be very interesting due to the possibilities of the parks located at both ends. The problem is that outside of the bike lane traffic can be quite dangerous and the streets are often crowded permanently.

The second section runs through the Calle Serrano from Retiro Park.

However when used as sport, Madrid has fantastic infrastructure. The Madrid Rio park, the vast and rustic Casa de Campo and especially the Cyclist Ring, whose 64 kilometers of track surrounds all the city, will delight those who can take an afternoon to enjoy pedaling outdoors.



 



Welcome to Madrid, where the day starts later and the night ends later and although it is possible that the European city that never sleeps has calmed down a bit in recent years now that the bars close a little earlier, there is no doubt that the festive atmosphere of Madrid will be present for almost any time of day and in almost all situations.

Sound good? Well there's still more, much more. Madrid is home to some of the largest and most spectacular monuments of the old continent and three of the best, if not the best, museums worldwide.

Madrid remains in perpetual motion, relaxed, yes, but without stopping and of course when time to recover comes, we will face an unparalleled gastronomy worldwide and magnificent sunny gardens where we can lay and settle the best dishes of Spanish cuisine . Life is good.

The squares, gardens and monuments proves the rich history of Madrid, which after becoming the capital of the empire has enjoyed centuries of staying on the top. Madrid was the artistic center of Spain's Golden Age, becoming the living legacy of wealth, culture and imperial glory, which traces are still present in the city districts, in the elegant interior of the royal properties as Royal Palace or in the breathtaking museum collections around the Paseo del Prado.



 Visiting Madrid.


The city of Madrid is a medium sized city and its historic center cannot be considered too large, but it might take a few hours to through it walking from east to west. However its efficient public transportation system extends throughout the city and greatly facilitates travelers the opportunity to visit several attractions located far ones from each other during a day.

Food is one of Madrid´s strengths. It is extremely well and at a very affordable price, it is advisable to allocate some time for recreation in its local dishes, similarly, its main museums: the Thyssen, Prado and Reina Sofia are simply excellent, so despite not being lovers of art, it is really advisable to visit one of them, which works will impress the most skeptical.

Another mandatory attraction of Madrid is its nightlife. From Thursday to Sunday you can party till dawn in the most diverse locals of the capital and if the body still holds, you can have tapas for breakfast after closing the last bar.

Although its size is not that of a megalopolis, Madrid offers a huge variety of activities and things to do, so to know the city in depth we will need at least five or six days. It also worth allocating some day trips to visit Alcalá de Henares, El Escorial or Aranjuez, beautiful and historical sites located around the capital of Spain whose monuments represent the most important moments in the history of the country.



 How to use this guide.


The description of places and monuments of this guide is classified by its location in the historic districts of Madrid.

So firstly the guide describes the points of interest located in the Habsburg Madrid , which corresponds to the area occupied by the city during medieval times, when Madrid became the capital of the Kingdom of Spain. In this section we will go over the medieval distribution of town and the Renaissance and Baroque works from Habsburg times as well as a large variety of monumental buildings which were subsequently introduced by the authorities of the city and the country.

We will continue our tour through the charismatic city center neighborhoods , which more or less have been part of the capital for all periods that Madrid has experienced during its growth, whether located on its outskirts, forming the filthy slums of the Middle Ages, or as nowadays, located in the most cosmopolitan areas of the city.

Then we will describe the area enlarged by the Bourbons monarchs of Spain. Known as the Madrid of the Bourbons , this area is located around the most important current communications hubs of the city, which is indeed the result of the application of the rationalism urban model of the Enlightenment which introduced the arts and sciences in all spheres of life of Madrid between XVII and XIX century.

In the late nineteenth century the city became too small and needed a major expansion which made it able to face the needs of a city about to enter the industrialized twentieth century. The new areas and its most representative architecture is described in the section of Los ensanches de Madrid, the name by which the Carlos Maria de Castro ambitious plan was known.

To conclude we will see the buildings and most spectacular architectural complexes of the XX and XXI centuries Madrid.

The title of each description is accompanied by its address (if it is a monument), the closer station's public transport and the lines that serve them.

On each title there is some icons that represent activities or attractions that can be found on the surrounding area of the described monument.

Each monument or area is described detailing its most important features and historical reviews as well as current fares and schedules. The description of museums includes address, price, schedules and provides access to the official website of each institution.

This guide includes detailed plans of the areas of interest which identifies the monuments and the stations of public transport listed. The connection points between planes are marked and identified by a number and each map is accompanied by a small diagram where you can see an outline of the whole to facilitate orientation.

Monument/historical building.
Nightlife area.
Theater.
Museum.
Green area/park.
Shopping.
Zoo.
Beach.
Trecking.
Hospital.
Restaurant.
Tourist information.
Supermarket.
Sports Area.
Concert Hall.



 The Eclecticism, architectural identity of Madrid.


Despite the importance that Madrid achieved from the sixteenth century, when Felipe II moved the Court to the city, there was never enough money in Madrid for buildings of great architectural works because of the high cost that both Habsburg and Bourbons spent during centuries in expensive wars against the major European nations.

So, always with some exceptions, the Renaissance tiptoed through the capital, while the Baroque didn´t leave more than some small temples whose exaggerated decorations, typical of the architectural style, were placed on facades and interiors in the right amount for not be forgotten.

It was not until the arrival of Carlos III and the Enlightened despotism, when it began to introduce truly monumental buildings in the capital of Spain. However it is not for these beautiful neoclassical architecture works because Madrid shines, but by the architectonical currents which immediately followed like the historicism and the eclecticism, which examples occupy the most emblematic areas of the city with magnificent residential and civilians buildings.

madrid guide Eclecticismo

Spain shine in one's own right during the second half of the nineteenth century, as happens in France, thanks to eclectic architectural constructions of great beauty and quality, separating the two countries with notable differences and uniqueness to the rest of Europe. This is due to the excellent architects who were in Spain during this period supported by the School of Architecture, founded in 1845, who performed a superb artistic production in Madrid at that time of city enlargement.

The eclecticism is the inevitable response of a great new generation of innovative architects to the rigidity of imposed neoclassicism. Its main feature is the exaltation of creativity and freedom in design and composition. Basically there were no limits. The architect could choose the option that best suits the purpose of the work, being able to combine any of the previous and contemporary styles at the same time, without the need to maintain stylistic consistency.

Thanks to the techniques and materials of the new industrial era and especially thanks to the steel and concrete, it became easy to create complex structures mimicking historicist currents of old styles and covered them with ornaments and structures of classical or modernist currents, and Thus, the designs were something totally new.

The eclecticism was massively used in Madrid during the development of the extension plans of Carlos Maria de Castro, so it is in these new neighborhoods where the greater number of works are located. The new Barrio de Salamanca stood out above the rest because it was the place where the bourgeoisie was being installed in the city so there always were money for the construction of magnificent buildings.

The Streets of Serrano and Velázquez, and especially Goya and Alcalá present the best examples of eclectic architecture in residential buildings in Madrid.

To enjoy the best’s eclectic works we should go to Prado-Recoletos-Castellana hub, where large civilian buildings mingle with the sumptuous palaces of the Spanish nobility or to the magnificent Gran Vía, built in the early twentieth century to facilitate the transit through the narrow streets that formed the historic city center.

 



 The Hapsburg Madrid




 Puerta del Sol Square.
 Puerta del Sol
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Train
 Sol
C3. C4. 


The Puerta del Sol square is undoubtedly the perfect starting point to explore Madrid.

It can be considered the absolute center of the capital. Sol is very close to almost all the attractions of historic Madrid and also the surrounding area offers hundreds of bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, cinemas and almost any kind of service you may need.

Its semi-oval plant resembles a rising sun over the horizon line at the south while wide concentric avenues, as beams of light, leave the square to various nearby places of interest such as the Plaza Mayor, the Opera House , Plaza de Cibeles or Callao square, on the Gran Via.

Most of this semipedestrian square is constantly full of casual passersby, many tourists, dozens of beggars masquerading as colorful characters and some street artists seeking the smiles of people while show their musical and representative skills.

madrid guide Real Casa de Correos
Real Casa de Correos.

Amid all this crowd we find several points of interest dominated by the Real Casa de Correos, an emblematic building of the end of the second half of the eighteenth century which after many other functions today serves as headquarters for the Presidency of the Community of Madrid.

One small tower located over the center of the main portico house the famous clock whose bells indicate the New Year arrival for Spain each 31st of December.

At the foot of the building and onto the pavement we found the "0 km", which marks the center of the Spanish road network and serves as a starting point from which all distances are measured for the radial highways in the country.

The center of the square is dominated by a large bronze statue of King Carlos III, installed here in 1994, while at both ends of the square there is another two historical statues:

madrid guide El oso y el madroño
Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree.

To the east, facing the Arenal Street, the Statue of Mariblanca, is back to its original position after 400 years of comings and goings while at the west, in front of the Calle del Carmen, the bear and the strawberry tree represent the most famous symbol of the capital. The bear, which is actually a female bear, symbolizes the fertile soil of Madrid while the tree symbolizes the aristocracy.

The buildings around the square were built in the mid nineteenth century with beautiful uniforms facades which leads to the Calle del Carmen and the Calle Preciados, the commercial heart of the city, where the best known fashion stores show their displays one after another.

Halfway through the Calle del Carmen the austere facade of the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen stand out. The remaining structure is part of the seventeenth century former convent del Carmen Calzado.

Recently, the Puerta del Sol has become the global icon of different movements emerging throughout the world which demand political changes since the May 15th, 2011, when dozens of protesters camped in the square that night. Thousands of people joined them during the following week to peaceful discuss how to create a better world for tomorrow.



 Church of San Ginés.
 Calle Arenal 13
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Train
 Sol
C3. C4. 


The Calle Arenal goes westward from the Puerta del Sol. It is a pedestrianized road full of charm and crowded with people wandering among the cozy cafes and typical pastry of the area.

Very close to the Puerta del Sol, on the left side of the street it is located the church of San Ginés, of which origins nothing is nowadays remaining. Initially the temple was built in the area of Arenal, the old Christian suburb water downspout in times of Muslims, and according to the legend, San Isidro, patron saint of the city, visited it frequently.

A new church was erected in the seventeenth century but the suburb precarious wet grounds that supported the temple made its walls collapse on numerous occasions. Several fires finally ended with the original structure of San Ginés. The remaining tower is the only surviving part of that times.

After a vain reconstruction carried out in the late nineteenth century the building took a renewed neoclassical look, adorned with Plateresque motifs, which didn´t cause good impression to the modest archbishop.

The current appearance of the main facade is due to the last restoration carried out in the temple between 1956 and 1964. The building recovered the appearance it had in the seventeenth century, typical of the Hapsburg Madrid times.

madrid guide Iglesia de San Ginés
Church of San Ginés.

Difficult to visit because it usually remains closed longer than open, the Parish of San Ginés has a large art collection Inside the church, which includes works by Francisco Ricci or El Greco, although it is reduced compared with the present in previous centuries.

It is interestingly noteworthy that Quevedo was baptized and Lope de Vega was married in this church, as we can read in a plate attached to the outside of the temple.



 Huertas, the literary neighborhood.
 
 Metro
 Antón Martín
1. 


The literary neighborhood, or Huertas, as is more commonly known by the locals, runs southeast from the Puerta del Sol and comprises the area delimited by the Carrera de San Jerónimo to the north, the Calle Atocha to the south, Carretas to the west and Paseo del Prado to the east.

This central and lively neighborhood owes its name because it has probably been the place where the largest and most successful writers have coexisted throughout the history of mankind.

Its streets still maintain the old layout of the area and have witnessed the adventures and misfortunes of writers like Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo or Góngora, who once lived in the area. Cervantes specifically dwelt at number eighteen on the Calle Huertas, one of the most bohemian and lively streets in the city.

Today the street has been pedestrianized, which has facilitated the proliferation of hundreds of bars and restaurants.

madrid guide Plaza de santa Ana
Plaza de santa Ana.

The entire surrounding area is known for its nightlife and bars and nightclubs abound along the Calle Huertas, Plaza Santa Ana, the Calle Cruz and parallel streets.

Besides its rich nightlife, Huertas offers the opportunity to enjoy quiet cafes, colorful terraces and fantastic fine dining restaurants or visit a wide and rich variety of cultural shops such as art galleries, antique shops, classical bookstores and music stores, where it is possible to buy fantastic collectables and antiques.

The very center of the neighborhood is the Plaza de Santa Ana, a large square full of terraces and surrounded by many restaurants, cafes and tapas bars, among which there are some of the most typical premises that have been open for longer in Madrid.

In the eastern end of the square there is a statue of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca and in front of him, we can admire the neoclassical facade of the Spanish Theater. Opposite, at the bottom of the square stands the statue of Calderon de la Barca and just behind it, the Grand Hotel Reina Victoria, perhaps one of the most identifiable buildings of Madrid.

This emblematic building has a facade covered by glazed balconies and white art deco modernist touches. It was originally built as a mall, but has served almost from its origins as a luxury hotel. In fact it is well known in the city for being the "bullfighters hotel" as it was the favorite place of those to sleep in Madrid before a bullfight in las Ventas bullring.

Its exclusive top floor lies a terrace known as The Penthouse, which is accessed by a lift and boasts to have a fantastic bird's eye view of all the literary neighborhood, the Retiro Park and part of the Gran Vía.



 Canalejas Square.
 Plaza de Canalejas
 Metro
 Sevilla
2. 


At the northern edge of the Huertas area we find the charming Canalejas Square, located at the confluence of the Carrera de San Jerónimo with the streets Sevilla and Principe.

This round square is dedicated to José Canalejas, former prime minister assassinated by an anarchist in 1912. The beautiful buildings that form the square were built by major banks in the early twentieth century to join the new financial district that was developed at that time in the center of Madrid.

This financial center was known by the name of Golden Triangle and includes the urban area formed by the streets of Alcala, Gran Via and Montera, but quickly spread to neighboring Canalejas Square, Carrera de San Jerónimo and its adjoining roads.

madrid guide Plaza de Canalejas
Meneses Building and Old Banco Hispano Americano Building.

The Plaza de Canalejas architectural complex is impressive and although each building was designed independently and there is a great difference in the decoration, all they feature large vertical façades and modernist ornaments.

Between Sevilla Street and Carrera de San Jerónimo we find the Old Banco Hispano Americano Building, whose design use classic resources as pilasters, half columns, entablatures, pediments and two sculptures flanking the front door which represent the calculation and the economy.

Just in front, the numbers 3 of the square correspond to the former headquarters of Credit Lyonnais bank. This fantastic building is designed in the Navare-highland style and reveals a magnificent penthouse tower in the corner. The numbers 4 of the square is occupied by Meneses building, which is decorated with long classical semicolumns topped by distinguished capitals and on the top floor it features a balustrade topped by a circular temple dome.

madrid guide Palacio de la Sociedad de Seguros La Equitativa
Sociedad de Seguros La Equitativa Palace.

The square connects with the Calle de Alcalá by mean of the Calle Sevilla, where the great granite rock facade of the Sociedad de Seguros La Equitativa Building lies. Built between 1882 and 1891 this palace is considered the first building built in the Golden Triangle.

This original palace was built on a very sharp triangular site which emphasizes its monumentality. The corner has a semicircular chamfer topped by a turret and finished in a shrine adorned with a clock.

Finally, on the opposite side of the Calle Sevilla we can admire the enormous architecture of the BBVA headquarters, a magnificent set of classical order consisting of two buildings connected one each other by a covered rotunda decorated with stained glass murals and giant columns.

Both buildings are beautifully crowned by two monumental chariot in bronze by sculptor Higinio de Basterra.



 The Golden Triangle.
 
 Metro
 Sevilla
2. 


Immediately northeast of Puerta del Sol and limited by the streets of Alcala, Gran Via and Montera, it extends the so-called Golden Triangle, a triangular block plant which brings together a large mix of prominent buildings.

As we have seen before, the construction of most of these monumental buildings responds to the need of the large financial and insurers companies to have a seat in the new business district that was being developed in this area of Madrid between the late nineteenth and early XX.

Located between the number 5 and 11 of the Calle Alcalá the current Treasury is the oldest administrative building in the area. It was originally built to replace the old customs of the city by order of Carlos III.

madrid guide Casino de Madrid
Casino de Madrid.

The works were completed in 1769 under the supervision of Francisco Sabatini, who projected a large building with exterior walls featuring a succession of different orders of windows and pediments as an Italian palazzo.

Then following the Calle Alcalá to the sharper vertex of the triangle, located at the east, we find the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, located since 1774 in a beautiful baroque palace work of the famous architect José Benito de Churriguera. It contains works of Murillo, Pereda, Goya, Zurbarán, Correggio, Rubens, and the only Arcimboldo's in Spain.

Immediately on its right stands the Casino of Madrid, a magnificent example of Madrid's early twentieth century eclecticism, whose facade mix French and Baroque trends and adopted an asymmetric solution to the situation of the main entrance on the left side, which is elegantly crowned by a tower.

The interior is decorated by the best artists and craftsmen of the time. Inside it highlight a sweeping staircase of singular Modernist style and the grand ballroom decorated with modernist neomudejar and neobaroque stained glass.

madrid guide Torre de la Unión y el Fénix Español
La Unión y el Fénix Español tower.

Approaching to the triangle´s corner, next to the church of Calatravas, the number 23 of the Calle Alcala is occupied by La Union y el Fénix Español tower, a mini-skyscraper made of white stone whose functional aspect is inspired by the American constructions of the time .

Between Its two volumes there is an avant-garde sunroom, while the top of the central body is crowned by an enormous phoenix, emblem of the company.

Further down, at number 31, stands the monumental facade of the Industrial Commercial Bank, whose immense viewpoint is embedded after a great triumphal arch raised on giant pilasters and topped by a body of open columns.

At corner we find two of the most emblematic buildings of the capital, the Metropolis Building and Grassy Building, which will be described later.



 Círculo de Bellas Artes Building.
 Calle Alcalá, 42
 Metro
 Sevilla
2. 


In front of the corner of the Calle Alcala and Gran Via, leaving the Plaza de Cibeles behind us, we can admire the monumental facades which overlap one each other along the height of the headquarters of the Círculo de Bellas Artes.

This association was created in 1880 by a group of artists to promote and sell their artwork. His first office was located on the Calle Barquillo, but after several changes of location, finally in 1919 the economic health of the group allowed them to order the construction of a beautiful monumental building. It was commissioned to the architect Antonio Palacios, famous for the recent construction of the Communications Palace, now the seat of the municipality of Madrid.

The design is just fantastic. Palacios proposed a layout as a "miniature city" for the building formed by different bodies, each one featuring their own style and volumes and serving for different purposes.

The facades mix different architectural styles, predominantly classical, and serve as a support for numerous statues and ornamental sets whose creation were handled by the most famous artists of the time.

Inside, the most notable feature is the baroque double-flight stair that climbs through the different floors of the building, structured into three distinct parts according to the uses for which each one was intended.

Basements are reserved for leisure and sport. It includes gym, dance hall, bathhouse, fencing court and even a small rink, plus dependencies for the maintenance, storage and general building services.

At street level, the ground floor contains the lobby which provides access to the exhibition and conferences halls as well as to the great restaurant with excellent views of the Calle Alcalá.

madrid guide Círculo de Bellas Artes
Círculo de Bellas Artes headquarters.

The main floor houses the ballroom, where the carnival is traditionally celebrated and also has a small movie theater that extends to the mezzanine. Then the two penthouses house the library and offices of the institution.

The next balcony storey house the dining room in whose entrance we can admire a small fountain placed in the middle of the entrance hall and whose bottom is visible from the ballroom, one floor below. The next storey is designed to display art exhibition.

Above both, the following plants house different workshops, while the roof, located on the seventh floor offers the opportunity to enjoy some of the best panoramic views of the city, with the Gran Via in front and the Paseo del Prado behind us .

Finally a small two-story tower, reserved for painting workshops, crown the complex at 56 meters high.

The visit of the roof is highly recommended. The cost is just 3 € and it is open Monday to Sunday from 11:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 21:00.



 Gran Vía.
 Gran Vía
 Metro
 Gran Vía
1. 5. 


Portrayed countless times in zarzuelas (Madrilenian operettas), books and movies, Gran Via is surely the most famous avenue in Madrid and of course the heart and soul of the city ... the Broadway of Castile.

It starts at the Calle de Alcalá and crosses the most central neighborhoods of the city until it reaches the Plaza de Callao to finally lead north to the Plaza de España. Hundreds of business spread along its full-length. Shops, hotels, banks, restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters make the Gran Via, Madrid's most commercial street, occupied even for more number of businesses than the major shopping districts of the city.

madrid guide Gran vía
Impressive entrance to the Gran Vía from the Calle de Alcalá.

Its origins date back to the late nineteenth century, when it became necessary to adequately communicate through the center the north and west of the capital, where the boundaries of the city began to extend. Before the Gran Via was built, the chaotic maze of alleys made the journey a very laborious task.

In 1899 the architects Francisco José López Salaberry and Octavio Palacios presented the draft of the project to link Callao Square with the Calle de Alcalá, although due to the strong opposition of the neighbors the works could not begin until 1910.

The project included the absolute devastation of an area of approximately 142,650 m². Many buildings were quickly demolished, included several churches and convents, and many streets disappeared or were transformed.

The works were completed in three phases. The first affected the areas between the Calle de Alcalá and the Calle de la Montera and was completed between 1910 and 1915. The Calle de San Miguel layout was modified but the church of San Jose, located at the beginning of the new avenue, and the Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia were respected. This last temple´s apse was elegantly embedded in a huge triumphal arch, more appropriate to the design and proportions of the Gran Via.

In this first phase the Metropolis Building stands out above all the rest of buildings. Its impressive French-style facade is topped by a beautiful slate dome decorated with golden incrustations and “breaks” into the Calle Alcalá to make room to the Gran Via. Immediately behind it comes the extravagant shape of the Grassy Building, named after the luxury watch shop installed in its commercial premises. Then, on both sides of the avenue rise gloriously eclectic facades of hotels and luxury residences next to the old headquarters of large companies and offices in general.

At the end of this first section, at the top of the slope stands the powerful structure of the Tower of Telefónica, which with almost 80 meters high is considered the first skyscraper built in Europe.

The first draft designs were drawn by the American architect Lewis Weeks, author of the ITT Building in New York, but the final design was performed by Pastor Ignacio Cardenas, who added several ornaments to the facade inspired by the Spanish baroque sculptural forms.

The second section, known as the Boulevard, follow the old layout of the Calle Jacometrezo, between la Red de San Luis and the Plaza de Callao. The works began in 1917 and ended in 1922, although the final delivery didn´t stage until August 20th, 1927.

It was named Avenida de Pi y Margall, in memory of the former president of the First Spanish Republic.

During the construction works it was concluded that the original projected tree-lined boulevard would difficult much the road traffic, so it was finally decided to suppress it.

Twelve blocks of buildings exquisitely designed in French and American style were constructed on this section including several buildings designed by the best architects of the time, among others Salaberry itself.

madrid guide Cara norte del segundo tramo de la Gran Vía
North side of the second section of the Gran Via.

At the end of this second section we find the bustling Plaza de Callao, the heart of the Gran Via, which links with the Puerta del Sol through the shopping street Preciados. Its architecture is truly spectacular, but we will refer to it below in its own section.

Finally the last section leads into the Plaza de España through the old blocks of buildings in the area, which were heavily transformed because unlike with the previous sections, whose route ran along the former streets of San Miguel and Jacometrezo, this one did not have a “street guide" on which to start the works.

The works were carried out between 1925 and 1929, although some of the last buildings completed weren´t available until after the Civil War. In this third section modern buildings were erected, most of them rationalist style, but also the previous eclecticism style was used in some facades.



 Callao Square.
 Plaza de Callao
 Metro
 Callao
3. 5. 


Halfway between the Plaza de Cibeles and the Plaza de España, the Plaza de Callao sections the Gran Via in half and surrounded by tall buildings, it evokes other bustling cities like New York or Tokyo. Its numbers are astonishing for a relatively quiet and compact city as Madrid: its busy intersection is daily pass through by 51,000 vehicles and about 113 million persons throw it each year.

Named in memory of the Battle of Callao, which occurred in Peru in 1866, this crossroads of shopping streets of Madrid represents the transition between the modern metropolis Madrid is today and the authentic and disorderly the capital of Spain was two centuries ago.

madrid guide Plaza de Callao
Plaza de Callao.

As soon as the square was built new businesses began to emerge which attracted more people and this inevitably brought the concentration of businesses dedicated to leisure, especially cinemas and theaters. Since then, the Plaza de Callao has always been associated with cinema. Once ago Its surroundings were home to up to six theaters.

Its atmosphere immediately leads us to the 20s, when the stars of Spanish crowded the cinema halls. In fact most of the surrounding buildings seem to be the product of the imagination of an architect of the 1920s who has imagined a city in the future.

The example that best portrays what Callao meant to the cinema in Madrid is the Callao Cinema Building, built in 1927 and recognizable by its art deco facade in cream and pink colors.

The landmark here is undoubtedly the fantastic Carrión Tower, a superb example of Art Deco avant-garde of the early twentieth century that would the New York Chrysler Building be ashamed of himself, except for its height, of course.

Built in 1933 with its 14 floors crowned by a large neon sign of Schweppes, the building is now undoubtedly one of the best known symbols of the city.

In front, in the opposite side of the Gran Via, the Palace of the Press Building shows a classicist current challenging layout designed as a multifunctional building that at the time of its construction housed a concert hall, a cinema, offices and rental homes.



 Plaza Mayor.
 Mayor square
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Train
 Sol
C3. C4. 


About 250 meters to the east of Puerta del Sol walking along the Calle Mayor and then taking the bustling the Calle Postas we reach the arch Arco de la Sal, which leads into the imposing 129 meters long and 94 meters wide square.

This beautiful arcaded square is completely closed except for the 9 arches that communicate with the surrounding streets. Its internal red facades are built in three floors following an uniform classic scheme by the architect Juan de Villanueva.

Under the portico, supported by pillars of granite, we find dozens of restaurants, bars and philately and numismatics stores.

The Plaza Mayor´s origins date back to the Middle Ages, when it became necessary to expand the city markets. The selected site was the ancient Plaza del Arrabal, where the main market of the town was celebrated outside the city walls. The King Felipe II commissioned the works to the architect Juan de Herrera, author of other important works such as the magnificent palace of El Escorial.

madrid guide Plaza Mayor Casa de la Panadería
House of bakery.

As time passes and after different fires, the Plaza Mayor has been rebuilt and renovated several times until its current appearance, result of the last reconstruction carried out by Juan de Villanueva.

Since its inception the Plaza Mayor became not only in the main market of the city, but also the site of numerous public events such as bullfights, autos de fe or public performances. Nowadays the traditional Christmas market takes place on the square each year during December, a practice that remains in force since 1860.

In the center of the two longer sides of the square stand the most important houses, the House of Carnage and the House of bakery, whose facades are distinguished by two symmetrical towers and intricate arcades.

The House of bakery facade was decorated with images depicting characters from mythology related to the history of Madrid painted by Carlos Franco in 1992 to commemorate the appointment of Madrid as the capital of Europe during this year.

The center of the square is dominated by the bronze equestrian statue of King Felipe III, installed there in 1616 and constructed by the Italian sculptors Giovanni Bologna and Pietro Tacca.

madrid guide Plaza Mayor Arco de Cuchilleros
Arco de Cuchilleros.

To complete the visit of the square we can´t skip the most famous of the nine gates, El Arco de Cuchilleros, located in the southwest corner.

If we get out to Caba San Miguel street we will reach the best place to admire its powerfull structure, which owes its design to the need to bridge the gap that existed between the Caba San Miguel and the Plaza Mayor and also to bear the platform weight on which sits the square.

The most part of the houses forming the arch and its environment retain the originality of the seventeenth century thanks to their thick brick walls, windows with grilles and wrought iron balconies and the businesses concentrated around the Arc include some of the best Castilians taverns and flamenco tablados in Madrid.



 Santa Cruz Palace.
 Plaza de Provincia
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Train
 Sol
C3. C4. 


Very close to the Plaza Mayor, in the Plaza de Provincia, located few steps from the southeast of the Plaza Mayor´s door, we find the Palacio de Santa Cruz, one of the most important palaces of those preserved in the Spanish capital.

Its origins date back to 1629, when King Felipe IV ordered the construction of a new palace to house the offices of the Court in Madrid and the new jail. No effort was spared to achieve such high assignment and its magnificent main portal is the proof of that since it was an element that was barely fit into other public works due to the budgetary constraints of the time.

The design is attributed to Juan Gomez de Mora but the works were completed by Cristobal de Aguilera since the haughty Juan earned the enmity of the works foremen and was quicly relieved of his duties.

The palace consists of two blocks built at different times and linked one each other by a courtyard and two passages.

The main building features rectangular plant and a symmetrical composition facade in which center a magnificent altarpiece-portal is framed by two towers which break the verticality of the facade.

After its function as Court Prison, the Palace of Santa Cruz has served successively as the location for the Palace of Justice, Ministry of Overseas, Department of State and, since 1938, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

madrid guide Palacio de Santa Cruz
Palacio de Santa Cruz.

The current name of the palace is due to its proximity to the Church of la Santa Cruz (the Holy Cross), located at Calle Atocha number 6 on the site which was the unfortunate convent of Santo Tomas, reduced to ashes in a devastating fire.

The present church has a very vertical facade in neo-Gothic style built in brick and white stone, specially brought from the quarries of Colmenar Viejo. The main facade has a great arch topped by a triangular pediment in front of a large rose window and a large clock on it, but the most prominent feature of the building is its huge 80 meters high tower which looks like a Florentine ancient fortress.

For nearly 30 years, until the construction of the Telefónica tower in the Gran Via in 1926, this tower was the highest point of the city.



 San Miguel Market.
 Plaza de San Miguel
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Train
 Sol
C3. C4. 


Next to the northeast outside corner of the Plaza Mayor, the small Plaza de San Miguel spreads out over the space which the former church of San Miguel occupied until it was badly damaged during the fire of 1790 in the Plaza Mayor.

madrid guide Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel.

After several reconstruction attempts it was finally decided to abandon the project leaving the site empty until 1916, when the installation of a small enclosed fish market was approved.

The design was made by Alfonso Dubé, who proposed a modern partly open iron cast structure which support a wooden roof over granite floors where the stalls were housed.

The competition of the new modern malls opened in the area made the market ceases to be sustainable after more than 90 years of service, so to adapt it to the twentieth century, a caring society was established to acquire the building and perform an extensive renovation, furnishing it with new equipment and adding a respectful external glazing wall cover.

In 2009 the market was reopened with 33 stalls intended to reflect the plurality cuisine of Spain and thus turn the market into a culinary cultural center where you can enjoy all kind of the best specialties from the whole country. Besides, varied shops complement the culinary offer such as a cuisine bookstore, a florist shop or a design shop.

It also includes wine and tasting tapas bars and thanks to its extended schedule it is perfect for enjoying its delicacies both day and night.



 Basilica of San Miguel.
 Calle de San Justo, 4
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


As we have already seen in the above description of the Mercado de San Miguel, the San Miguel original church had to be demolished after the fire that destroyed the Plaza Mayor in 1790.

Fortunately, its parishioners did not have to wait long to get back to his holy worship, as the parish was quickly transferred to the neighboring church of Saints Justo and Pastor, recently built in the nearby Calle San Justo.

The main architect of the church of Saints Justo and Pastor, renamed then Basilica of San Miguel, was the Italian Santiago Bonavia, who was brought to Madrid in 1731 by order of Felipe V. Despite being a relatively small building, it is an important example architecturally significant as one of the most relevant temples of the Spanish Baroque.

The facade has a unique convex shape, which is very rare in Spanish temples, and incorporates several sculptures by Roberto Michel and Nicolas Carisana, which represents the martyrdom of the Saints Justo and Pastor, Saints which the church was originally dedicated to. The interior is especially interesting for its dome decorated with frescoes by Bartolomeo Rusca.

madrid guide Basílica de San Miguel
Basílica de San Miguel.

Next to the church we see the simple facades of the Archbishop's Palace, built in the late eighteenth century as the residence of the archbishop and cardinals of the Archdiocese of Madrid.



 Villa Square.
 Plaza de la Villa
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


After a delicious meal at the market of San Miguel we will be ready to assault the most ancient areas of the city, located along the sloping hillside that "hangs" south from the western end of the Calle Mayor to the Manzanares riverbank .

About 80 meters west from the market, the historic Plaza de la Villa spreads out in one of the best preserved areas of the old city which was once the main center of the medieval village.

The square was placed equidistant to the city gates of Guadalajara and la Vega, two of the most important former access gates to the city, and its esplanade is the origin point for three small streets that nowadays still survive from medieval times: the Calle codo, the Calle del Cordón and the Calle de Madrid.

The square current name dates from the fifteenth century, when King Enrique IV of Castile gave Madrid the title of Noble y Leal Villa (noble and loyal village).

madrid guide Plaza de la Villa
Plaza de la Villa.

The western side is dominated by the main building of the square, the Casa de la Villa, seat of city hall until 2007, when it was moved to the Palace of Communications.

Originally conceived as prison for the Villa, the construction of the building was begun in 1644 following the project by the architect Juan Gómez de Mora and was completed in 1696 under the supervision of Teodoro Ardemans and José del Olmo, after the death of the first of them.

Its symmetrical facade built in brick and granite is flanked by two square towers and has two equal main doors. The first provided an entry to the prison, while the second, decorated with the coat arms of the city, was used to access the administrative side of the building.

The Doric colonnade that runs along the Calle Mayor was added in 1789 by Juan de Villanueva.

In the southern end is the Casa de Cisneros, built in Plateresque style in 1537, by order of Benito Jiménez de Cisneros, nephew of Cardinal Cisneros. The facade facing the square was renovated in the early twentieth century, when the Madrid City Council acquired the property and joined it by a passage to the offices of the town hall.

Finally, opposite to the Casa de la Villa stands the oldest civilian Madrid building, the House and Tower of the Lujanes, built during the fifteen century in Gothic-Mudejar style. The complex consists of a stately mansion with a sturdy tower topped by a gabled roof turret and today serves as the headquarters of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.



madrid guide map

 San Isidro el Real Collegiate.
 Calle Toledo, 37
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


Back to the Plaza Mayor and getting out trough Cofreros gate, which leads into the Calle Toledo, we get a great high view of the entire street, in which end the towers of the Collegiate of San Isidro blunt.

The building was built in the seventeenth century by the Jesuits with the money donated by Empress Maria of Austria after her death, in fact, her coat of arms adorns the bars of the main front door of the Collegiate.

The church was built imitating the design of the Church of the Gesu in Rome. The facade is divided by embedded columns into three segments. In the center there is a lattice porch consisting of three large doors and above it stood a shrine containing the statues of San Isidro and his wife, Santa Maria de la Cabeza, and is flanked by two balconies.

On either side of the central segment of the facade there are two towers topped by plain domes which replaces the old roofs that were damaged during the Civil War.

madrid guide Colegiata de San Isidro el Real
Colegiata de San Isidro el Real.

The magnificent ribbed dome over the crossing of the temple is the first one built in Madrid by the use of a plaster vault covering the interior (encomonada). This construction method was introduced by the Jesuit Francisco Bautista and consist of the installation of a false vault supported on a wooden frame covered with plaster under the dome, which, given its lightness, facilitates its support on thin walls.

This technique was quickly applied to other buildings in the seventeenth century Madrid because it was much cheaper than the usual techniques of construction

In 1661 the church was consecrated in honor of San Francisco Javier, but when King Carlos III expelled the Jesuits from Spain in 1767 the worshipped Saint changed to San Isidro, patron saint of the city.

One year later, in 1768, the interior decorations were renovated and a new prebistery and a fantastic altarpiece by Ventura Rodriguez were added so the church was then ready to host the incorrupt body of the saint and his wife.

In 1814, with the restoration of the monarchy in Spain, the Jesuits were reintroduced again in the kingdom and in 1816 the collegiate was returned to them, however in 1885, with the creation of the Diocese of Madrid-Alcala, and during they build the new Almudena Cathedral, the Collegiate began to function as provisional cathedral of Madrid.

At the very beginning of the Civil War in 1936, the temple was burnt and all the interior decoration and the altarpiece of Ventura Rodriguez was destroyed. The dome also collapsed and the structure was seriously damaged.

As expected, the corpse of the saint survived, but it wasn´t a miracle, It was thanks to the bishop, who hid San Isidro inside one of the walls of the church. In May 1939 the saint incorrupt corpse was recovered.

Once the war was over the works of restoration of the temple began under the direction of Javier Barroso, who took the opportunity to complete the towers of the main facade, which never reached the originally height projected in 1620 by Pedro Sanchez.



 La Latina.
 
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


La latina is the ”castizo” (Madrilenian traditional) quintessential neighborhood. In fact it can be said that most of the Hapsburg Madrid is enclosed between its limits, formed today by the intersection of the Calle Mayor and the Calle Bailén, and by the Calle Segovia, Ronda de Segovia, Ronda de Toledo and the Calle Toledo.

The neighborhood layout runs today along the net of narrow streets that once long ago ran along the old path of the water streams and between the crowded medieval squares that still today keep the atmosphere of its popular taverns, which primitively were installed on the ancient walls of the city, nowadays disappeared.

The neighborhood history is almost that of Madrid. Its origin date back from the ancient Arab settlement Mayrit times, whose walls, after passing into the hands of the Crown of Castile, were expanded substantially enclosing what is now the neighborhood of La Latina.

The neighborhood is named after Beatriz Galindo, a fifteenth century Spanish writer known by the nickname of "la latina" due to her mastery of the Spanish language. She lived in the area during the time that she worked for the Queen Isabella as teacher of the Court.

madrid guide San Pedro el Viejo
Church of San Pedro el Viejo.

Despite the age of the neighborhood, the most part of the buildings standing today were built during the nineteenth century, when almost all the non civilian buildings in the area were in a very bad state.

There are still remaining some houses from the seventeenth century, which include the casas de la malicia or uncomfortable partition houses so-called due to his overly compartmentalized interior which helped their owners to avoid the obligation to lodge an official of the king in the half space of the house as prescribed by a new law imposed by Felipe II when the Court arrived to Madrid.

Good examples of these houses are located on the Calle del Toro and the Calle del Conde, but certainly the best of all this casas de la malicia that have come down to us is located at the confluence of the streets the Calle de Mancebos and the Calle Redondilla. This property is also one of the few buildings of the sixteenth century still preserved in Madrid. Its construction can be dated between 1565 and 1590.

From this period it is well worth of note the tall and slender tower of the church of San Pedro el Viejo, built in the XIV century in the confluence of the Calle Costanilla and the Calle Nuncio de San Pedro.

Today's La Latina is a bohemian neighborhood full of charming places to discover and is the preferred scenario for the locals to have tapas.

madrid guide Plaza de la Puerta Cerrada
Confluence of the cavas in the Plaza de la Puerta Cerrada.

The tapas tasting is almost obligatory in La Latina. The best areas to have tapas are concentrated around the neighborhood charming squares where we can enjoy these delicious snacks with a nice cold frothy beer from morning until dawn.

The most popular square is the Plaza de San Andres, which is surrounded by tapas bars and great terraces to enjoy a good wine in the summer under the shade of the exuberant baroque silhouette of the Church of San Andrés, a magnificent temple built in the twelfth century and expanded successively, to which we will refer later.

The rest of the squares are the Plaza de los carros, whose current appearance combines tradition and modernity, the Plaza de la Paja, significant historical site in the neighborhood where we still can see the facade of the Palace of the Vargas, built in the sixteenth century and finally the Plaza de la Cebada, nowadays quite dark and abandoned which was in better times cereal market.

However and despite the abundance of bars located in these squares, the most crowded areas for tapas are the so-called Cavas, two streets originally used as trenches for the wall that, once demolished, began to accommodate numerous inns that have evolved to its present form: the tapas bar, universal symbol of Spain.



 El Rastro.
 
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


Every Sunday between 9:00 and 15:00 it held a colorful tradition of over 400 years old on the surrounding of La Latina: El Rastro, a flea market which “deploys” over 3500 stalls around the the Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores in which is considered the largest outdoor market in Europe.

The products are plentiful and varied, there is everything from furniture and antiques to clothing, footwear, military surplus, leather goods, magazines, toys ... even cookware parts or birds and turtles.

Along the Ribera de Curtidores there is also a large number of antique shops and mountain sports shops that operate daily, while in the vicinity of the Plaza de Cascorro there are countless traditional taverns where the most assiduous to el Rastro have tapas and beers to regain strength and continue their exhausting search of bargains.

Cascorro Square, is located atop the Ribera de Curtidores and is dominated by the statue of Eloy Gonzalo, Spanish hero of the war in Cuba.

Right next to the triangular square, on a small set of stairs where people often stop to rest, stands the building of the Escuela Mayor de Danza (High School of Dance), built on the site of the slaughter that was in the area before.

In fact the market is named after the blood trail left by the carcasses dragged down the street from the slaughterhouses to the tanneries, where the skin of animals was removed and then treated.

madrid guide El Rastro
El Rastro.

To arrange a visit to El Rastro we should consider some tips. If we expect just to have a look or take pictures, there is no problem, but if we intend to buy many things or something very large, the best times are those close to the opening and closing, as the rest of the day there are so many of people buying that it can become a tedious task.

Another thing to consider are the rascals and pickpockets, although lately they are not very numerous in El Rastro, they can ruin your holidays if you do not pay attention on your most important belongings.





 Church of San Andrés.
 Plaza de San Andrés
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


Back in the heart of La Latina, in the Plaza de San Andrés stands the monumental chapel of San Isidro, added during the seventeenth century to the ancient church of San Andrés, whose origins date back to the eleventh century.

madrid guide Portada renacentista de la capilla del Obispo
Renaissance facade of the chapel of the Bishop.

The early church was built in the ancient Moorish quarter and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times until its last collapse, produced during the construction of the newly added chapel of San Isidro. Given the scale of the proposed new chapel, the reconstruction of the church was very modest. In fact, only a simple structure was built to connect the new chapel with the chapel of the Bishop of Madrid, located in the Plaza de la Paja, at the other side of the early church and from where nowadays the entrance to the religious complex is located.

The monumental Complex occupies the entire block bounded by the squares of los Carros, de San Andrés y de la Paja and by the streets of de la Costanilla de San Pedro and Costanilla de san Andrés and presents a great amalgam of architectural styles including the Gothic on the floor of the Church of San Andrés, the Baroque on the chapel of San Isidro and the Renaissance on the facade of the chapel of the Bishop.

Despite its Renaissance facade, the interior of the chapel of Bishop is purely Gothic, dominated by the prodigious altarpiece of the main hall, designed by Francisco de Giralte, disciple of Berruguete.

The added chapel of San Andrés, can be considered one of the best monuments of the city and the main example of fullness Baroque in Madrid. The chapel was designed to safeguard the incorrupt corpse of San Isidro, which were protected in the church of San Andrés and before in the Bishop's Chapel.

The council initially commissioned the project to the great architect Juan Gomez de Mora, who envisioned a separate chapel richly decorated, however the plans would be rejected in favor of those presented by Pedro de la Torre, who proposed a chapel of major proportions that the Church of San Andrés itself.

The first stone was laid in 1643, but works quickly were interrupted by funding problems until seven years later, when Jose Villarreal resumed the project respecting the initial idea but providing significant changes in the distribution of spaces.

The outer structure that we see today has undergone no changes. The sturdy main body is almost built entirely of brick and each corner is reinforced by stone columns crowned by a entablature decorated with stone corbels.

The nave "wraps" the support on which rests a huge octagonal drum decorated with a series of niches that house the statues of the twelve apostles and the four evangelists, separated by large windows. Above, the large dome ends in a stylized lantern.

The interior have unfortunately not come down to us as it were looted and burned during the Civil War and all artistic heritage that rested inside were lost.

However in 1986, after a rigorous research process, it began a painstaking restoration process that has returned the chapel to its former glory.

The marble and stuccoes floors walls and columns were renewed, all wooden foundation were replaced and covered with gold leaf and the vault was plastered and repainted. Nowadays the chapel looks like in 1936 with the exception of all the works of art that were lost in the fires.

madrid guide Capilla de San Isidro
Chapel of San Isidro.


 Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande.
 Gran Vía de San Francisco
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


While a less traveled monument by tourists, the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande is probably the most architecturally significant church in Madrid, important both for its size and due to its artistic value.

It is located at the meeting point between the Calle de Bailen and Gran Via de San Francisco. If we approach from La Latina, down the Carrera de San Francisco, we will see how the majestic dome crowning the building is looking truly great as we approach, until is lost hidden from the view behind the main neoclassical facade distributed in two heights, slightly ahead of the rest of the temple.

madrid guide Basilica de San Francisco el Grande
Basilica of San Francisco el Grande.

The building is particularly remarkable for its magnificent circular dome of 33 meters in diameter, only exceeded in size in the West by two buildings: the Agripa Pantheon and St. Peter's Basilica.

Two towers with 19 bells and six small domes surrounding the base of the main dome over individual chapels complete the upper assembly, which rests on a simple plastered brick structure on granite blocks.

Due to the enormous height of the church, which reaches 58 meters, the structure was built without the use of a drum to support the enormous weight. It causes that the dome looks “hiden” behind the bell towers from the outside.

However its lush interior is an explosion of light and color.

The magnificent interior was finished in late nineteenth century in eclectic style and safeguards an amazing collection of decorative paintings of renowned painters like Goya or Zurbaran.

The church was built by order of King Carlos III in 1760 in the place where, according to legend, San Francisco de Asis, going on pilgrimage to Santiago, stopped in Madrid and built a hut to rest overnight. The work was commissioned Francisco Cabezas and Francesco Sabatini.

On the north side stands the Baroque structure of the Chapel of Santo Cristo de los Dolores, built for the Venerable Third Order of St. Francis, which keeps the exquisite sculpture of Christ of Sorrows, carved in 1664 by the carpenter José Ursularre Echevarría.



 Las Vistillas.
  Plaza Gabriel Miró
 Metro
 La Latina
5. 


Surrounding the rear facades of the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande and over the top of the slopes towards the Manzanares River valley lies a landscaped area so-called las vistillas (views) due to its superb panoramic views of the banks of the Manzanares River and the Casa de Campo park.

The area next to the church is called Parque de la Cornisa (Corniche Park) and extends over a terrace that runs along the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande to meet the neo-Moorish facade of the western facade of the building of the Theological Seminary of Madrid. There, the park merges with the square Plaza de Gabriel Miró, built on the existing embankments along the viaduct of Segovia.

The Plaza de Gabriel Miró is one of the most traditional areas of Madrid. It reaches its climax during the Festival of San Isidro and the Verbena de la Paloma, when a big stage for concerts is installed the square and the pubs around the place take their bars outside to attend the crowd that occupies the area until the early hours of the morning.

To the north of las vistillas, the Viaduct of Segovia saves the deep 23 meters high embankment formed by the old riverbed of San Pedro stream, where now climbs up the Calle Segovia.

The viaduct in its current form is relatively modern whilst still retaining a classic architectural look but its history is much older and interesting.

The first construction plans dates back from the mid-eighteenth century when Juan Bautista Sachetti, one of the architects of the Royal Palace, designed a structure to facilitate the communication between the palace and the south area of the city. This project was never started due to the lack of funds.

After another failed attempt to restart the project by order of José Bonaparte, finally in 1874 the plans were completed under the direction of Eugenio Barrón, who built a wood and iron structure.

The demolition of the church of Santa Maria de Almudena, which was then the oldest church in Madrid, was necessary for the viaduct construction.

madrid guide Terraza en las Vistillas
Terrace on las vistillas.

Eugenio Barrón´s structure remained until 1932, when it was replaced by a new concrete bridge which was completed two years later. This one suffered severe damage during the Spanish Civil War, but it was repaired in 1942.

In late 1970 the viaduct was about to be demolished, however, the final decision was to keep it intact and overhaul it. The result is what we can see today.

Unfortunately Segovia Viaduct has gained some notoriety in recent years as a favorite place for suicide, so in 1998, the city was forced to rise transparent screens on either side of the bridge that limit the easy access to the edges.



madrid guide map



 Almudena Cathedral.
 Calle de Bailén
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


The Almudena Cathedral is a very peculiar case because even though Felipe II appointed Madrid as the country's capital city and ordered to build a cathedral according to the new status of the town, the construction of the temple was constantly postponing due to the strong opposition of the powerful archdiocese of the bigger city of Toledo.

Finally in 1868 the congregation dedicated to the Virgin of la Almudena, patron saint of Madrid, received permission from the Archdiocese for the construction of a new church. In 1879, the Queen Mercedes helped the purchase of a site next to the Royal Palace and on the April 4th, 1883, the King Alfonso XII laid the first stone of the future Almudena Cathedral.

The works were commissioned to Francisco de Cubas, who proposed a massive neo-Gothic church with a Latin cross-shaped layout built on a Romanesque crypt. The crypt was completed in 1911 according to plan, but the construction work progressed slowly and were completely stopped during the Civil War in the 1930s.

madrid guide Catedral de la Almudena
Apse and south facade of the Cathedral de la Almudena.

After the end of the Civil War, the re-start of the works opened a long discussion about the design of Francisco de Cubas. The Gothic style contrasted too much with the neoclassical Royal Palace. In 1944 a new tender was launch for a new design which was won Fernando Chueca Goitia and Carlos Sidro thanks to their brilliant design that covered the neo-Gothic nave by a neoclassical "wrapper".

After several periods of construction inactivity due to lack of funds and although the works continued until 1999, the Almudena was officially declared finished in 1993 when the Pope John Paul II consecrated the new cathedral.

The interior is quite sober except for its colorful stained glass windows. The main altar where the woodcarving of the Virgen de la Almudena is displayed is situated on a sort of mezzanine accessible by side stairs.

Outside, the main facade is oriented towards the Plaza de la Armería and is divided into three orders. The upper contains an image of the Virgen de la Almudena surrounded by four statues representing four saints of Spain: San Isidro Labrador, Santa María de la Cabeza, Santa Teresa and San Fernando Rey.

Below, on the balcony, there are four statues of the four evangelists flanking a window that represents the Virgin de Lis, while in the bottom, two huge supports bear the weight of the coat of arms of the Spanish Royal Family and the Pontifical Shield. There are the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul joining them.

Although the temple is not one of the best monuments, artistically speaking, it well worth a visit only to admire its colossal size, reaching 104 meters long and 76 meters wide. The central dome has a negligible diameter of 20 meters.

The cathedral is open daily from 9:00 to 19:30. It can´t be accessed during the mass, although you can always attend it.



 Royal Palace.
 Plaza de Oriente
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


Located few steps from the Plaza de España and next to the Cathedral de la Almudena, the Spanish Royal Palace is the largest palace in Europe and certainly one of the most impressive in the world.

However, its modest origin dates back from the times of the Muslim occupation of Madrid, when during the ninth century a defensive structure was built. This alcazar was later used as the basis for the old Palace of Madrid construction carried on by the kings of Castile.

On Christmas Eve 1734, the alcazar suffered a terrible fire that wiped out the most part of its structure made so Felipe V decided to replace it with a new building constructed entirely of limestone and granite.

The new palace design was loosely based on the Parisian Palace of Versailles, where the king had spent part of his youth. The works on the new building began in 1738 based on a design by the Italian architect Filippo Juvarra, but significantly modified by his pupil Juan Bautista Sachetti. Francesco Sabatini was responsible for the completion of the building.

madrid guide Palacio Real
North facade of the palace viewed from the Sabatini gardens.

The son of King Felipe V, Carlos III, moved the Court to the palace in 1764 and since then the palace was the principal residence of the Spanish Crown until 1931, when Alfonso XIII went into exile after the Republicans won the election and demanded his resignation.

Nowadays, the Spanish royal family lives in the most modest Zarzuela Palace, a former hunting lodge on the outskirts of Madrid, while the Royal Palace is officially used only for ceremonies and royal receptions.

The mere sight of the Palace already impose but it is inside where you feel even more overwhelmed by the spaces that were designed to suit the powerful kings of imperial Spain.

It has more than 2000 luxuriously decorated rooms that took more than 100 years to be completed, 50 of which can be visited. Spanish marble and stucco covers the walls and floors while mahogany was used for the doors and windows. The ceilings and walls are decorated with important works of art, especially the frescoes of the leading artists of the time like Giaquinto, Tiepolo and Mengs and his Spanish followers Bayeu and Maella.

Visitors enter the palace through the great Plaza de la Armería (Armory Square), which provides access to the Royal Armory. The Armory houses the magnificent collection of weapons and armor belonging to the kings of Spain and other members of the Royal Family since the thirteenth century which is considered one of the most important collections of its kind in the world.

madrid guide Cambio de Guardia
Changing of the guard.

Among the most prominent rooms, the Gala Dining Room is particularly remarkable for its formidable area of almost 400 m2, while the Porcelain Room stores a magnificent collection of porcelain pieces designed and performed in the Royal Factory of Buen Retiro.

The Throne Room has red velvet walls and is decorated with huge mirrors and beautiful frescoes by Tiepolo which covers the vault of the dome and represent the Allegory of the Spanish Monarchy, by personifications of the kingdoms that made up the Spanish empire in the eighteenth century.

Every first Wednesday of the month, at 12:00, it takes place the Solemn Changing of the Guard at the Armory Square for nearly an hour. The visit becomes a journey through time into the days of the kings Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII, when spearmen, halberdiers and other military companies marched. 400 people and 100 horses dressed in the uniform of the time restage the change of the royal guard as it was done at the time.

The palace is surrounded to the east by the Campo del Moro, a large park that rises from the river Manzanares to the Royal Palace and from where we can enjoy the best panoramic view of the palace.

To the northeast, between the Calle de Bailen and the Cuesta de San Vicente, it extend the Sabatini Gardens, a beautiful public park built in neoclassical style in the 30s on the place the stables of the palace were after the proclamation of the Second Republic, whose government ordered the expropriation of some of the assets belonging to the crown.



 Orient square.
 Plaza de Oriente
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


The Plaza de Oriente is located just opposite the Royal Palace and this is why sometimes the palace is also known as "Palace of the Orient".

The square was created during the first half of the nineteenth century but its current appearance is derived from the last remodeling carried out on the late twentieth century. It became an open pedestrian area, very popular nowadays between the tourists who want to relax after visiting the adjacent Royal Palace.

The square is located on the grounds of the former Habsburg Alcazar, whose scarce remains were definitely demolished in 1997 to make room for the construction of an underground car park.

The trees and formal gardens are arranged around the imposing equestrian statue of King Felipe IV. Two rows of statues representing various Romans, Visigoths and Christians rulers of Spain line the gardens. They were intended to be placed on top of the balustrade of the Royal Palace, however, King Carlos III refused, arguing that the statues were too heavy and can fall off the roof.

During his short reign, José Bonaparte (brother of Emperor Napoleon), launched a project to open the east side of the Royal Palace and create a long boulevard that would lead directly to the Plaza de Cibeles in the manner of the great Parisian boulevards.

Several buildings were sadly demolished in the process, including the royal library, two churches and several residential buildings surrounding the area.

madrid guide Plaza de Oriente
Plaza de Oriente.

After the expulsion of the French, the plans for the new avenue were forgotten and the King Fernando VII continued on with the development of the square by adding a magnificent Royal Theatre which was completed during the reign of Isabel II.

The equestrian statue of the King Felipe IV is located in the center. It was created in 1639 by Italian sculptor Pietro Tacca and it is notable for being regarded as the first successful attempt to create a statue of a rearing horse. Stability calculations were carried out by Galileo, who suggested to the sculptor the use of solid bronze to the rear part of the horse, while the rest of the statue remain hollow in order to prevent a fall.

The statue was originally installed in the gardens of the Palacio del Buen Retiro, but in 1843 it was moved to the center of the Plaza de Oriente and placed on a large fountain decorated with statues of lions and allegorical figures.



 Royal Theatre.
 Plaza de Oriente
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


After the failed attempt of José Bonaparte to create a boulevard that led directly to the Plaza de Cibeles from the Royal Palace, Fernando VII planned to build a magnificent opera house to finish off the necessary remodeling of the Plaza de Oriente.

madrid guide Teatro Real
Royal Theatre.

The design was performed by the architect Antonio López Aguado who presented a neoclassical scheme of three floors on a hexagonal plan with a main facade oriented to the Plaza de Oriente, while the opposite, smaller and significantly less important, is located in the Plaza de Isabel II.

There were countless obstacles during the construction works, but finally, the brand new theater was inaugurated in 1850 by a very young Queen Isabel II, who enjoyed that night of "La Favorita" opera by Gaetano Donizetti.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Royal Theatre gained great reputation in Europe as one of the bests opera houses in the old continent, especially after frequent operas by Verdi and Wagner, and musical performances by Igor Stravinsky and the regularity that the ballet used to delight the Madrilenian public.

But not everything was going to be fortune and glory for the building. By 1920 the structure was experiencing some problems and in 1925 the studies found that the building was in danger of collapse due to groundwater seepage. The theater had to close during more than four decades that the restoration work lasted.

After its repair and the last expansion carried out between 1988 and 1997, the theater enjoys today the most advanced facilities mixed with the original classic decoration of the nineteenth century and has regained its rightful place on the world stage with great programs of opera and ballet throughout the season.



 España Square.
 
 Metro
 Plaza de España
3. 10. 


Flanked by the first skyscraper to be built in Madrid, the vast Plaza deEspaña is located northeast of the Sabatini Gardens.

The area, occupied today by this spacious garden areas, were originally a barracks associated to the Royal Palace, which after being demolished left room for a new public square which serves as a link for the new Gran Via and the Calle Princesa.

During the decade of the 50s, when the Spanish economy started to recover from the Civil War and the exterior insulation, the dictator Francisco Franco chose this site to start the construction of a more cosmopolitan Madrid in accordance with that times. To do this, Franco ordered the construction of two new monumental skyscrapers to the Otamendi brothers.

The Spain building was constructed between 1947 and 1953 and is the most elegant of the two skyscrapers. It consists of a central tower flanked by two 25 height wings.

The second skyscraper, the Tower of Madrid, was built in 1957 and at the time of its construction, with a height of 142 meters, it was the highest concrete building of the World. Nicknamed "The Giraffe", it was the tallest building in Madrid until 1989, when the Picasso tower was built in AZCA.

madrid guide Plaza de España
Plaza de España.

Besides these two giants, in the vicinity of the square there are two magnificent examples of the eclecticism style: the Casa Gallardo and the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture in the Asturian Mines Company Building.

Despite the spectacular architecture which surrounds the Plaza de España, its most popular tourist attraction is the Monument to Miguel de Cervantes, author of the famous story of Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza. Behind them, a statue of Miguel de Cervantes himself is watching the panorama above his immortal characters.



 The West Park.
 
 Metro
 Príncipe Pío
6. 10. R. 
 
 Train
 Príncipe Pío
C1. C7. C10. 
 
 Cableway
 Parque del Oeste
 


Just 200 meters from the Plaza de España, the western center of Madrid enjoys the presence of one of the main green lungs of the city: the West Park, installed on the main landfill used by the city in the early twentieth century.

The construction of the park was part of an initiative by Mayor Alberto Aguilera to eliminate the landfill and was originally conceived by landscape designer Cecilio Rodriguez, who reconverted the area in a large English-style garden.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Parque del Oeste was the first witness of the invasion of Madrid, as this was the place chosen by antigovernment forces to attack the capital of the republic. Three machine gun bunkers built during the civil war can still be found at the north end of the park.

madrid guide Templo de Debod
Debod Temple.

After the recovery of the park during the early postwar years, it was expanded occupying the former headquarters of the Mountaña barracks, where was then installed the Rosales Garden, famous for the international roses competition which takes place every spring.

The area at the south of the Rosales Garden is known as the Mountain Park, named after its location on the top of a hill, from which we can obtain extensive views over the Casa de Campo Park.

Nevertheless, most visitors do not climb the hill for its views, they visit it to admire the most famous attraction of the West Park: the Debod Temple, an authentic Egyptian temple transported stone by stone from its original location in Debod and reconstructed in the park during the 70's.

The small temple was a gift from the Egyptian government to recognize the aid given by Spain to save the temples of Nubia, in danger of sinking below the water due to the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1961.

The temple was originally built on the banks of the Nile, in the small town of Debod, and it is about 2200 years old. Its oldest part was built under Pharaoh Ptolemy IV in honor of the gods Amon and Isis.

The temple is open throughout the year and admission is free for all ages, although due to the particular internal structure of the building and for security reasons, only a maximum number of 60 persons are allowed to occupy the halls of the temple at once.



madrid guide map

 Casa de Campo Park.
 Casa de Campo
 Metro
 Casa de Campo
5. 10. 
 
 Cableway
 Casa de Campo
 


The Casa de Campo is the largest public park in the city and of course, its main green lung. It is situated just on the northwestern limits of Madrid and covers an area of 1700 hectares, which makes it five times larger than the famous Central Park in New York.

Its history goes hand in hand with the appointment of Madrid as the capital of Spain. The land was acquired by the Spanish Crown as soon as the Court was established in Madrid, in order to allow the Spanish nobility to enjoy their favorite pastime: hunting.

Over the years, new buildings and structures were introduced for different purposes, some of which have survived until the present. Among then and in order to name a few, the Snake Bridge, a small royal whim designed by Sabatini and built in 1782 over the Meaques stream, the Wall, also built by Sabatini to delineate the boundaries of the reserve, or the Palace of the Vargas, are specially remarkable.

When the Second Republic was proclaimed in 1931, the Casa de Campo was opened to the public for the use and enjoyment of all the locals and was declared no longer part of the royal estate. During the Civil War, the park grounds were the scene of bloody battles, but once the war was finished the reforestation works began and over the years some major sports and cultural facilities has being added to complete what is now the largest green space in the city and possibly in the whole Europe.

madrid guide Snake Bridge
Snake Bridge.

The most notable feature of the park is, of course, its vegetation. It consists of three different ecosystems: oak is the dominant tree species in the area. Some of them are over 100 years old and reach a great height, while the vast pine forests have adapted perfectly to the conditions of the park and help the proliferation of mushrooms of all kinds, which often emerge after the first rains of autumn. Finally, the deciduous forests are composed of several species including poplar, willow or alder.

In terms of fauna, the Casa de Campo is home to nearly 133 species of vertebrates. Birds are the most numerous ones, especially sparrows and finches, but there are also some bluethroat and several types of owls. The list of mammals of the park includes the ubiquitous rabbits, squirrels and even hedgehogs, which can be seen near the coastal scrub overnight.

madrid guide The artificial lake
The artificial lake.

Besides of all its natural attractions, Casa de Campo is mostly a place to practice any kind of sport. There are many sports facilities where you can practice tennis, swimming, football, basketball or volleyball.

Its trails and roads are ideal for running and cycling , while an immense artificial lake serves as the basis for the Madrid canoeing club.

Finally, the park also offers various entertainment options for all ages in its facilities. There is an amusement park in style, located next to the metro station of Batán, where adults and children can enjoy dozens of attractions including up to 6 roller coasters to die of vertigo.

Adjacent to the park, in the Madrid Zoo, there are living about 3,000 animals from all continents, and has a large aquarium and a dolphin tank, while the old fairgrounds includes a major convention center that serves as a venue for concerts.

 



 Downtown neighborhoods




 Chueca.
 
 Metro
 Chueca
5. 


Located in the very center of Madrid, very close to the Gran Via, the Chueca quarter extends across dozens of streets which crosses from east to west the main streets of Fuencarral and Barquillo.

Chueca is a small neighborhood but nonetheless its streets are brimming with life and it is one of the most cosmopolitan places in the city. It is also the center of the gay movement in Madrid and Spain .

Few years ago it was a place to avoid , very few dared to go through here, as it was a drug-related and prostitution neighborhood. From the early 90s the Madrid gay community began to settle in the area, attracted by the irresistible charm of its buildings built around 1900. As the neighborhood evolved, its appearance also changed, embracing many traditional shops to which they would join an important number of services to the gay community as sex shows or saunas and finally all kinds of entertainment and modern restaurants, cafes, bars and night pubs.

The main center of the quarter is the busy Plaza de Chueca, which is named after the composer of operettas Federico Chueca. Besides this square there are also two other lively squares, both quite bit bigger: Plaza del Rey, and Plaza Vázquez de Mella, which are always full of terraces during summer.

madrid guide Plaza de Chueca
Plaza de Chueca.

The area is ideal for walking. Most part of its streets are semi-pedestrian and we will find hundreds of premises, from the most classical taverns, to the most modern and exotic proposals and above all, a fantastic place to live the night thanks to its varied nightlife, both gay and non -gay ambient.

In the western boundary of the district, the Calle Fuencarral has become the benchmark for alternative fashion in the city, and dozens of small independent shops and boutiques are mixed with franchises of all major fashion brands.

In late June , when they celebrate the Gay Pride Festival, the neighborhood reached its apotheosis and the streets of Chueca become a colorful watercolor covered by the rainbow emblem of the the gay community, which decorate almost every quarter balcony.

The best of this festival, which has become a major social event in Madrid , comes when the colorful floats of the different groups leave from the Puerta de Alcala, to cross the Calle Alcalá, Plaza de Cibeles, Gran Via, to finally finish the parade at the Plaza de España, where the organizers reads a manifesto of protest to give support to the group of homosexuals, transsexuals and bisexuals.



 Longoria Palace.
 Calle Fernando VI, 4
 Metro
 Alonso Martínez
4. 5. 10. 


The Modernism style, as understood in Barcelona, Vienna or Paris, never really reached Madrid so given the extraordinary amount of great Catalan modernist architects like Gaudí during the early twentieth century Barcelona, it use to be remarkable, especially for foreigners, that there is not a single example of this style in the Madrid.

The explanation is simple, the modernism was stomping in Barcelona by a series of circumstances: the growth and consolidation of a powerful bourgeoisie who could afford the works, the expansion plan of the city, introduced a little bit later than in Madrid, and especially the incredible genius of Gaudí.

madrid guide Longoria Palace
Longoria Palace.

In contrast, for the Madrilenian conservative bourgeoisie, this architectural style was not widely accepted, in fact, it was considered as something abnormal and very debatable.

Madrid was attached to the eclectic architecture, well established in the capital since the late nineteenth century, which led to a separation from these new artistic and architectural trends that triumphed in Europe. However there was some tolerance which allowed the use of the modernist ornamentation within the eclectic architecture, more as decorative option itself as an architectural style.

We can find examples of this influence in about 200 buildings in Madrid, which shows modernists touches in vain, cornices, railings, balconies or windows.

The only pure example of modernism in Madrid is the Palacio Longoria, built in the quarter of Chueca by Jose Grases Riera in 1902 as a residence for the banker Javier González Longoria.

The voluptuous palace facade, lacking of straight elements, focuses the attention on a circular turret that seems molded by an expert in giants cake decorating. The turret is decorated with daring undulating and vegetable forms that surround and adorn the balconies frames, which seems to be melted, something very characteristic of modernist architecture.

Its first tenants sold the building to the dentist of King Alfonso XIII, who installed the presidency of the Spanish Dental Company and his own residence in the building. Finally, in 1946, the heirs got rid of the property that was acquired four years later by the General Society of Authors, which is currently based in its premises.



 House of Seven Chimneys.
 Plaza del Rey, 1
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


In the eastern area of Chueca, just before getting the Paseo de Recoletos, the Plaza del Rey spreads out around one of the most mysterious buildings in Madrid: the House of Seven Chimneys.

This building, which currently houses the Ministry of Culture, was built in 1577 by architects Antonio Sillero and Juan de Herrera for Fray Pedro de Ledesma, the Secretary of the Board of Indias del Rey.

In 1583 the building was acquired by the Genoese merchant Baltasar Cattaneo, who commissioned to the architect Andrea Lurano the expanding of the structure. These reforms included the construction of the famous seven fireplaces afetr which the Renaissance palace is named.

Once the works were finished, the Genoese sold the building to Dr. Francisco Sandi y Mesa , founder of primogeniture of Colmenares and since then, the building has been owned by the family until the nineteenth century , when it started to work as the headquarters of the Banco de Castilla and finally , in the twentieth century, as the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture.

In the eighteenth century the house was occupied briefly by the Marquis of Squillace, minister of Carlos III, under whose patronage the cross section that transformed the rectangular primitive plan in the current L-shaped was added. During the riot caused by a law enacted by the Marquis prohibiting wear long coat, under which they could hide weapons, and wide-brimmed hat, to show the face always visible, the house was ransacked by a group of hotheads, however this not the worst tragic event the building has witness.

The legends are many and very dramatic, but all agree on the same thing: the house is inhabited by ghosts from long ago. In the Court ofFelipe II they didn´t speak about anything else and all the people claimed to have seen the ghost of a woman wandering among the seven chimneys which crowns the roof of the palace. After touring all the roof, she kneels forward, beats her chest and finally disappears.

One story tells that King Felipe II locked an illegitimate daughter who went crazy in the house, but the most famous story, refers to a king's mistress, who became a nuisance to him when he married his fourth wife. He locked her in the House of Seven Chimneys, but she escaped and threatened to marry an older man to give jealousy to the monarch. When he responded with joy to the wedding invitation, the woman became so mad that she stabbed herself in the heart in the basement.

madrid guide The House of Seven Chimneys
The House of Seven Chimneys.

Interestingly in the nineteenth century, during the reforms that were implemented in the palace premises to accommodate its new role as the headquarters of the Bank of Castile, the workers found the skeleton of a woman in the basement with a dagger in the heart accompanied with some coins from the XVI century.

An alternative to this legend states that a heart broken woman, daughter of a knight of the king's order, killed herself when her husband died in the battle of St. Quentin, and her father buried the body in the basement of the house after hanging himself . Again, when the building was restored in 1960, the skeleton of a man was found buried in the walls of the building.

Another gossip tells that during the Mutiny of Squillace, one of the butlers offered resistance and was killed at the hands of the extremists who stormed the house and since then his spirit wanders occasionally the halls near the front door.

Anyway and regardless of the legends, this is one of the few examples of Renaissance architecture in Madrid that is still standing in the capital, though, who knows, maybe in upcoming renewals another skeleton can be found and the legend could exceed again the artistic value of the palace.



 Royal Hospice of San Fernando.
 Calle Fuencarral, 78
 Metro
 Tribunal
1. 10. 


In Fuencarral Street we find the Royal Hospice of San Fernando, perhaps the most important Spanish Baroque architectural landmark in Madrid, and the masterpiece of its architect: Pedro de Ribera.

Built in 1726, the building was originally used by the Congregation of the Esclavos del Dulcísimo nombre de María as hostel and dining room for the poorest of Madrid so they could spend the coldest winter nights indoors.

madrid guide Real Hospicio de San Fernando
Real Hospicio de San Fernando.

The architecture of the overall structure is quite sober, without complications or adornment, however around the door, as a Baroque folly, the cover is organized like a richly decorated altar.

A Whole repertoire of richly decorated curtains carved over the stone frames rise sinuously around the gate to reach a niche located on the top of the whole, where it hides the sculpture of San Fernando.

It began to be used for exhibitions in the early twentieth century, and finally, from the restoration of 1929, the hospice houses the Museum of History of Madrid, where we can learn how was the everyday life of the locals since 1561, when Madrid was assigned as the capital till today, thanks to a large collection of paintings, sculptures, engravings and other interesting objects.

At the hospice´s back, the Arquitecto Ribera Gardens is the most recent location for the Fountain of Fame, moved here on 1941. This nice work of art is an ornamental fountain commissioned by King Felipe V to improve the water supply of the Anton Martin 's Square area.

Like the Hospice, the fountain is a work of Pedro de Ribera, and like the Hospice´s porch, it also show a design based on the Churrigueresque style, with various ornamental motifs. The statue of Fame, which crowns the whole, was carved by sculptor Juan Bautista.



 Malasaña.
 
 Metro
 Tribunal
1. 10. 


Across the Fuencarral street, Chueca quarter becomes Malasaña district and the sophisticated gay ambient gives way to the bohemian atmosphere of the convoluted streets of this neighborhood whose name honors the embroiderer Manuela Malasaña.

The story of this young embroidery dates back to the French occupation of Madrid, when after the uprising of the 2nd of May, the revolt was quieten down and Manuela Malasaña arrested and shot for carrying a scissors in his hand, which was a dangerous weapon for the French.

However the recent history of the quarter is much more friendly. The neighborhood was the center of the cultural movement that led the profound social changes that necessarily occurred after the death of the dictator Franco and the arrival of democracy in Spain during the 80s.

That punk, transgressor, and quite reveller movement was known as the Movida Madrileña (Madrilenian Scene) and welcomed all expressions of art, hitherto suppressed by the Franco regime .

Out of nowhere dozens of bands appeared, fantastic progressive programs were broadcasted on television and personalities of the current Spanish cultural scene began their careers as Pedro Almodóvar, Nacho Cano or Alaska.

madrid guide Puerta del Cuartel de Monteleón y estatuas de Daoíz y Velarde
Monteleón Barracks Gate and Daoíz and Velarde statues.

The famous photographer Alejandro Castellote sums up the atmosphere of the time when he says that the Movement was especially noisy and quite poor quality for the Spanish, but very strong and full of desire to belong the fuck up to the modernity and stop failing seeing how all trains of the big changes long passed without to stop - 68, the hippie movement, rock, film, etc.

Of all those things, some of the bars of then still remains in the neighborhood and mostly, the nightlife atmosphere that never really disappeared from the streets of this crowded quarter is still the same. The Plaza Dos de Mayo and its surroundings are considered the heart of Malasaña. There are a lot of bars and summer terraces of all kind in the square, a mixture of the more traditional of Madrid and the most bohemian and trendy bars of cosmopolitan century XXI.

Madrid was the origin point of the heroic uprising of the people of Spain against the French invaders on the 2nd of May, 1808, fact of which the square is named. The uprising is commemorated by a monument located in the center of the square which consists in the original arc of the Monteleón Barracks entrance accompanied by the statues of the two officers Daoíz and Velarde, who died presenting heroic resistance to the French invader there.



 San Antonio de los Alemanes Church.
 Calle Puebla, 20
 Metro
 Callao
3. 5. 


Despite the large number of parishes installed in the historic center of Madrid, the Malasaña quarter is not known for having a large number of churches in its streets, however one of them: San Antonio de los Alemanes, has an incredible inner compared with the most part of the temples of the capital.

The origin of this church, located in Puebla Street, dates back to the seventeenth century, when the king Felipe III founded a hospital dedicated to providing shelter to the indigent Portuguese living in Madrid.

madrid guide Espléndidas decoraciones de la cúpula de San Antonio de los Alemanes
Splendid decorations of the dome of San Antonio de los Alemanes.

At this time Portugal belonged to the Spanish crown and many Portuguese arrived to Madrid searching for a job.

In 1624 Felipe IV ordered the construction of the new church of San Antonio de los Portugueses next to the hospital, however, in 1640 Portugal obtained the independence from the Kingdom of Spain and Mariana of Austria, the wife of King Felipe IV, decided to donate the hospital and the church to the Germans who came to Madrid in 1689. Since then, the church is known as San Antonio de los Alemanes (St. Anthony of the Germans).

The church was built by Francisco Seseña, who designed an elliptical temple with typical Baroque features, but very plain and unadorned. The facade, without much merit in its design, is attributed to Juan Gomez de Mora.

But despite of the poor exterior aspect, inside the temple is absolutely amazing. A splendid vaulted nave with no columns or pillars presents a single space, without divisions, completely covered with magnificent frescoes which reaches the ceiling from the floor, creating a luxurious and colorful effect into an architecture that otherwise should look poor and weak.

The feeling, once inside, it is as if we had gotten into a painting. The frescoes were painted mostly by Lucas Jordan and represent some medieval kings of Spain, France, Hungary, Germany and Bohemia, who defended Christianity, some Portuguese saints, allegorical figures, the Virgin and Baby Jesus and of course, San Antonio ( St. Anthony).

The paintings just below the vault represent fictitious architectural elements such as columns, gables, windows, pilasters and moldings, all covered by a profuse baroque ornamentation. Those elements were painted by Carreño de Miranda and Francisco Rizi.

Unfortunately it is difficult to visit the interior of the church, as it is normally only open during the Mass, but the experience well worth an effort.



 Nuestra Señora de Montserrat Church.
 Calle de San Bernardo, 78
 Metro
 Noviciado
2. 


At number 78 of San Bernardo we find the church of Our Lady of Montserrat, considered the most complex and elaborate example of Baroque architecture in Madrid.

The works began in 1668 with the purpose of housing the Benedictine order of monks who were expelled from Catalonia during the Catalonian insurrection against the Crown.

The original design was made by Sebastian Herrera Barnuevo, who designed a large church consisting in three naves separated by arches and Doric pilasters, however for various reasons he never managed to gather the huge resources to continue the works of such an ambitious project and the construction was delayed languidly over the time.

In 1671 the architect died and Gaspar de la Peña, affected by the lack of funding, continued slowly with the works until finally in 1716 Pedro de Ribera was able to give final aspect to the main facade with the addition of the Baroque decoration on doors and windows.

The construction of the towers began in 1729 but despite that it was intended to give the church with two belfries, finally only the one on the right was built. Anyway its uniqueness and personality is enough to provide the church with beauty and harmony.

madrid guide Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Montserrat
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Montserrat.

After the ecclesiastical confiscation of Mendizabal, happened during mid-nineteenth century, the religious order was abolished and the church was confiscated and was run as a prison for women until the early twentieth century, when the temple was returned to the Benedictine monks.

Then, given the lack of interest and money, the works were considered complete and the nave was left without the great dome of the originally projected Herrera´s transept.



 Conde Duque Barracks.
 Calle Conde Duque, 9
 Metro
 Ventura Rodríguez
3. 


Departing from San Bernardo Street eastbound, Malasaña district´s streets changes their character and become much more quiet and orderly. This area of the district is a triangular shape zone bounded by the streets of San Bernardo, Princesa Street and Alberto Aguilera street and it is best known as the Conde Duque district, as it was the area chosen by Felipe V to build the Conde Duque Barracks. This vast military complex was built to house the king's personal guard, composed of a select group of members of the army of 600 soldiers and 400 horses.

madrid guide Patio principal del Cuartel del Conde Duque
Conde Duque barracks main courtyard.

The barracks and quarter´s name comes from the ancient palace which occupied the area, owned by Gaspar de Guzmán, the Count-Duke of Olivares, which after the death of the noble, was abandoned and fell into ruins. Thanks to its proximity to the Royal Palace, the location was perfect to place the new headquarters of these army corp. Its massive structure was designed by architect Pedro de Ribera and the barracks were completed between 1717 and 1730.

Despite of being purely functional design, the barracks includes some decorative elements of the Spanish Baroque style, however, it is its Churriguerresque style main gate, what really draws attention. The gates are surrounded by curtains carved on columns that rise around the door till reach a triangular pediment which crowns the whole under the ledge and where we can admire a huge royal coat of arms.

Inside the barracks there are three large courtyards and a tower that formerly supported an innovative optical telegraph system developed in Spain in the nineteenth century, which communicated Madrid with Irun by light signals.

This tower and several of the upper floors were damaged by fire in 1869, after the closure of the barracks, and then the building began to fall into disrepair due to disuse and little attention paid to its restoration.

Finally, in 1969, the architect Julio Cano Lasso was selected by the city of Madrid to redesign the Cuartel del Conde Duque to convert the barracks into a multipurpose space to house the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art in the city, as well as local offices of government, the historical archives of Madrid, newspaper and video libraries, and various temporary exhibitions.



madrid guide map



 Lavapies.
 Plaza de Lavapiés
 Metro
 Lavapiés
3. 


The Lavapies area covers the entire south of the center of Madrid, from Toledo Street, bordering the whole La Latina neighborhood by the east, to the Atocha street, near the Glorieta de Carlos V, where the Madrid of the Bourbons started to be debeloped.

Lavapies is one of the oldest districts of Madrid. Its origins date back from more than 500 years ago, when the area was occupied by the Jews and their principal place of business was the synagogue, located on the site now occupied by the modest church of San Lorenzo. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the fifteenth century by order of the Catholic Monarchs, most of the Jewish families of Madrid became Catholics in order to maintain their properties. Thus, the Christianization of the district brought new religious exaltation exaggerated names that the streets still keep today as Ave Maria Street, Faith Street, Love of God Street and so on .

Although its real name is the Ambassadors Neighborhood, the name of the quarter interestingly has remained in the Madrilenian subconscious as Lavapies, which comes from the act of purification of washing the feet that were done by the Jews before their prayers.

madrid guide Typical corrala building of mid-nineteenth century
Typical corrala building of mid-nineteenth century.

In the square of Lavapies, today the neighborhood heart, there was a fountain where Jews performed the purification ritual of cleaning their feet before going to the synagogue.

Lavapies is synonymous of castizo (Madrilenian traditional). It is reputed to be the neighborhood of the most Madrilenian of Madrid, in fact during the last decades of the nineteenth century, this area was the place chosen by the writers of the Madrilenian typical operettas known as the zarzuelas to frame their story full of intrigue, adventure and romance.

However, the reality was quite different. Lavapies was indeed a pure misery neighborhood and the people who inhabited the area suffered the worst of the terrible social possible deprivation. They were really poor people, responsible of a lot of children, grew up in that muddy and dusty streets and earned their daily bread by the most varied ways: cigar smuggler, washers, ragpickers or beggars inhabited houses and shacks without water or electricity.

It was then, in the nineteenth century, when the corralas buildings became popular and thousands of poor immigrant families were crowded into these buildings. Those kind of buildings consisted in a three or four storeys high block arranged around a central courtyard. Above the courtyard, some exterior corridors provided access to the houses whose size didn´t exceed the 20 or 40 square meters, and also provided access to the toilets, often shared by hundreds of people.

madrid guide Plaza de Lavapés
Plaza de Lavapiés.

After the Civil War the neighborhood fell into the extreme desolation. To get an idea is enough to say that it still remains a mention of the Spanish Republic on the fountain of Cabestreros Square, in fact the only Spanish Republic mention in any public monument in Madrid after nearly 40 years of Franco's dictatorship.

Another example of the abandonment of the neighborhood are the ruins of the Pious Schools, in the Plaza de Agustín Lara, that despite the enormous energy applied to restore the religious buildings of the city by Franco, it was not until 2002 when the ruins were restored to build a library.

Fortunately for Lavapies, during the decade of the 80s the squatter movement revitalized the tired old population with new blood and gradually Lavapies was becoming fashionable among artists and young people which began a process of renewal that continues today and has currently revalued the area.

Today Lavapies is famous for its bohemian atmosphere. Its squares and streets have resurged and where there was only sadness and dirt before, now new theaters such as the Valle Inclán or exhibition halls as La Casa Encendida flourish. Its population has also changed and the old go-getters have now been replaced by a cosmopolitan and radiance youthful people with lust for life and also, by thousands of immigrants who bring joy to the neighborhood with their exacerbated culture.

The neighborhood is located on an endless slopes landscape. It is settled on a hillside in whose highest point it is located the Tirso de Molina Square, where there is a flower market and some outdoor cafes, while at the bottom, the Plaza de Lavapies and its surroundings, especially Argumosa Street, offer fantastic tapas bars and many Arab origin restaurants and tea shops.



 San Millán y San Cayetano Church.
 Calle Embajadores, 15
 Metro
 Lavapiés
3. 


Despite the neglect suffered by the Lavapies neighborhood, it is in its messy streets where we find one of the most egregious examples of Baroque architecture in Madrid: the church of San Millán y San Cayetano, whose facade survived the burning of convents of July 19, 1936.

The church construction began in 1669 under the direction of architect Marcos Lopez, and it is generally believed that the works were continued by José de Churriguera and Pedro de Ribera, who is buried inside. The church was finally concluded by Francisco de Moradillo in 1761.

The church has a greek cross plant, and in its center it is topped by a large dome supported on a magnificent Byzantine style drum. The interior has three naves and four added chapels each one with its own little dome.

The imposing granite and plaster facade suddenly seems to assault without notice the pedestrians who are “climbing” the narrow Embajadores street. It consists of eight large pillars crowned with capitals which divides the facade vertically, separating the two towers from the central area, where there is three great semicircular arches closed by heavy wrought-iron gates.

madrid guide Iglesia de San Millán y San Cayetano
Iglesia de San Millán y San Cayetano.

Over each one of the arcs there are laboriously ornamented niches, which house the statues of San Cayetano, Our Lady of the Favor, and San Andrés Avelino,carved on limestone by Pedro Alonso de los Rios.

 



 The Madrid of the Bourbons




 Emperor Carlos V Square.
 Plaza del Emperador Carlos V
 Metro
 Atocha Renfe
1. 
 
 Tren
 Atocha-Cercanías
C1. C2. C3. C4. C5. C7. C10. 
 
 Tren
 Puerta de Atocha
Servicios Renfe 


At the turn of the eighteenth century the new Bourbon dynasty arrived to Spain from France. Felipe de Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV, arrived to Madrid in 1701 and with him, all a new French Court looking forward to uproot the old fashions and introduce modernity in the capital of Spain.

madrid guide Estación de Atocha
Atocha Station.

The city's architectural new expansion is particularly visible in the north-south axis of the central-east area of the city, in what today is known as the Prado-Recoletos hub. That long boulevard is specially remarkable by the gradual inclusion of great monumental architecture works, all of them generally very linked to the Baroque style.

At the southern end of the avenue it is located the Square of the Emperor Charles V, whose greatest monument, the impressive Atocha station, was built about two centuries after the Bourbons took over, with the late entry of Spain in the transport era.

The modest original station was destroyed by the fire about 10 years after its construction, nevertheless in 1892 the ruins were replaced by a larger station, with a huge wrought iron dome ready to host the intense smoke from the big steam locomotives chimneys.

The station is huge. The nave extends over 152 meters long and the stiff cover reaches 27 meters high. The main facade faces the south corner of the Emperor Carlos V Square and features a characteristic iron framework topped by two huge griffins.

With the entry of the high speed trains in the Spanish railways panorama, Atocha station was completely renovated between 1985 and 1992 with a new structure designed by Rafael Moneo, where all platforms and tracks were moved, leaving the old station empty and unused.

However, this was not the end to this cathedral of progress. Atocha was completely renovated and converted into an enormous seating area with a large tropical garden inside surrounded by shops and restaurants. It well worth a visit.

Outside, in front of the north facade, we found the cylindrical glass monument commemorating the victims of the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004, when a Muslim terrorist group placed bombs on several trains killing 192 people.

Behind the March 11 monument we can admire the imposing beautiful facade of the Ministry of Agriculture, one of the most magnificent examples of the typical eclectic architecture of the late nineteenth century in Madrid.

Its most interesting feature is the enormous front loggia, whose entrance is flanked by two caryatids that symbolize trade and industry.

Over the entrance, the balcony is composed of front huge columns topped by a pediment with a large beautiful central coat of arms and three large bronze sculptures crowning the building.

On the left flank of the building we can take Calle Claudio Moyano, better known as the Cuesta de Moyano, and famous for its thirty stands where all kinds of new and second hand books are sold from 1925.

madrid guide Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Agriculture.

On the opposite side of the square, now overrun by traffic, it highlights the sober neoclassical facade of the Reina Sofia museum, about which we will go into detail in the museum section of this guide.



 Paseo del Prado.
 Paseo del Prado
 Metro
 Atocha Renfe
1. 
 
 Tren
 Atocha-Cercanías
C1. C2. C3. C4. C5. C7. C10. 
 
 Tren
 Puerta de Atocha
Servicios Renfe 


The Paseo del Prado is one of the major communication routes in downtown Madrid. With four lanes in each direction, it goes north to south from the Cibeles Square to the Emperor Carlos V Square, and is constantly accompanied by a tree-lined boulevard to go for a walk, while a wide tunnel communicates the Chamartin and Atocha stations by train under the ground.

madrid guide Caixa Forum
Caixa Forum.

The Old Paseo del Prado was originally built by order of Felipe II, who wanted to bring the Church of San Jerónimo el Real, new monarchy religious center, closer to the city center of Madrid at the time when the Royal Court was just installed.

Despite of being one of the most popular gardens in the city, the Old Prado gradually fell into disuse and its appearance was deteriorated so it finally lose its function as a place dedicated to leisure, until the reign of Carlos III, when a new urban reform was proposed for the boulevard, that still then remained outside of the city limits.

This new reform, known as the Salon del Prado, planned to become the old grove of trees along which the Valnegral stream run in a new colorful promenade with heavily wooded gardens and beautiful ornamental water fountains.

In the closest area where it is currently located the Atocha station was installed the Botanical Garden, surrounded by an elegant fence open at its center by a simple granite classic gate which is not open nowadays. Instead, next to the Prado Museum, there is an elegant doorway featuring four Doric columns that provides access to the splendid collection of nearly 30,000 plants and 1,500 trees from five continents that are exposed in the garden.

Facing the Botanical Garden´s classic gate, across the boulevard stands the building of the cultural institution Caixa Forum, an old power plant that seems to levitate above an almost open public square, whose garden extends vertically along the only facade attached.

This building preserves its old industrial image but it now has a new crude metal cube structure added to the top and to the bottom where it a futuristic access to the square is embedded.

Back to the other side of the street, just northward of the Botanical Garden, it stands the most important building on the Boulevard: The Prado Museum, which has an impressive collection of nearly 9,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects and it is considered one of the best art galleries in the whole world.

The building was originally planned as a natural history museum by Carlos III. The design was made by Juan de Villanueva, who planned a neoclassical structure consisting of a central body ended on an strong apse and crossed by a long central gallery lit by natural light and terminated at both ends by a cube-shaped space.

In 1807 Napoleon's troops invaded Spain so the works in the museum were paralyzed for several years. After the end of the war, the new king Fernando VII pushed for the completion of what thereafter was going to be the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture.

In the early twentieth century the huge collection of artworks stored far exceeded the available space and it became necessary a further enlargement of the whole estructure.

madrid guide Museo del Prado
Prado Museum.

The first reforms were made in 1918 but again became insufficient so during the 60s and 70s new rooms were added, but there were still no space enought for the growing collection.

The space into the original building was then impossible to expand so two additional buildings were added to the museum assets: the Cason del Buen Retiro and the Palacio de Villahermosa, providing enough space to show the whole amazing collection of the Prado Museum.

Needleless to say that the museum owns the best collection of Spanish art in the world, which includes the best works by El Greco, Velázquez, Goya and Murillo. It is also remarkable for an excellent collection of works by the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, as well as a wide range of Italian masterpieces.



 Los Jeronimos Church.
 Calle Ruiz de Alarcón
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Behind the Prado Museum, in the area where once there was the Buen Retiro Palace, we can see virtually the only major remnant of Gothic architecture in Madrid: the Church of San Jeronimo el Real, or Los Jerónimos, as is more commonly known by the locals.

The temple that can be seen today is what remains of the monastery of San Jeronimo el Real, founded in Madrid in 1503 during the reign of Isabel I. It was originally built in a style known as Elizabethan Gothic, but throughout its history a significant number of addictions and modifications has been done on the structure, so that now displays a mixture of architectural styles.

madrid guide Los Jeronimos Church and Moneo´s Cube
Los Jeronimos Church and Moneo´s Cube.

Once Madrid was designated as the capital of the kingdom, the King Felipe II ordered to extend the church with a royal hall, from where the king could attend the mass. So from 1528 to 1833, the monastery acquired the rank of "royal" being the site of the investiture of the Prince of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne.

The Renaissance cloister, originally built in the sixteenth century was a century later replaced by a new Baroque one, work of Fray Lorenzo de San Nicolás. This is the cloister that has come down to our times and that has recently been added to the collection of the Prado Museum. In 2007, the battered remains of the whole cloister were dismantled and removed stone by stone to be incorporated into a new space, known as the Moneo´s Cube, which is connected through an underground corridor to the Prado Museum. Now the cloister is embedded in the structure of the Cube.

In 1808 the French invaded Spain and expelled the monks in order to use the monastery as the French artillery headquarters in Madrid, fact which badly damaged the artistic heritage of the temple forever.

During the nineteenth century Los Jeronimos was subjected to two periods of restoration. During the first, in 1859, two French style belfries were added while in 1879, the facades were renovated and all the ruins of the monastery were removed. The staircase leading to the impressive entrance was built in 1906 on the occasion of the wedding of King Alfonso XIII.



 Canovas del Castillo Square.
 Plaza de Cánovas del Castillo
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


A few steps north of the Prado Museum, we get the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, located at the confluence of the Carrera de San Jerónimo, Calle de Cervantes, Paseo del Prado and Calle de Felipe IV. In the center of the heavily overrun by traffic square it stands the famous Neptune Fountain. In fact, in Madrid few know the real name of the square as it is more commonly known as the Plaza de Neptuno.

The great fountain represents Neptune, the roman god of the sea, carrying his typical trident in one hand and a coiled serpent in the other, standing on a shell-shaped chariot pulled by sea horses and surrounded by dolphins and seals. The fountain was originally installed as the culmination to the Salón del Prado reform ordered by Carlos III. Along with Neptune Fountain, another two fountains based on roman gods that included the Cibeles and Apollo were erected with the intention of beautifying the area.

The design was held by Ventura Rodriguez and was sculpted in white marble by Juan Pascual de Mena in 1784. As it also happened with the Cibeles fountain, the fountain was forced to move to the place we can admire it today during the late nineteenth century redevelopment of the Paseo del Prado. And also as its female counterpart it is the place chosen by football supporters to celebrate the victories of their team, in this case the Atletico de Madrid.

madrid guide Fuente de Neptuno
Neptune Fountain.

The current location for the fountain is certainly a special place in Madrid. The square is surrounded by the Prado Museum, one of the best art galleries in the world, and by the Villahermosa Palace, the headquarters of the amazing Thyssen Museum. In the square, we can also have a look to the fabulous facades of the luxurious Hotel Ritz and Hotel Palace, considered the main centers of the Spanish high society for a long time... and if we can afford it, we can of course have a luxury meal on its exclusives restaurants.



 Palace of the Parliament.
 Plaza de las Cortes
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Barely 150 meters north of the Neptuno Square following the Carrera de San Jerónimo street we find the Palace of the Parliament, the seat of the Congress of Deputies, which works as the lower house in the current Spanish government system.

In short, this organization's history dates back to the eleventh century when the Parliament was created as an assembly of advisers of the church and the nobility who advised the Castilian king. In the nineteenth century the courts became a modern and independent parliament, and in 1812 it created the first Spanish Constitution. The current system was agreed in 1978 after the death of the dictator Franco and consists of the lower house and an upper house, the Senate, which is seated in the Senate Building, near Plaza de España.

The Palace of the Parliament was built between 1843 and 1850 on the site formerly occupied by the Convent of the Holy Spirit, destroyed by fire in 1823.

madrid guide Palacio de las Cortes
Palace of the Parliament.

The project of the construction was led by the architect Narciso Pascual Colomer, who proposed an imposing building with a neoclassical facade facing a new wide triangular square called Plaza de las Cortes.

The main entrance is framed under a large porch topped with an enormous pediment decorated with a series of allegorical statues representing Spain and its constitution along with the virtues of justice, courage, strength, harmony, science, arts, trade, agriculture, abundance and peace as well as the main Spanish rivers.

Both sides of the access stairway are flanked by two bronze lions forged in 1866 with the cannons captured to the enemy during the 1860 War of Africa. The lions were baptized as Daoíz and Velarde in honor of the two insurgents captains killed during the uprising of May 2.

The interior is dominated by a large semicircular auditorium known as "the Chamber", whose vault is beautifully decorated with a painting by Carlos Luis de Ribera which represents several Spanish historical figures, including Christopher Columbus, Velazquez, El Cid, Cervantes, or the queen Isabel II.

It should be noted as a curiosity that some bullet holes in the ceiling are still visible from the failed coup of 1981, when several officers of the right wing of the army led by Colonel Tejero occupied the building and kidnapped all deputies.

In 1990 an additional building was built next to the historic building of the Palace of the Parliament. The new wing, designed by Rubert de Ventos, Clos Oriol and Josep Parcerisa features a modern design based on a series of curved glass and natural stone, in sharp contrast to the neoclassical architecture of its old neighbor.

It is possible to visit the building on the 7th and 8th of December when the palace is open to commemorate the adoption of the last Spanish constitution.



 Loyalty Square.
 Plaza de la Lealtad
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Back in the Paseo del Prado, and again on the eastern sidewalk, once we left the Neptune fountain behind us we can take a little break in the small but peaceful Loyalty Square, whose turbulent history started when many of the revolted locals against the French were shot here.

After the Peninsular War, the place was named as Loyalty Field and it was chosen for its symbolism to erect the obelisk to commemorate all the anonymous fighters killed in Madrid during the 2nd of May 1808 uprising. Later, in 1985, the monument was restored and reopened to commemorate all the unknown soldiers fallen for Spain and a flame that burns continuously was added.

On the west side of the obelisk´s base there is a sarcophagus which is said to contain the ashes of the locals executed on the 3th May. Higher up, in the upper segment of the base there is a medallion embedded with the portraits in bas-relief of the heroes Luis Daoíz and Pedro Velarde. Over the portraits we can observe an ornamental set of allegorical statues representing the Constance, the Value, the Virtue and the Patriotism.

Around obelisk lies a small garden surrounded by beautiful trees, among which there is a centenary Strawberry Tree, symbol of the city of Madrid.

Behind the little park, where before there was a theater, today we can admire the fantastic eclectic facade of the Palace of the Bourse of Madrid, although mostly of the building features a neoclassical design.

madrid guide Obelisco del Dos de Mayo
2nd May Obelisk.

The architect, Enrique María Repullés y Vargas, was the son of a broker-dealer and therefore was well familiar with the atmosphere that reigned in the stock exchange and the architectural requirements to host the trading activity. The design of this new "temple of the economy" was based on the building of the Vienna Stock Exchange and it features a large diaphanous nave reserved for the trading which is lit by natural light thanks to a wide surface of the roof which was covered with glass.

The precise clock machinery instrument for the proper functioning of the institution was imported from Strasbourg.

The institution offers tours every Thursday at 12:00 noon for all those people who want to come to know the intricacies of the Spanish economy engine.



 Cibeles Square.
 Plaza de Cibeles
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


The last section of Paseo del Prado runs to the junction with Calle de Alcalá and the starting point of the Gran Via. In this important crossroads stands another icon of Madrid: the Cibeles Fountain, which represents the Greek goddess of the fertility and nature, holding a scepter and a key on her hands, and standing on a chariot pulled by two lions.

The assembly was designed by Ventura Rodriguez and sculpted in 1782 by Francisco Gutierrez and Roberto Michel. Originally it was located in front of the Prado Museum and next to the Neptune Fountain, but in the late nineteenth century the redevelopment of Paseo del Prado forced to move it to where it can be admired nowadays.

madrid guide Plaza de Cibeles
The "Cibeles" in front of the facade of the City Hall.

The famous statue is the place chosen by the Real Madrid´s supporters to celebrate the big victories of the team so every time the football club plays a final, the authorities strive to "shield" the statue to avoid any damage as occurred in the past when an enthusiast fan broke the right hand of the goddess.

In the square, the surroundings of the statue are stunning. In each one of the four corners it stands a great looking monumental building.

In the south-east corner, the Communications Palace dominates the whole square with its gleaming white slender facade which combine the Gothic, neoclassical and neo-Baroque elements.

Each exterior wall of the building is richly decorated with engravings and pilasters, while long pinnacles adorn the top of the towers, the tallest of which, reaches a height of almost 40 meters.

The origins of the Palace dates from 1907, when the national postal company needed a modern distribution center for post, telegraph and telephone lines, but after the passage of the years the building lost all its function until 2007, when the City Hall of Madrid move its offices from Plaza de la Villa into this iconic building.

On the opposite sidewalk of the Alcala Street we find the Linares Palace , an impressive three-story architectural gem carved on eclectic style, by mixing various very luxurious styles, as the Baroque, Rococo, and the Louis XV style.

It was built in 1877 by order of the Marquises of Linares, but they only lived in this majestic palace for 11 years. Later it was inherited by a goddaughter and after passing through various companies it was finally closed and abandoned until 1992, when a consortium of the Spanish-American Cooperation Institute and the City Hall acquired it to house the House of America, an international organization that promotes the political, economic and cultural relationships with Latin America.

On the next corner, the Buenavista Palace, built in 1777, houses the headquarters of the Spanish army, and again on the opposite side of Calle Alcalá, in the south -west corner of the square, it stands the Bank of Spain, located in a large building whose construction began in 1884 .

This impressive building was built with the intention of providing a headquarter to the National Bank of Spain according with the importance of its functions so its appearance should reflect the power and ensure the continued existence of the institution.

Several buildings were demolished for the bank construction and finally the first stone was laid in 1884 by the king Alfonso XII. The opening ceremony was conducted by his son Alfonso XIII, accompanied by his mother, the Queen Maria Cristina on the 3th March 1891.

In 1927 the facade of the Calle de Alcalá was expanded, although the most recent renovation was carried out in 2006, when the final closing of the block was completed under the direction of Rafael Moneo.

Currently the building has an area of 4726 meters square with 4 underground floors, the main floor and another four floors above the ground level. The stunning facades are covered by a dazzling decorative eclectic repertoire. The strength of the sockets and ground floors increases the solid impression that corresponds to the hosted institution.

madrid guide Banco de España
Bank of Spain Building.

In addition to the impressive display of architecture of the Plaza de Cibeles, it is one of the main urban transport hub in Madrid because in addiction of the Bank of Spain subway station, the roundabout is the stop of a large number of bus lines and serves as origin for all city night lines.



 Alcala Gate.
 Plaza de la Independencia
 Metro
 Retiro
2. 


One of the most representative icons of Madrid is undoubtedly the well-known Alcala Gate. As so many of these doors, it was the entrance to the city and the mark of its boundaries.

The Alcala Gate stood at the northeastern limit of the Felipe IV´s fence, which surrounded the whole city and whose construction was more motivated by fiscal and surveillance issues than as a defensive wall. The only remains of the fence has come down to us can be seen in the Ronda de Segovia street.

madrid guide Puerta de Alcala
Alcala Gate.

Originally the gate was a modest sixteenth century Baroque structure, but according to the legend, when Carlos III through it at his first arrival at Madrid on December 9th, 1759, he was very disappointed by the poor appearance of the gate so he decided to tear it down and build a new project which formed part of its plans to improve the city.

The design was led by the prolific Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, who envisioned a large structure of gray granite and white limestone in neoclassical style, with three main arches and two small rectangular passageways on each side.

In spite of the neoclassical style of the structure, the decorations looks more Baroque and includes columns and pilasters with Ionic capitals and flags, and trophies, as well as the heads of lions, cornucopias and garlands.

Once the last remnants of the fence and the walls of Madrid were totally demolished in the nineteenth century, the Alcala Gate was moved stone by stone from its original location, near the present Palace of Sports, so what it was the external border of the city became to an attraction which today appears inserted almost in the center of the city.

If you look closely, the front of the door still has the impact of various projectiles that reached the monument during the operation of the Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis in support of Fernando VII in 1823. These little holes have been carefully respected throughout the successive restorations of the gate.



 Retiro Park.
 Calle de Alfonso XII
 Metro
 Retiro
2. 


The masterpiece of the Bourbon reforms in Madrid is undoubtedly the magnificent Parque del Buen Retiro, an enormous green lung in the today´s capital center and playground for the thousands of tourists and locals who visit it daily.

However, its origins are very far from the popular perspective of the nowadays park. Actually the Retiro Park was created as the huge garden of Real Sitio del Buen Retiro Palace, an impressive complex built in 1632 by order of King Felipe IV as a refuge for the royal family next to Madrid´s boundaries.

Sadly there only has remained few vestiges of that great Palace because during the Napoleonic occupation of Madrid, the French troops used the buildings as barracks and arsenal. That use deteriorated seriously the buildings that anyway lacked of the sufficient strength to last over time from the moment of its construction given the urgency of the design and construction of the palace.

When the Queen Isabel II tried to undertake the palace restoration, it made clear that it was impossible to do anything else than to demolish almost all of the structures of the buildings.

madrid guide Casón del Buen Retiro
Casón del Buen Retiro.

The surviving parts of the palace are located outside the current park. The Hall of Kingdoms was the main hall for receptions and royal celebrations and today their facades can be seen from Calle Mendez Nunez, while the Cason del Buen Retiro is located opposite to the main gate of the park and served as a ballroom. Both buildings are now part of the Prado Museum.

The main attraction of the park, skipping its beautiful groves, gardens and meadows, is the huge pond that is situated roughly in the center of the park and where we can relax and sail peacefully in one of the paddle boats available for rent the pier .

The east side of the pond is dominated by a large monument to King Alfonso XII. It was erected in 1922 by order of the king's mother, and consists of a semicircular colonnade with an equestrian statue of the king in the front.

Southward there is another lake, much smaller, on whose banks it is situated the beautiful Crystal Palace. It was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco who was inspired by the great glass palaces that were built at that time in London and Paris. Initially it was used to display exotic plants brought from the Philippines but it is currently used mainly for temporary exhibitions from the Reina Sofia Museum.

madrid guide Casón del Buen Retiro
The pond.

Nearby the Crystal Palace there is another pavilion: the Velázquez Palace, designed in 1884 by the same architect and also used for temporary exhibitions.

Scattered throughout the park there are several little monuments added by the various monarchs who enjoyed their time off in the park, especially by Fernando VII, who ordered to built the Statues Boulevard, a nice promenade flanked by the statues of several Spanish monarchs, as well as the Artificial Mountain or the Fisherman Pavilion.

Among all the gardens in the park, the Rose Garden is specially remarkable, while among the dozens of fountains and monuments scattered around the park, the most famous is the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, dedicated to Satan and possibly the unique example of classical art in Europe dedicated to the beast.



madrid guide map

 Recoletos Boulevard.
 Paseo de Recoletos
 Metro
 Colón
4. 
 
 Tren
 Madrid-Recoletos
C1. C2. C7. C10. 


The Paseo del Prado continues northwards from Plaza de Cibeles to the Plaza de Colón through the Paseo de Recoletos, added during the reign of Carlos III to the reforms already carried out on the old Salón del Prado.

This Paseo del Prado´s extension is known as the Recoleto´s Field, because the added gardens ended in the Recoletos Gate, an ancient entrance to the city built during the reign of Fernando VI in the place where there was a sixteenth century convent of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects.

The current boulevard began to take shape during the reign of Fernando VII, but it was Pepe Osorio, the Duke of Sesto and mayor of Madrid during the mid-nineteenth century, who finally gave the elegant look that it preserves today.

The reform included the construction of sumptuous palaces for the nobles of the time, including the own Pepe Osorio. He, as Duke of Sesto and Marquis of Alcañices, installed his palace at the number 13 of the avenue, next to the Palace of López Dóriga and Salaverria.

madrid guide Café El Espejo
El Espejo coffeshop.

The boulevard has a wide promenade that runs along the whole avenue. Strolling there we can see some statues, fountains and little monuments scattered among the small charming terraces of some of the most historic cafes of Madrid as the famous Café Gijón or the Café El Espejo.

The architecture accompanying the walker is overwhelming. On the south end, near the Plaza de Cibeles, we can admire the great palaces of Linares and Buenavista, as already described on the review of the Cibeles Square. Next to the de Linares Palace, a block northward on the eastern side of the avenue we found another amazing palace: the Palace of the Marquis of Salamanca .

This neo-Renaissance style building was built for José de Salamanca y Mayol , the Marquis of Salamanca. He took the responsibility to finance the construction and promote the sale of thousands of houses projected on the new extension to be built along the northern flank of the Recoletos Boulevard. This new neighborhood was subsequently named Barrio de Salamanca in his honor. Unfortunately the Marquis died bankrupt when he tried to undertake such a project alone, so he was forced to sell the palace to the Hipotecario Bank. Today it belongs to BBVA bank.

madrid guide Biblioteca Nacional
Entrance to the National Library.

A little bit northward and across the street, the numbers 23 and 25 of the Paseo de Recoletos are occupied by the Palace of the Duchess of Medina de las Torres and the Elduayen Duke's Palace, both built in the late eighteenth century on the available lot after demolishing the Price Circus, and both owned today by the insure company Maphre.

Finally, at the north end of the boulevard we find the impressive neoclassical facades of the building of the Palace of Library and National Museums.

This massive building houses the National Archaeological Museum, which occupies the floors facing the Serrano street and part of the side wings. On the other side, the National Library, located in the area in front of the Paseo de Recoletos, is considered one of the richest and most important libraries in the world. Inside there are about 3,500,000 volumes, including manuscripts, incunabula and priceless books stored.



 Convent of the Salesas Reales.
 Calle Bárbara de Braganza
 Metro
 Colón
4. 
 
 Tren
 Madrid-Recoletos
C1. C2. C7. C10. 


Very close to the Paseo de Recoletos, about 100 meters west continuing by the Barbara de Braganza street, we reach Salesas Square. From there on the street is called Fernando VI street.

The two personalities that gives their names to both streets were husband and wife, in fact they were king and queen of Spain, and curiously unlike the rest of the Spanish monarchs whose remains have been buried or taken to the Royal Pantheon of El Escorial monastery, both rest in peace in the church and convent we find here.

The church and convent were built under the patronage of Queen Barbara de Braganza as a school and residence for young noblemen, however it is said that the queen´s intention was not only the creation of the convent because she also wanted to assure a quiet place where she could live if her husband died.

The design work was directed by the French architect Francisco Carlier, but due to a long journey of the architect to Parma , the works were completed in collaboration with Francisco Moradillo in 1758 .

The church was built on a Latin cross plan in whose center it is topped by a huge dome supported on a drum and surrounded by several chapels. The main facade was built in Rococo style, very rarely used in Baroque monuments in Madrid and has a triple portico topped by a pediment located between two small towers topped by bulbous domes.

Most of the decorations and reliefs that extend across the facade were made by the Italian sculptor Juan Domingo Olivieri.

Inside its luxurious interior there are the tombs of Fernando VI and his wife Barbara of Braganza, both designed by Francisco Sabatini and carved by Francisco Gutierrez and Juan Leon commissioned by Carlos III. Both memorials are in different rooms, however the two consorts rest together because the tombs are actually located one on each side of the same wall.

madrid guide Iglesia y convento de las Salesas Reales
Church of the Salesas Reales.

In front of King's tomb we can see the tomb of General Leopoldo O'Donnell, president of Spain closely linked to the Bourbon dynasty during the turbulent years of the second half of the nineteenth century .

During the complicated political situation of Spain after the 1868 revolution, the church and the monastery were confiscated by the state. The monastery was designated then to house the headquarters of the Palace of Justice, while the church remained open for worshiping.

During the twentieth century the Palace of Justice suffered two fires affecting the old convent buildings. The restoration works were performed by Joaquin Roji and a new stairs access was added in 1930, when the new Street Barbara de Braganza was opened .

The convent building is currently occupied by the Supreme Court of Justice.



 Colon Square.
 Plaza de Colón
 Metro
 Colón
4. 
 
 Tren
 Madrid-Recoletos
C1. C2. C7. C10. 


At the end of Paseo de Recoletos we find the Plaza de Colón, opened in Madrid in 1893 as a tribute to the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus and to the voyage in which he discovered the American continent for the Westerns 400 years before.

The square has two very different works of art honoring the great explorer, who convinced the royalty of Spain to finance a perilous journey that originally lead to the Indies across the Atlantic Ocean.

The first, recently re-located on a roundabout that serves as the main link for the broad avenues of Recoletos and Paseo de la Castellana, is an statue of Columbus himself, perched on the top of a tall column supported on a spectacular neo-Gothic style base.

The second monument, located in 1977 around the eastern end of the square, is a bit more abstract. These are three huge pieces of thick cement with reliefs and inscriptions which evoke the “prophecies”, the “genesis” and “discovery” of the voyage.

madrid guide Monumento a Colón con las Torres de Colón de fondo
Columbus Monument and Columbus Towers at the background.

In the west side of the square, next to Paseo de Recoletos, we find a very singular space that was once reserved to support the pedestal for the moved statue of Columbus before the last remodeling of the Square.

Its main innovation is that it leads to a nice underpass that few years ago was fully covered by a peaceful wide waterfall but sadly, now it is only covered by canopies. The passageway provides access to the most important tourist information office in the city and also to the Theatre and Arts Centre Fernando Fernán Gomez, formerly known as Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid.

Between both venues but on the square level, the Discovery Gardens provides a lovely space to get some fresh air and take some good photography, especially during the spring months when the flowers on the area are in full bloom.

In the center of the gardens it waves a colossal flag of Spain, a huge piece of cloth of 38 kilos and 21x14 meter area that needs to be revised up to three times a year to avoid excessive material wear due to its mammoth dimensions .

At the junction of the square with Génova Street stands the iconic Torres de Colón, two twin skyscrapers 116 meter height. The interesting thing of these buildings is that the whole walls and floors structure is suspended from a shaft central pillar topped by a wide platform.

A full renovation on the towers transformed the buildings completely at the end of the 90s. Its gray facades were replaced by bright orange glasses and a monumental green art deco metal plate topped by two elongated cylinders was added on the upper platforms. From then on the building was informally named by the locals as "the plug".

 



 The Ensanche




 Salamanca District.
 
 Metro
 Serrano
4. 


The Salamanca District is the most refined result of the plans of development of Madrid that were carried out at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The plan was originally proposed by Carlos María de Castro and basically consisted in a huge expansion on a grid plan of the streets of three of the areas of Madrid. The Salamanca District extension was located eastward of the city center.

The new neighborhood´s got its name to honor José de Salamanca y Mayol, the Marquis of Salamanca, who took the responsibility to finance the construction and promote the sale of the thousands of houses projected on the new extension. The most part of the buildings were constructed in the style of the architect Christopher Lecumberri, who designed 3 and 4 stories buildings with beautiful facades, large portals for carriages, and wide courtyards inside.

Unfortunately the Marquis died bankrupt before he could see his magnificent quarter built due to he was left alone to finance the infrastructure works, the subdivision, the development and the construction of a work of such a great magnitude as the construction of a whole neighborhood is.

Each new flat building built was equipped with the latest technology of the time. They were the first buildings in Madrid to have electric light, boiler, coal stoves, bathrooms with toilets, lifts and telephone lines, so it quickly started to attract the wealthiest families in the city.

Since the second half of the nineteenth century, the Salamanca District became the favorite place of the bourgeoisie, who was established in the area on magnificent palaces built by themselves into the residential area.

madrid guide Edificios residenciales de lujo en el barrio de Salamanca
Luxury residential buildings in the Salamanca District.

The neighborhood reputation of excellence has survived and today it is still one of the most exclusive districts of Madrid reaching the higher living standards in Europe.

Normally frequented by the upper and ultra-conservatives classes of Madrid, the Salamanca District is easily associated with wealth and good taste so here is where there is the greatest number of high-fashion shops, private art galleries, luxury hotels and prestigious restaurants of the capital.

Its main streets are Calle Goya, Calle Velazquez and, more remarkable than the rest, Calle Serrano , the Golden Mile of Madrid, where we can find all major international and luxury brands we could want.



 Las Ventas Bullring.
 Calle Alcalá, 237
 Metro
 Ventas
2. 5. 


Once the allotment in the extension of the new Salamanca District was completed and the Aragon Avenue, today the Alcala street, was extended northeastwards, a lot of new little urban centres began gradually to emerge next to the new limits of the city. Hundreds of shacks began to settle in the Northwest area of the Salamanca District limit, where the Abroñigal stream run southward. Thus, this area known as Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, became one of the worst areas in Madrid at the time.

At the beginning, the attempts to recondition the area and dismantle the settlements were in vain due to the difficulties caused due to the irregular terrain of the area. However and thanks to the recent closure of the Goya bullring, Las Ventas area was chosen to build a new bullring worthy of the Spanish capital city. That facilitated significantly the development and gradual improvement of that quarter.

madrid guide Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
Las Ventas Bullring.

The works began in 1920 thanks to the encouragement of the great bullfighter Jose Gomez Gallito, and ended ten years later under the direction of Joseph Espeliú, the architect of the work, who was clearly inspired in the former Goya bullring. The structure design was very similar to the previous bullring and also was built in Mudejar style, mostly using brick to erect the walls.

The decorations were provided by Manuel Muñoz Monasterio, who applied colored tiles with arabesques details on each horseshoe arch on the facades and decorated the main gates with the allegorical shields of the Spanish fifty provinces.

With room for more than 23,000 spectators, Las Ventas is nowadays the third biggest bullring in the world, surpassed only by Mexico City´s and Valencia´s, in Venezuela, but it is considered by critics of bullfighting as the most important in the world.

The bullring can be visited every day of the year between 10:00 and 14:00 in guided groups that visits every half hour the Crew´s yard, the Dragging yard, the Great Gate, the arena and the terraces. The entrance fee for an adult is 7 € and tickets can be purchased on the bullring ticket office.



madrid guide map

 Moncloa Square.
 Plaza de la Moncloa
 Metro
 Moncloa
3. 6. 


The extension plan of Madrid expanded the northwestern limits of the capital from the Plaza de España along Calle Princesa by means of the construction of a whole new district known as Argüelles, in whose northern limit a new wide square, named as Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, was going to be opened .

The square was renamed Moncloa Square in 1890 as a tribute to the former owners of the land where the square was opened. Once again, in 1980, that name was eventually recovered after a short period of time during which the square was known as Madrid´s Martyrs Square, in honor of the fallen soldiers in the defense of the city during the Spanish Civil War.

In fact, Plaza de la Moncloa was the first point where fascist troops entered Madrid after the bloody battle of the University City and it seems that for General Franco, a true lover of the symbolism, this place became one of the favorite squares of the capital where the fascist regime emphasize its values.

In the center of the square stands the Municipal District Council Building, originally designed by the order of Franco as a pantheon to honor all those who died during the Civil War. However the works were not completed until the 80s, once the dictator was already death, so the building was directly opened with its present function of district council.

In the corner of the square with Princesa Street, we can see the immense Air Force Headquarters building, built in the heart of Madrid between 1942 and 1951 in the image and likeness of a small monastery of El Escorial, symbol par excellence of the Spanish imperialism.

madrid guide Arco de la Victoria y Faro de la Moncloa al fondo.
Arch of Victory and Faro de la Moncloa at the background.

The square extends northward over an elongated roundabout designed to magnify the size of the great arch that dominates the whole area and that it can be certainly considered the most fanatic legacy of Franco in Madrid.

Also known as Moncloa Gate by those who do not want to be associated to the dictator, the Victory Arch was erected in 1956 as a tribute to the nationalist army which defeated the Republicans during the Civil War .

The arch is 38 meters high. It is topped by a bronze chariot and it is one of the few Francoist symbols still remaining in the city, probably because of its vast size make it very complicated to demolish and surely because the demolition can also be especially controversial.

In front of the arch, on a small promontory it rises the futuristic metallic structure of the Faro de la Moncloa, a huge telecommunications tower built in 1992 which has a view point platform 110 meters over the ground level. Unfortunately security deficiencies of this monument forced its closure to the public in 2005.

 



 The XX and XXI century




 Nuevos Ministerios.
 Paseo de la Castellana
 Metro
 Nuevos Ministerios
6. 10. 8. 
 
 Tren
 Nuevos Ministerios
C1. C2. C3. C4. C7. C10. 


The rail transit congestion of the Atocha Station and the uncontrolled emergence of new shanty slums around the capital limits during the decade of the 30s made clear the need to extend the city northward, the only space available.

madrid guide Nuevos Ministerios
Ala sur del edificio de de Nuevos Ministerios.

The new extensión of the Paseo de la Castellana was then projected on this premises. It run from the former Royal Hippodrome to the current Plaza de Castilla, where a new urban centre already began gradually to emerge and where the construction of the new Chamartin Station was projected in order to ease the Atocha´s traffic.

The extension of the Paseo de la Castellana also completed the main Madrid´s artery now know as the Prado-Recoletos-Castellana hub, which cross the whole city from north to south. More or less in the middle of all this very long road it was planed to built a new building to centralize the headquarters of several government ministries, as well as a underground train station to connect the peripheral stations of Atocha and Chamartin trough a new tunnel.

The design of the huge building of the New Ministries was commissioned to Secundino Zuazo, who had trained as an architect while working in the maintenance of the monastery of El Escorial.

In fact Herrera´s influences are evident in the building. It presents solid and simple facades surrounded by great arches and it is dimensioned according to the taste of the political regimes in those years.

Facing the southeast corner of the complex it stands the National Palace of Arts and Industries, built on a small promontory between 1881 and 1887 in order to provide Madrid with a building suitable for hosting international exhibitions and fairs. It currently houses the Museum of Natural Science and the Technical School of Industrial Engineers.



 AZCA.
 Paseo de la Castellana
 Metro
 Nuevos Ministerios
6. 10. 8. 
 
 Tren
 Nuevos Ministerios
C1. C2. C3. C4. C7. C10. 


AZCA, known as the "Madrid´s Manhattan", is a business district located in the Paseo de la Castellana, north of downtown. The complex was developed during the 70s to reflect the modern resurgence of Madrid and its role as the capital of Spain.

Its infraestructures and facilities were built on a large city block well separated from the nearby traffic and conveniently interconnected by passages and landscaped walkways at several levels.

The complex is completed with a large shopping mall and a major underground train station which serves all commuter lines in the province and the most important lines of the metro network.

Among the various skyscrapers of the district, the Picasso Tower is the most remarkable. It was designed by the Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center in New York before.

No long ago and thanks to its 45 stories and 157 meters high, the Torre Picasso held the first place of tallest skyscraper ranking in Spain, although today it has clearly been surpassed by the Cuatro Torres, recently erected at the very beginning of Paseo de la Castellana.

The construction works of the skyscraper began in 1982 and it was inaugurated in late 1988. Since then its brilliant white facade coated by aluminum and glass has become the emblem of AZCA, together with BBVA Tower, 107 meters high and Torre Europa, 121 meters high.

The latest skyscraper added to the district is the 111 meters high futuristic Titania Tower, which occupies the site where the majestic figure of the Windsor building stood few years ago, until it was demolished after suffering a serious fire in 2005.

madrid guide AZCA
AZCA´s overview at sunset.

At the streets level, AZCA is full of life. The nearest areas to the Paseo de la Castellana and to the General Peron avenue are crowded with office worker during the working hours and the nearby shops offers all kinds of appropriate services to this kind of customers such as restaurants, cafes, banks, hotels or gyms .

Moreover, the western area, next to Orense Street, is full of great fashion boutiques of the most famous Spanish brands, while along Calle de Raimundo Fernández Villaverde the walls of a popular mall extends along to the intermodal train station.

At night, AZCA offers all kinds of fun. Along the Paseo de la Castellana there is a well known Bingo and dozens of entertainment venues open their doors every night in the area known as bajos de AZCA, located in the lower part of the complex along Orense Street and Avenida del General Perón.

Thanks to the popularity of the area , new pubs and night club have been opened in the adjacent areas of the Avenida de Brasil and Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, located near the northeast corner of AZCA.



 Castilla Square.
 
 Metro
 Plaza de Castilla
1. 9. 10. 


Plaza de Castilla is located in the north end of Paseo de la Castellana and it serves as a hub of communication for the main avenues of the northern suburbs of the capital.

In the early twentieth century the area belonged to the City Council of Chamartín de la Rosa, then an independent town of Madrid which was chosen to host the Spanish army troops from Africa. At the same time as the army camps grew, new shops and facilities began to appear to cover the needs of the soldiers. Gradually a whole new neighborhood known as Tetuan was developed.

The unstoppable growth of the city made necessary the creation of new facilities and reinforcement of the fresh water transport pipe system, so between 1930 and 1941, a new underground storage tank and a powerful water lift station designed to make the water to circulate to a tower about forty feet high, was built on the land adjacent to the Plaza de Castilla.

These facilities are currently obsolete and a wide refreshing urban park whose protagonist is the water has been built on the underground tank cover.

madrid guide Puerta de Europa
Puerta de Europa.

Underground, inside the tank, the innovative exhibit hall of the Art Exhibition Centre del Canal reveals the secrets of the structure and forms of a buried tank. Its internal structure consists of an ordered succession of brick pilasters and arches which offers a unique and challenging exhibition space where important temporary exhibitions are organized often.

After the construction of the water supply facilities, a wide avenue was projected southward to connected with the Nuevos Ministerios area. The intention was to reserve all this new area around Plaza de Castilla to create someday a new business district for the Madrid of the twentieth century.

At the north end of the square it was planned to built an immense circular roundabout for accommodating the new monument to Calvo Sotelo, an Spanish far-right politician whose murder was one of the triggers of the civil war.

The memorial was inaugurated in 1959. It consists in a large white prow headed by the sculpture of Calvo Sotelo. Behind, an allegorical statue represents the Pain, while at both sides of the assembly there are two separate reliefs depicting the Hero and Martyr facets that Calvo Sotelo suppose to the Franco regime.

The Modernity arrived to the place in 1979, when the Castilla Tower was erected. It was a small residential skyscrapers 70 meters high which today looks quite simple for the current city standards .

Finally, in 1996 the Plaza de Castilla aspect was changed forever thanks to the completion of the Puerta de Europa, a set of two 114 meters high twin towers which are inclined one toward each other 15 ° over the vertical line. The skyscrapers were designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, and they are considered the first leaning skyscrapers in the world.

The two towers are more commonly known by the locals as the Torres KIO because they were built by the Kuwaiti company KIO (Kuwait Investments Office) .

The current square design was definitely completed in 2009, when the Obelisk of the Fund was inaugurated. The obelisk is basically a 92 meters high column which consists of a set of mobile gilt bronze blades that revolve producing a curious effect wave upward movement. This is the only work of the universal Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in Madrid and it was a gift that CajaMadrid bank made to the city of Madrid on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the bank creation.



 CTBA.
 
 Metro
 Begoña
10. 


The CTBA, acronym for Cuatro Torres Business Area, is the last major addition to the cityscape of Madrid, although this afirmation can be extended to the whole Province of Madrid, as its huge four skyscrapers are easily identifiable from many kilometers around outside the city.

This business district located at the very north end of Paseo de la Castellana was built during the Spanish economic booming of 2010s with the intention to host the headquarters of the major Spanish companies and hundreds of offices and spaces for conventions and conferences.

The lowest of the four skyscrapers is the Space Tower, which reach 230 meters high, followed by the 236 meters height PwC Tower. The Crystal Tower is 248 meters high and finally the highest of the four, the Bankia Tower, reaches 249 meters high on its top.

The four skyscrapers far exceed the height of any building ever built in Spain, fact which makes all of them the tallest buildings in the whole country, followed far behind by the In Tempo Building located in Benidorm, which reaches an altitude of 200 meters.

The 57 storeys Space Tower, is perhaps the most striking of all due to its innovative design by Pei Cobb Freed. The design consists of a central oval structure surrounded by two flanks wings which climbs the structure on an spiral way.

madrid guide CTBA
CTBA.

The PwC Tower was designed by Enrique Álvarez –Sala and Carlos Rubio Carvajal Walterwas and it was the last tower to start the construction works. Its triangular section structure, which is covered with a slightly curved crystal layer, has 58 floors above ground level and is used primarily as office space. It also hosts the tallest hotel in Spain.

The design of the Crystal Tower was commissioned to the famous Argentinean architect Cesar Pelli, who designed a sharp robust structure in which top an impressive vertical garden of 200 square meters was installed, which is the perfect finishing touch to this stunning crystal giant.

The last and highest of the four skyscrapers is the Bankia Tower. The building was designed by the British architect Sir Norman Foster, who is well known for his designs optimized in terms of saving energy and easy maintenance. The three huge glass facades hang from two solid vertical communication cores which transport the acclimatization, energy and communications systems, in addition to the elevators and stairs.



 Madrid Rio Linear Park.
 
 Metro
 Legazpi
3. 6. 


In contrast to other European capitals, Madrid is not located next to any great river. In fact the Manzanares river can be considered just a stream compared to rivers as the Thames, the Seine or the Danube.

madrid guide Puente de Toledo
Toledo Bridge.

In fact the Manzanares river was never taken seriously by the authorities, for whom its depression represented more an obstacle for the transport of goods and people than anything else. The exception was Carlos III, who ordered the construction of some landscaped promenades along its course.

Despite the river´s small size, it was necessary to built several bridges to avoid the existing unevenness between both banks. Those bridges, due to its beautiful design, were in fact the only good reason for anyone for approaching the banks of the Manzanares unless they were one of the hundreds of laundress who used to work there.

The best of all this bridges is the Toledo Bridge, a magnificent structure designed by Pedro de Ribera in 1732, and very remarkable for the two temples adorned with Churrigueresque elements that are located at the center of the bridge. Inside, they contain the statues of the patron saints of Madrid, San Isidro Labrador and Santa María de la Cabeza.

The other historical access to the capital over the river is the Segovia Bridge. Its origin dates back from the reign of Felipe II, when Madrid hosted the court for first time so the city needed to improve its communications. Sadly the original structure was dynamited during the Civil War by the Republican Army to prevent the entry into Madrid of the Franco's troops. After the war, it was rebuilt, but the original design wasn´t closely reflected and the whole structure was also widened to accommodate the growing traffic of cars.

In the early twentieth century, the river was channeled to make room for the construction of new neighborhoods on its banks. After the Civil War, the Franco´s regime dammed the river into several sections with the intention of widening its course making the Manzanares to look like the great river that lacked in Madrid.

The new nice area was quickly obscured by the construction of the M-30 road, with up to four or five lanes in each direction. The river was completely enclosed and its banks were inaccessible and dirty until entered twenty-first century.

Fortunately for the Manzanares and its surroundings, not so much for the people of Madrid which has debt up within several generations, the highway was buried in 2007 and one of the most splendid and modern parks in Europe was built over the tunnels.

Now the forgotten banks of the river has become on an integral part of the city center thanks to the Madrid Rio project, which has also eliminated the M-30 ring, an obstacle that has long separated the central and south districts of the capital.

After its construction, the nearly 10-kilometer-long linear park offer a nice and peacefull area surrounded by vegetation where its thousands of visitors can walk, practice and endless variety of sports or simply keep entertained watching what people does.

There are broad paths arranged along the entire river course for running or cycling and skating. Seven tennis courts and six paddle tennis courts have been built near the Bridge of Prague, and several football fields and basketball courts has also been constructed on the grounds of the old Arganzuela Park.

madrid guide Madrid Rio a la altura del antigüo Parque de Arganzuela
Madrid Rio beaches.

The reforms not only includes the classic sports but also some more attractive sports facilities have also been introduced. A great climbing wall has been installed along the Toledo Bridge, while in the former Arganzuela Park we can find a skate park and along the southern junction of M- 30, the park has a new and modern BMX circuit.

Although the Madrid Rio Park is focused primarily on the practice of sports, it is also plenty of gardens for leisure. The Manzanares Beach is very remarkable, especially during the very hot summers in Madrid. It is original project that includes several "bathing areas" on which several water jets sprays water over the bathers. Along with the "beaches" there are wide lawns, where umbrellas, loungers and chairs are available for visitors to sun bath by the river.

Southwards, the industrial buildings of the old slaughterhouse have become into a major cultural center where we can enjoy the most diverse contemporary art exhibitions. It also has a complementary selection of activities and services including outdoor areas designed for concerts and shows as well as several restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.



 



 Alcalá de Henares.


Alcalá de Henares is located barely 30 kilometers northeast of Madrid. It is a medium- sized city whose history has greatly influenced Spain. Proof of this is its monumental old town whose buildings and streets are heavily influenced by the prestigious university and the religious character of the village.

Alcalá, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, has a very long and rich history and has been inhabited by most of the cultures that ever settled in the Iberian Peninsula. Due to this fact its streets hide many beautiful monuments of great diversity, which made the UNESCO to included the city in the world heritage list in 1998.

Thanks to the longstanding history of Alcalá and especially to its legendary University, the city enjoys a superb architectural heritage. Its dozens of historic buildings includes a vast amount of great Castilian Baroque works, which give a special character to the so-called city of storks, made Alcalá to be worthy of the award of World Heritage Site.

Alcalá is not a huge city and the area of interest is reduced to the old town, so it can be easily visited over a day.

madrid guide Fachada de la emblemática Universidad Cisneriana de Alcalá
Facade of the iconic University of Alcalá.

If we arrive by public transport to the city, either by train or by bus, the reference location to start the visit is the Plaza de Cervantes.

The square is 400 meters west of the bus station taking the Avenida de Guadalajara street and then the Libreros Street or 600 meters south of the railway station by the Paseo de la Estación.

Once in the square, we can enjoy the most emblematic monuments of the city as the nearby famous former building of the University. The Calle Mayor runs to the west plenty of nice tapas bars and restaurants where we can taste the great typical Castilian cuisine.

The Calle Mayor, the main street in the city, ends at the Plaza de los Santos Niños, where we can visit the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace.

The Calle Santiago and Calle Santa Ursula, which run almost parallel at the north and at the south of the Calle Mayor are also full of monuments, specially the powerful convents of the seventeenth century´s Alcalá.

Apart of all this architectural monuments Alcalá de Henares is very well known in the province of Madrid for its high quality food. The best food is offered in establishments of the so-called mesons route, although it is also well known that Alcalá is even more famous for its tapas culture.

Around the old town there are dozens of tapas bars in which consumers are rewarded with a plentiful free ration of food for each drink they have.

Getting there

Alcalá de Henares is connected with Madrid 24 hours a day thanks to the services of the bus line 223, which links the Alcalá station, located next to the down town, with the Transportation Interchange Complex of Avenida de America, in Madrid. In this station we can connect with the most important bus and metro lines of the city.

The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs 3.60 €. During rush hours there 5 services per hour and the rest of the day there are between two and three per hour while there is only one per hour during the night.

Alcalá also has a railway station served by commuter lines C -7 and C -2. The journey from Atocha stations takes only 45 minutes.

Atocha station is very well connected with all the rest of the commuter trains lines of the network and there is also a metro station. Trains run between 5:00 and 23:50 departing from Madrid and between 5:10 and 23:24 from Alcalá to Madrid. Its frequency is several services per hour and the price of a ticket is 3.25 €.



 Aranjuez.


This quiet town is situated 42 km south of Madrid, between the banks of the Tagus and Jarama rivers, and despite its small size there are many tourist attractions in the town, as it was the place chosen by the Spanish Enlightened kings to rest during the summers of the eighteenth century.

The ideas of the Enlightenment adapted to urban development of cities is reflected perfectly in the rationalist layout of Aranjuez, in constant balance between nature and man. The old town includes the Royal Palace and its gardens on the banks of the Tagus River, which are the main reason of the village´s glory and also of the declaration of the city as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

The current appearance of the Royal Palace is the result of the reconstructions, expansions and improvements constantly suffered over time by the complex, originally designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo, architect of Felipe II.

Inside, it is plenty of Baroque pieces like those we can observe in the clock room or porcelain room and numerous paintings by artists such as Luca Giordano, Vincente Lopez or Esquivel among others.

The other famous feature of Aranjuez is the fantastic group of gardens in the style of Versaille´s, which run along the course of the Tagus river. Each one features a different style and decoration and there are always dozens of beautiful fountains, monuments, pavilions and little palaces, as the famous Real Casa del Labrador, hidden inside.

madrid guide Palacio Real de Aranjuez
Royal Palace of Aranjuez.

The street layout of the rest of the city also shows the same Enlightenment values than in the palace, clearly reflected in the uniformity of its buildings and the use of wide tree-lined avenues.

Other interesting places to visit in the town are the Mariblanca fountain , the Royal Theatre, the Old Market and some other palaces, such as the Osuna´s , the Medinaceli´s or the Godoy´s . Among religious architecture we can also find good examples as the convent of San Pascual and the churches of Alpajés and San Antonio.

Aranjuez is also remarkable in the province of Madrid for its gastronomy. The fertile fields of the Tagus valley surrounding the city are great suppliers of vegetables such as artichokes Brussels sprouts beans and asparagus ... that prepared according to traditional recipes accompany perfectly the most traditional hunting dishes such as pheasant, partridge or quail.

Getting there

Aranjuez is connected via the C-3 commuter line to Atocha train station in just 47 minutes. Atocha station is very well connected with all the rest of the commuter trains lines of the network and there is also a metro station. Trains run between 5:36 and 23:51 departing from Madrid and between 5:20 and 23:29 from Aranjuez to Madrid. Its frequency is several services per hour and the price of a ticket is 3.25 €.

The Railway Museum of Madrid organizes round trips in the Strawberry Train to Aranjuez on Saturdays and Sundays during the months of June to October (except August). The Train consists of a steam locomotive pulling a wooden car composition of the 20s.

The Strawberry Train trip includes roundtrip from the Railway Museum, tasting of strawberries on board, theatrical entertainment, shuttle bus from the station to the center of Aranjuez, guided visit to the Royal Palace Museum, and discount in many local museums for 29 €. Normally the train departs at 09:50 arriving to Aranjuez at 11:25 and returns to Madrid at 18:30.

You can also take bus 419 and bus 423 in the Transportation Interchange Complex of Alvaro Mendez or the bus 429 in the Plaza de Legazpi. The service operates between 6:30 and 23:30 with a frequency of two to six buses per hour. At night, the line N402 links Aranjuez with Madrid Atocha station once every hour. The cost of the bus ticket is 4.20 €.



 El Escorial.


San Lorenzo de El Escorial is located about 45 kilometers northeast of the bustling capital. It is a quiet village that annually welcome thousands of tourists who go there to visit the famous royal monastery that Felipe II ordered to build in the village as proof of the devout Catholic faith of Spain.

In this small town on the Guadarrama mountains, the immense monastery of El Escorial, visible from kilometers away, commemorates the victory of the Spanish monarch over Henry II of France in the Battle of St. Quentin, a heroic feat that took place on the 10th August 1557, day of San Lorenzo.

The blueprint was designed by the first architect in charge of the works: Juan Bautista de Toledo, who chose the form of a grill to commemorate the martyr San Lorenzo who was burnt tied to a huge grill.

The monastery is undoubtedly considered the most important architectural monument of the Spanish Renaissance. It is actually a complex more than a building, a multifaceted structure formed by the royal apartments, the royal basilica, a monastery, the Pantheon, the library and several art galleries and museums, all under one the same roof.

Severe in its lines, El Escorial was built in gray granite and has four major plants with large towers at each corner. Its numbers overwhelm any other building of the era. It measures 205 meters from north to south and 160 meters east to west, each corner towers reaches 55 meters high, while the basilica dome rises 91 meters above the ground. The palace has 15 courtyards and 86 sets of stairs that provide access to 300 rooms lit by 2,600 windows and interconnected by over 1,200 doors.

The monastery areas occupy the entire southern third of the building and are still inhabited by the Augustinian monks, while the basilica, conceived as the monastic center, is open to the public.

madrid guide Monasterio del Escorial
El Escorial monastery.

The facade of the basilica is barely visible as it is set between the bodies of building but the interiors dazzle, both for its mammoth size and for the beauty of its decoration, consisting of frescoes, altars and paintings.

The famous white marble life-size crucified Christ by Cellini is perhaps the more remarkable art work inside. It was commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1576 as a present for Felipe II. Unusually the body of Jesus appears completely naked, genitals included, so it is normally exhibited covered with a white cloth.

Under the floor of the basilica it is located the Pantheon of Kings, in which interior there are the 26 marble tombs containing the remains of all the Hapsburg and Bourbon kings who ruled Spain, except for Felipe V, who is buried in La Granja San Ildefonso and Fernando VI, buried in the Convent of the Salesas Reales in Madrid.

In the area of the Royal Palace we can visit several luxuriously decorated rooms. The Hall of Battles is especially remarkable thanks to the amazing frescoes and fine tapestries that represent complex battle scenes. In contrast, the king´s rooms are very modest in comfort, but rich in art and include a fantastic triptych by Hieronymus Bosch.

The library contains about 40,000 books and manuscripts and its ceilings are beautifully decorated by a series of magnificent frescoes by Tibaldi. The art museum is also in this area. It exhibit the artwork of the Habsburg royal collections, including paintings of El Greco, Luca Giordano or Claudio Coello, as well as the collection of paintings artists of the Renaissance and Baroque donated by the crown.

Since 1984, El Escorial is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the most visited monument in Spain.

Getting there

San Lorenzo del Escorial has train station on the Madrid´s commuter line C-8A which connects the town to the stations of Atocha and Chamartin. The journey takes around 50 minutes and trains run between 6:51 and 23:34, departing from Atocha and between 5:48 and 22:15, from El Escorial. Its frequency is several at a time and the price of a ticket is 5.30 €.

If you want to ride the bus you need to take 661 or 664 lines in the Transportation Interchange Complex of Moncloa. Both lines take about an hour to get to the bus station of San Lorenzo, located near the Monastery. The cost of the ticket is 4.20 €.



 



 Prado Museum.
 
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Address:Paseo del Prado.
Opening hours: Open from 10:00 to 20:00 daily except Sundays when it closes at 19:00.
Price: 12 €. On Sundays, admission is free .
Website

The Museo del Prado is Madrid 's most prestigious museum and probably the largest gallery dedicated to classic paintings in the world. Even if you are not fully familiar with the world of art it well worth a visit as many of the paintings stored in the gallery are very impressive and tells interesting stories.

The building was originally planned as a natural history museum by Carlos III, but in 1807 Napoleon's troops invaded Spain and the works of construction were paralyzed for several years until the war was over. The new king Fernando VII inaugurated it as the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture .

The Prado has an impressive collection of nearly 9,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects. Periodically important temporary exhibitions are also organized by the museum .

Needleless to say that the museum owns the best collection of Spanish art in the world, which includes the best works by El Greco, Velázquez, Goya and Murillo. It is also remarkable for an excellent collection of works by the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, as well as a wide range of Italian masterpieces.



 Reina Sofia Art Center.
 
 Metro
 Atocha Renfe
1. 
 
 Tren
 Atocha-Cercanías
C1. C2. C3. C4. C5. C7. C10. 
 
 Tren
 Puerta de Atocha
Servicios Renfe 


Address: Calle Santa Isabel, 52.
Opening hours: Open from 10:00 to 21:00 except Sundays when it closes at 19:00. Tuesdays closed.
Price: General admission 6 €, temporary exhibitions 3 €.
Website

The Reina Sofia Art Cente is located very close to the Atocha station, in the building of the former General Hospital of Madrid, a large eighteenth century neoclassical building commissioned by Carlos III and designed by José de Hermosilla.

After a facelift that included the installation of its two characteristic glass panoramic elevators, the museum was opened in 1992 as an "extension" of the Prado Museum dedicated to exhibit the works of the collection created from the late nineteenth century to the present days.

The permanent collection features magnificent works of great Spanish artists of the twentieth century, especially by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miró. It also exhibits a large collection of works by the most representative national and international artists of the avant-garde, modernist and contemporary art.



 Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
 
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Address: Paseo del Prado, 8.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00. Closed on Mondays.
Price: 9 €.
Website

Located in a magnificent neoclassical 1806 mansion, and along with the Prado Museum and with the Reina Sofia Art Center, the Thyssen -Bornemisza Museum completes the group of important museums near Paseo del Prado known as the Golden Triangle in Madrid.

The first exhibited works in the museum were collected by Baron Heinrich Thyssen - Bornemisza and his son Hans Heinrich, who were able to put together some of the best examples of Western art history, from primitive Flemish and Italian painters to the Pop Art of the twentieth century .

Following an agreement between the Spanish State and the Thyssen family, the museum now has about 1,000 exhibits that help to appreciate the whole evolution of the history of art in just one museum as well as rare examples of some movements not present in the state collections, such as impressionism, Fauvism or German Expressionism.

There also is a very remarkable collection of nineteenth-century American painting, unique among all European museums.



 Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
 Metro
 Sol
1. 2. 3. 
 
 Tren
 Sol
C3. C4. 


Address: Calle de Alcalá, 13.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00. Closed on Mondays.
Price: 5 €.
Website

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando was created by order of Fernando VI in 1752 and since then it has been the school for some important Spanish artists such as Picasso or Dali among others.

Although not as famous as the Prado,the Reina Sofia or the Thyssen Museum, the Royal Academy is considered as one of the most important art galleries in Spain. The collection holds more than 1,500 paintings and 600 sculptures which represent almost all the art periods from the fifteenth century up to today.

Among the artists represented in the museum there are works by Goya, who has an entire room dedicated to him, Zurbarán, Arcimboldo, Rubens, Bassano, Mengs, Reni Seghers, Crayer, Carlos de Haes or Sorolla....



 Royal Palace Museum.
 
 Metro
 Ópera
2. 5. R. 


Address: Calle Bailén s/n.
Opening hours: Open daily from 10:00 to 18:00 between the months of October to March and the rest of the year closes at 20:00.
Price: 10 €.
Website

Built in 1738 by order of Felipe V, the Royal Palace has been the residence of the royal family until the last restoration of the monarchy in 1975, when Don Juan Carlos I moved the royal residence to the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela. Today it is one of the most visited museums in Madrid.

Visitors enter the palace through the great Armory Square, which provides access to the Royal Armory, which houses weapons and armor belonging to the kings of Spain and other members of the royal family since the thirteenth century and is considered one of the most important collections of its kind in the world.

Among the most prominent halls inside the palace we can visit the Gala Banqueting Hall, with an amazing area of 400 m2 or the Porcelain Room which exhibits the works of the Royal Factory of Buen Retiro. The throne hall is awesomely decorated with red velvet walls covered by huge mirrors while the ceiling of the dome shows beautiful frescoes that represent the Allegory of the Spanish Monarchy, with personifications of the kingdoms that formed the empire in the eighteenth century by Tiepolo.



 National Museum of Natural Sciences.
 
 Metro
 Nuevos Ministerios
6. 10. 8. 
 
 Tren
 Nuevos Ministerios
C1. C2. C3. C4. C7. C10. 


Address: José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2.
Opening hours: Open from 10:00 to 17:00. Saturdays and Sundays before holidays it closes at 20:00.
Price: 6 €.
Website

Founded by Carlos III, the National Museum of Natural Sciences was moved in 1907 to its present location, the National Palace of Arts and Industries, built in Madrid between 1881 and 1887 in order to provide the capital a suitable building for holding exhibitions and fairs.

The museum has three large areas dedicated to the biological evolution, various aspects of the relationship between human beings and the environment and the Royal Cabinet of Natural History, an exhibition heir to the old museum of Carlos III, where the most emblematic historical pieces in the museum are exhibited.



 Archaeological Museum.
 
 Metro
 Colón
4. 
 
 Tren
 Madrid-Recoletos
C1. C2. C7. C10. 


Address: Calle Serrano, 13.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday between 9:30 and 20:00.
Price:
Website

The Archaeological Museum, along with the National Library are housed in the building known as the Palace of Library and National Museums, which was opened next to the Plaza de Colón in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas .

Inside there is a review of the history of Spain from prehistory to the present days through objects and works of art such as the Lady of Elche, an exquisite bust of the fourth-fifth century BC of a woman who could have contained relics or funeral ashes, the Lady of Baza , dated on the fourth century, the Guarrazar Treasury , a magnificent collection of religious treasures of the Visigoth kings of the Iberian Peninsula or an exact replica of the cave paintings discovered in the ceilings of the Altamira caves.

The collection also includes other interesting objects such as Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi, as well as Roman mosaics and Greek ceramics.



 Sorolla Museum.
 
 Metro
 Gregorio Marañón
7. 10. 


Address: Calle General Martínez Campos, 37.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 to 20:00 and Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00.
Price: 3 €.
Website

The former studio-mansion in Madrid of the Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla houses within its walls a fine collection of paintings by the artist in which we can clearly see reflected all the different styles the magnificent painter followed throughout his life.

Most of his works depict calm and serene scenes of typical valence Mediterranean beaches with children and women beautifully lit.

Besides the collection of paintings, the museum also exhibits the art collection that the artist accumulated during his life within this fantastic Andalusian-style mansion designed by himself.



 Cerralbo Museum.
 
 Metro
 Plaza de España
3. 10. 


Address: Calle Ventura Rodríguez, 17.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 to 15:00. Sundays and bank holidays from 10:00 to 15:00.
Price: Free.
Website

This interesting museum is located in the of Enrique Aguilera y Gamboa Palace, the twelfth Marquis of Cerralbo. Inside all the building preserve the original spirit of the nineteenth century and also houses the fabulous family collection of paintings, objects and weapons.

Among its rooms we can enjoy about 50,000 works of art of 177 artists from different eras and tendencies. The collection includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, furniture, coins, antiques, watches, weapons, armor, artifacts and a long etcetera.



 Lázaro Galdiano Foundation.
 
 Metro
 Gregorio Marañón
7. 10. 


Address: Calle Serrano, 122.
Opening hours: Open Wednesday to Monday from 10:00 to 16:30. Sundays closes at 15:00.
Price: 6 €.
Website

The Lázaro Galdiano Foundation preserve the fantastic collection of works of art collected by the writer, editor and financial José Lázaro Galdiano, a passionate collector who accumulated a significant number of works of art throughout his life.

The fantastic collection of paintings includes works by great masters of art history as diverse as Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, El Greco, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Goya as well as English painters such as Constable or Turner.

The museum is housed in the former house of the writer and along with the art collection itself, the building is full of antique everyday objects of interest such as crockery, jewelery, ceramics or furniture.



 Museum of the Americas.
 
 Metro
 Moncloa
3. 6. 


Address: Avenida Reyes Católicos, 6.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 to 18:30 from November 1st to April 30th while the rest of the year closes at 20:30.
Price: 3 €.
Website

The Museum of America in Madrid is located in an interesting building directly created to house the museum with the design of a typical colonial church.

Inside we can reviews the history of America since the pre-Columbian times to the present through various collections of objects and artworks from various cultures in the Americas.

The most remarkable exhibits are the great collection of Mayan scrolls dating from 1250 and extraordinary jewelry such as the Viracicha head or the Quimbayas Treasury.



 History Museum of Madrid.
 
 Metro
 Tribunal
1. 10. 


Address: Calle Fuencarral, 78.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays from 9:30 to 20:00.
Price:
Website

The History Museum of Madrid is located in the Royal Hospice of San Fernando, the masterpiece of the architect Pedro de Ribera since 1929. The collection shows how was the daily life of the locals since 1561, when Madrid became the capital of the kingdom, until today. The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, engravings and other objects.

The most remarkable items are the superb canvas Allegory of the City of Madrid by Goya and a great model of Madrid in 1830 by León Gil de Palacio.



 Railway Museum.
 
 Tren
 Delicias
C1. C7. C10. 


Address: Paseo de las Delicias, 61.
Opening hours: Closed on Mondays. Open from 10:00 to 15:00 from Tuesday to Thursday and Sundays. Closes at 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Price: 5,09 €.
Website

The Madrid Railway Museum is located in the old Delicias station, opened in 1880 by King Alfonso XII. The building itself is remarkable for its characteristic iron architecture typical of the nineteenth century.

Inside there is a fantastic collection of locomotives and cars from all eras of the glorious Spanish railway history. The most remarkable ones are a fantastic composition of Talgo II and the Confederation steam locomotive, the most powerful locomotive of this type ever built in Europe.



 Naval Museum.
 
 Metro
 Banco de España
2. 


Address: Paseo del Prado, 5.
Opening hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 14:00.
Price: Free.
Website

The Naval Museum of Madrid exhibits chronologically a big variety of important historical naval artifacts from the time of Columbus to the present. The collection consists of manuscripts, medals, maps, paintings, photographs, nautical and scientific instruments, weapons and manuscripts related to naval activity.

The museum essentially displays the Spanish naval history, but also offers an overview of the navies of other major countries. Inside we can also find various materials collected by Spanish sailors in their travels, as well as objects and models which reproduce the whole shipbuilding process.



 



The nightlife in Madrid is perhaps one of the biggest attractions of the city. In fact in Europe only cities such as Berlin or Barcelona are really comparable to the capital of Spain in this matter. To get an idea of the magnitude of the nightlife scene of the Madrid, is enough to say that it is very common to get stuck in a traffic jam in the city center during the weekend nights.

Most part of the young Madrilenians spend the whole week studying or working while their minds are already planning the Friday ... sometimes even the Thursday ... and finally, when the weekend start they wear on their best clothes and go out for drinks in gangs until the sun rises the next day.

The most common way to start the night in Madird is having some beers and tapas in any of the thousands of the bars in the outer suburbs of the city and then take the subway or a taxi to get the center and enjoy in some of the bars to finally end up in a club until its closed or the subway works again.

The locals, like generally all the Spanish, do not stay in the same place all night. They prefer to change from one bar to another and, in fact, even from one district to another if needed.

madrid guide Animación nocturna en la Plaza de Santa Ana
Plaza de Santa Ana.

The most popular area in the city center is probably Huertas, a famous area made up of the Huertas street itself and its surroundings and located between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Santa Ana. There, every night thousands of young locals and foreign tourists swarm among the dozens of cafes and trendy bars that, separated one to each other by just 10 meters, occupy almost all the street properties.

The charming Plaza de Santa Ana is the heart and soul of the Huertas area. Several full of life outdoor terraces open until late at night during the warm summer nights.

In this area we can also find several of the Madrilenian traditional cafeshops, many of them decorated in the style of the "Belle Epoque". Those nice establishments are the perfect replacement for the outdoor terraces of Santa Ana Square when the cold winter winds blow outside.

The other area of the city to go out par excellence is the Malasaña quarter, well known as the place to be in Madrid during the 80s, when the capital experienced the popular cultural movements after the Franco´s death.

There are still some of the mytical bars from that glorious 80s still open and mostly, the nightlife atmosphere that never really disappeared from the streets of this crowded quarter is more or less the same than then. The Plaza Dos de Mayo and its surroundings are considered the heart of Malasaña. There are a lot of bars and summer terraces of all kind in the square, a mixture of the more traditional taverns of Madrid and the most bohemian and trendy bars of cosmopolitan century XXI.

Among the most remarkable bars in the quarter there are still some uniquely Castilian small taverns over 100 years old that still keep their original appearance.

Separated from Malasaña only by the Calle Fuencarral, the streets of the Chueca quarter are teeming with nightlife. Here, we will find all kind of bars in every nook and corner, but specially dozens of glamorous gay pubs scattered over the lively squares of the neighborhood.

A little further north, around the Bilbao Square and Alonso Martinez area there are a lot of trendy bars mostly frequented by the teenager public. Inside beautiful waitress serve hundreds of different recipes of colorful shots to their passionate customers.

Another of the most popular areas during night in Madrid is the bohemian neighborhood of La Latina, full of lovely places to discover and the preferred place of the locals to have a tapas.

Having tapas during night is almost mandatory in La Latina. The most popular areas are concentrated around the main squares of the neighborhood, where we can enjoy these delicious snacks with frothy cold beer from morning until dawn.

The most popular one is the Plaza de San Andrés, fully surrounded by tapas bars and great terraces to enjoy a good wine in summer.

madrid guide Ambiente en las calles de Malasaña
Malasaña Streets during night.

To the east of La Latina, the Lavapies area is known in the city for its exacerbated multiculturalism. Hundreds of small restaurants and tea shops run by African and Arab immigrants are spread throughout the area, specially around the Plaza de Lavapies. This crowded square is the neighborhood heart and the starting point of the Argumosa Street which runs eastwards surrounded by dozens of nocturnal terraces for the delight of visitors during the summer.

Besides all these areas located in what it can be considered the heart of the city, in Madrid you can go out at night in almost any neighborhood. Ciudad Lineal , in the northeast, hosts a significant amount of bars around Calle Alcalá, while during night, AZCA removes its tie and becomes into all kind of fun area. There is a well known bingo next to the Castellana avenue and dozens of entertainment venues open their doors every night in the area known as the Bajos de AZCA, located in the lowest part of the complex along the Orense Street and Avenida del General Perón.

Thanks to the popularity of this area there are also some entertainment venues located in the adjoining areas of the Avenida de Brasil and the southeast corner of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, located adjacent to the northeast corner of AZCA .

Another remarkable areas are Argüelles and Moncloa, considerate the bar areas of student life par excellence thanks to its proximity to the university campus.

The opportunities are immense and regardless of where we decide to go out, the party in Madrid is 100% guaranteed.

Closing times vary depending on the bar, but they are usually open until 3 or 4 am. You can also easily find places open during all night. Smoking inside bars is not allowed and the minimum drinking age is 18 years old.

There are all kinds of styles where you can hear any style of music and the prices also vary , but in general , Madrid is a pretty cheap city to go out in comparison to other European capital city.



 



Madrid's cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of typical dishes because since Felipe II promoted the city as the capital of his empire, numerous recipes and influences from all over the country joined the regional dishes as the citizens of other provinces settled in Madrid, attracted by the new business opportunities in the capital city.

The traditional Spanish cuisine is characterized by the abundance of spoon dishes like garlic soup and the Castilian Soup or vegetable dishes such as the ratatouille and especially tasty roasts and stews.

madrid guide Cocido Madrileño
fully-fledged Madrid-style stew.

The Madrilenian stew is perhaps the best reference of the Madrid traditional food. This legendary and filling dish is basically made of chickpeas, which cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots are added and cooked slowly in a clay pot with all kinds of meats and sausages of pork, beef and lamb.

The remaining broth is firstly removed to serve it which noodles added as a starter. After it, the chickpeas are served on a platter along with the vegetables and finally the meats and sausages are served separated of all.

In the oldest parts of the city, especially around the Plaza Mayor, there is a large number of traditional Castilian restaurants willing to fulfill the most demanding palates, among which Botín Restaurant is very remarkable for being considered the world's oldest restaurant. It is located on the Calle de Cuchilleros and it is open open since 1725.

The most typical and traditional flavors are reserved only for the less scrupulous ready to swallow offal, which is widely present in the traditional Madrid´s cuisine. The most famous are perhaps the callos a la Madrileña, stewed stomach pieces of beef, and the entresijos and gallinejas, which are basically guts and intestines of the chicken and lamb mixed, and sometimes fried in batter. These delicacies can be enjoyed in most bars in the center and the periphery of the capital.

In addition to the traditional Spanish food and to the offal, Madrid is curiously and despite its geographical location, a paradise for fish lovers. The explanation is simple: Since the time of the exacerbated Catholicism of the fifteenth century in Spain, the trade and consumption of fish in the Castilian territory was very common due to the strong influence of the Catholic religion and its penitential commandment imposed on many days of abstinence of meat eating.

The second largest fish market in the world, just behind the famous Tsukiji market in Tokyo, is located in Madrid and the most part of the restaurants in the capital offers a wide selection of fresh fish of extraordinary quality.

Among its most traditional recipes we can taste oven baked sea bream and cod, but the most popular sea product of the capital is undoubtedly the flamboyant Bocata de Calamares, squid sandwich, which can be found in most bars in town and served freshly fried accompanied with a cooling beers.

The “fourth leg” of the table holding the Madrid cuisine is, as in most of the country, the famous tapas, those little dishes that are “provided” for free to the customers in taverns and bars to satisfy the Spanish ancestral tradition of snacking in-between meals.

madrid guide Bocadillo de clamares
Bocadillo de clamares.

Of the hundred thousand theories of the origins of the tapas, it is remarkable, or at least nice, that one which says that being the king Alfonso XIII in Cadiz, he stopped at a tavern to drink a wine sherry. At that time few sand was dragged by the wind from the beach and the waiter came to cover the glass with a slice of ham. When the King went for a sip, surprised asked: "What is this?" And the bartender said, "Forgive my boldness Majesty but I have put a cover (tapa) on the wine to keep the sand out of the cup".

The most typical tapas in Madrid according to the Castilian origins of the city are the grilled pigs' ears, the entresijos and gallinejas, snails, or scrambled eggs wih ham and fried potatoes, but the range extends to almost any dish which can be served in small amounts.

As for drinks, the region of Madrid does not shine by its good vineyards. Beer is the star of any self-respecting bar and in the restaurant, the best is to choose one of the bottles of any Spanish wine whose properties will challenge the best French wineries enjoy despite of its lower international fame.

madrid guide Torrijas
Tasty Easter torrijas.

To end a good dinner in a very typical way, we cannot leave the table without trying a digestive cup of Chinchón anisette brandy.

Compared to other Spanish regions and even other Castilian regions, the locals are not very enthusiastic of sweet, in fact, the most part of the Madrilenians desserts and sweets are linked to the celebration of a saint, a pilgrimage or a verbena.

The typical sweets for Saint Isidro´s day are the tontas and listas rolls.

The ”holy bones” abounds on the shelves of the patisseries on dates close to the All Saints Day and the tasty torrijas, french toasts, accompanied by a good glass of wine are almost obligatory at Easter. To get an idea of the Madrid sobriety for desserts just add that none of the above includes chocolate, or cream.

The best of Madrid in the gastronomy matter is that bars and restaurants are like the CocaCola, wherever you may be there are always there. There are two distinct types: those that offer menu of the customer's choice and those always convenient ones offering daily menu, where for 10 € you can choose among several first and second courses and include drinks, coffee, bread and dessert, so do not lose time and ENJOY YOUR MEAL!



 



 Society.


Madrid is the cultural and social epicenter of Castile since Felipe II moved his court to the city in the seventeenth century, so it is not difficult to understand that the locals have forged over many centuries of centralism in Spain a character, which at a first glance, may wrongly seem haughty.

The reality is quite different. The behavior of the locals may look conceited and arrogant, but it is only because each and every one of them are truly proud of their city. What is very different is the intention, no one does it on purpose, it is only what they have learn all his life.

This "cockiness", is so well reflected in the zarzuelas and chotis, the local operettas and dance. It use to call a lot the attention of the rest of the Spaniards, not because of the attitude of the locals, that also, but for their language full of slang and difficult to follow because it reinvents itself every day.

The other major cliché that distinguishes the Madrilenians from the rest of the Spanish is the classical picaresque, this style of solving problems by the quick and easy way. Clearly visible in the late eighteenth century´s zarzuelas, this character characteristic has a more historical origin, as its practice and consequent representation in the literature and paintings dates back from the Golden Age, when the city was full of hustlers, swordsmen and corrupt noble at the order of the king and his court and when the survival depended of the ingenuity.

Nowadays the Madrid´s social reality is quite different. The Madrilenians are a modern, working people, away from the traditionalists stigmas imposed by the various regimes that have ruled the country and able to look forward with optimism to the future, despite the enormous obstacles that the Spanish political class continues to put up with each new government.

madrid guide Sociedad

The best example of this dissent, was the 15-M social movement, model for the various movements emerging throughout the world calling for political change since the May 15th, 2011, when dozens of protesters camped in the Puerta del Sol and thousands of them joined over the next weeks to discuss peacefully how to create a better world for tomorrow.

Forgetting the most admirable facets of the Madrilenian society, if we look for a meeting point for all the locals, this is the bar. Madrid knows how to fun. Most part of the young Madrilenians spend the whole week studying or working while their minds are already planning the Friday ... sometimes even the Thursday ... and finally, when the weekend start they wear on their best clothes and and go out for drinks or tapas in joyful company.

The weather helps a lot and the fact that the sun shines most part of the year in Madrid favors people to do much of his life out on the streets, filling every corner of the city of joy and bustle.

Finally, it is impossible to ignore how open is the city of Madrid. Who lives in Madrid, no matter wherever was born, can consider himself as a truly Madrilenian as the capital of Spain has been welcoming immigrants with open arms almost from the moment of its foundation.



 Museums.


Madrid is currently one of the most important figures of world culture and continually attracts countless visitors both Spanish and foreign, who know the immeasurable value of the safeguarded artistic works in their world-famous museums and art galleries.

The museums offer is very varied, to which a large number of civilian and church buildings are added, such as palaces, ministries, temples or transport nodes. Those ones may well be regarded as museums themselves, so it could be said that the number of spaces dedicated to art is quite abundant in the city.

All this promotes a strong cultural commitment of the Madrid institutions with the exhibitions so the heritage of the city is preserved and continues to expand and reinvent itself to provide the city´s visitors some of the best images they can retain in their memory.

madrid guide Gernika
The "Gernika", exhibited at the Reina Sofia.

If we love the art and we also have time enough to visit Madrid, the best we can do not miss anything of course, but if on the contrary we only have a few days or art has not been decisive in the choice of Madrid as a tourist destination, it is useful to know what we cannot miss.

The most remarkable in the capital is the known as the Art Triangle. We cannot find many masterpieces in so little space anywhere in the world. Among its "angles" there are located the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, protagonists of this unique tour where we can review all the history and evolution of painting.

Something quite more unknown but no for this less impressive, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando offers a collection worthy of became the famous triangle into a quadrangle.

Other remarkable museums in the Spanish capital are the house-museum, where besides a beautiful collection of art, we can be the witness of the everyday’s life of Madrid at the age in which the illustrious personage associated with the house lived. Examples include Lope de Vega House, in the the literary neighborhood, Sorolla´s, or the Lázaro Galdiano Foundation.

Besides these eminent art museums, Madrid also has several museums dedicated to science and technology as the classic and Archaeological and Science Museum of Madrid, both opened during the Enlightenment period that the city lived during the eighteenth century.

Finally, there are four remarkable foundation located in the center of the city, by chance all " contained " in former renovated industrial buildings, which do not exhibits permanent collections, but organize temporary exhibitions of great global importance .

Very close to the Prado Museum, opposite to the Botanical Gardens, we can visit the Caixa Forum Foundation, while near the Reina Sofia we find the Casa Encendida. Quite more remote, in the Plaza de Castilla we can have a look at the Art Exhibition Centre of Canal and finally the Matadero is located in its renovated facilities of Madrid Rio Park.

Fundación Caixa Forum official website
Casa Encendida official website
Centro de Exposiciones Arte Canal official website
Matadero official website

Check out the museum section of this guide, which describes the most important museums of the city and also provides its basic data..



 Performing Arts.


The Classical music, ballet or opera do not reach the importance in Madrid of the classic central European cities such as Vienna, Prague or Salzburg or even of another non so classical cities such as London or Paris. In fact, to enjoy any kind of classical performance in Madrid we almost don´t have any other possibility than what is scheduled for the Royal Theatre during the corresponding seasons.

Royal Theatre official website

When the best symphony orchestras and opera companies were developed in Central Europe, the zarzuela, the quintessential representative local genre, was consolidated in Madrid.

Born in the sixteenth century, this form of popular and folkloric art combines dialogues, songs, dances and choruses and touch various topics, such as love (very common theme), politics, society and others.

There are currently two specialized zarzuela theaters in Madrid: the Teatro de la Zarzuela, of course, and Teatro Apollo, although the last one also hosts representations of other kinds.

Teatro de la Zarzuela official website
Teatro Apolo official website

Moreover what it is very popular in Madrid nowadays are the current plays of the today´s theatre, especially the comedies. Lately the Musicals have become very fashionable and the Spanish versions of Broadway plays fills up the billboards of the most important theaters in the city.

madrid guide Zarzuela
Proper Zarzuela.

In the late nineteenth century the theater was very popular in Madrid, so when the Gran Vía was built, that Madrilenian Broadway was the place where most theaters were opened. However they were turning in cinemas and even in malls over time. Today some of the most important theaters in the city may be the Teatro la Latina, the Teatro Marquina or the Teatro Maravillas, all of them located in the central district of the city.

Teatro la Latina official website
Teatro Marquina official website
Teatro Maravillas official website

The Teatro Circo Price is quite remarkable due to its historical significance. It is a circus-theater founded and directed initially by Thomas Price in 1868 and after several changes of location, it was reopened as a stable circus in Madrid in March 2007.

Teatro Circo Price official website



 Sports.


The king of sports in Spain and in Madrid is undoubtedly the football and that's so certain that in spite of another sports are usually practiced in Madrid and despite a great sports figures in other fields come from the city, the masses always opt for football. Every Sunday the people go to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in procession to watch Real Madrid or to the Vicente Calderón Stadium to support Atletico de Madrid. The other stage is the bar, where all the fans who do not fit in the stadiums meets religiously.

madrid guide Santiago Bernabeu durante un partido
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium during a match.

Despite the immense popularity of the football, the basketball is also very supported in the capital and every weekend the Real Madrid basketball club and the Estudiantes club delight their followers in the Vistalegre Stadium and in the Palacio de los Deportes.

The tennis has its place in the Caja Mágica venue, where the Madrid Masters Series takes place every year.

This important sporting event is included in the ATP calendar and it is celebrated on bare clay court.

A bit more select but no less spectacular are the thrilling horse races of the Grand National Prix which take place throughout the horse racing season in the important Zarzuela Hippodrome, located in the vicinity of El Pardo, in the exit on the kilometer 7.8 of the Northwest Highway.

Also outside of the city, this time about 30 kilometers northwards following the A-1 highway, Madrid has a circuit of motor racing: the experienced Jarama Circuit, whose tracks have witnessed the thrilling overtaking of Formula 1 and motorcycle drivers such as Graham Hill and Niki Lauda or Alex Crivillé and Mike Doohan. Currently, in a certain decline, it organizes a dozen races of different categories of the national championships throughout the season.

As remarkable point it is addable that the city is opting to host the Olympics for the last four elections and it is expected to continue doing it so maybe one day in the future Madrid will become Olympic host.



 Cultural Events.


In addition to the temporary exhibitions organized by museums, foundations and the City Council and also to the theater, opera, dance and music schedules, which vary each season, Madrid offers many interesting activities and events held throughout the year for all ages and all tastes.

Spring

The spring starts in Madrid with the celebrations of the Holy Week during the late March, when the Madrid´s brotherhoods celebrate the Christ's Passion with different processions in the whole city carrying their worshiped sculptures and banners at the pace of the sacred music.

After the hangover of the religious holidays, around the second week of April, the Hall of gourmet takes place at the fairgrounds of Juan Carlos I (IFEMA), where the best European producers and consumers meet one each other while taste delicatessen and enjoy the Spanish ham cut displays.
Hall of gourmet

April ends with the Roc k'n'roll Marathon, listed as a Silver Road Race and held at the end of the month entertained with live music on the streets and parks of Madrid, where thousands of runners of all nationalities seek their limits.
Roc k'n'roll Marathon

In early May the Caja Mágica venue hosts the Madrid Masters Series, where the best tennis players in the world compete for the grand prize of Spain, included in the ATP Tour calendar and celebrated on bare clay court.

madrid guide Procesión de Semana Santa en Madrid
Easter Procession in Madrid.
Madrid Masters Series

On the 2nd of May the city of Madrid commemorates the uprising against the French troops with numerous events throughout the whole region.

On May 15th the city celebrates the festivities in honor of San Isidro Labrador. The city dresses up to celebrate festivals and pilgrimages to the rhythm of the chotis dance in the most traditional neighborhoods: Vistillas, Lavapiés and around the Plaza Mayor, without dismissing the Pradera de San Isidro, near the church of the Saint, where the locals come dressed as chulapos to follow the tradition.

The last weeks of the month we can visit the MADRIDFOTO festival, the international trade fair for photography, held at the Matadero, or the Open Studio, where dozens of artists open their own studios to the general public in the whole city.
MADRIDFOTO
Open Studio

During the first two weeks of June the Retiro park hosts the Book Fair, where the best Spanish booksellers and publishers sell all kinds of volumes at the best prices in hundreds of open-air stalls. Almost every day a renowned author is invited to sign copies of their books for the public.
Book Fair

The Suma Flamenca festival join the greatest figures of flamenco in the best concert halls and theaters of the capital for a couple of weeks in June. And more music!. The Matadero organizes the Music Day at the end of the month, when several stages are installed to host conferences and concerts of the major emerging rock and pop international groups.
Music Day

To put an end to the month and the season, different locations throughout Madrid host the prestigious PHOTOESPAÑA contest for about two months with dozens of great photography exhibits throughout the city.
PHOTOESPAÑA

Summer

The St John's Eve is the starting signal for the summer in Madrid. Crowds gather around bonfires and nice fireworks can be seen throughout the Retiro Park.

As for events, the summer starts full-force with the Veranos de la Villa, a major festival which became the summer nights into the perfect stage to celebrate live theater, dance and music with world famous artists. The flamenco and the zarzuela are the main protagonists and the Sabatini Garden is the main stage.

madrid guide Desfile del día del Orgullo Gay
Gay Pride Parade.

The programme of all these outdoor activities occupies the months of June, July, August and September.
Veranos de la Villa

In the late June, the Chueca neighborhood celebrates the Gay Pride Festival and the streets of the whole district become a colorful watercolor formed with the rainbow emblem of the gay community, which decorate almost every balcony of the neighborhood.

The peak of the festival, which has become a social event of the first order in Madrid, comes when the colorful floats of different groups leave the Puerta de Alcalá, to cross the Alcalá street, the Plaza de Cibeles, the Gran Vía and to finally end in the Plaza de España, where a protest manifesto is ridden to support the equality of the homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals.
Gay Pride Festival

August is the setting for the celebration in Madrid its various patron saint festivities: On the August 7th, San Cayetano, on the August 10th, San Lorenzo and on the August 15th, La Virgen de la Paloma. All of them attract a lot of people to the most traditional neighborhoods of the city looking for fun. The most typical thing to do is to dance the chotis and have entresijos and gallinejas "embedded" in a typical chulapo suit.

The Summer farewell matches with the Opening Ceremony of the Season, in which the association of art galleries of Arte-Madrid opens every September the start of the new year.

Autumn

Autumn, as usual, doesn’t include too much events on the agenda, however the SIMO Network exhibition is remarkable in mid-October, when it attract professionals and enthusiast of computer and technology solutions in the Fairground of Juan Carlos I.
SIMO network

Also in October, at the beginning of the month, Madrid celebrates the Architecture Week, seven days dedicated to the architecture of the city with guided visits of the most emblematic buildings of Madrid organized by the Official College of Architects of the city.

From late October until the next spring we can enjoy the performances of the Fall Festival, which organized concerts, theater and dance in several theaters scattered throughout the Province of Madrid.
Fall Festival

Finally in November, the capital celebrates its Jazz Festival with amateur bands and world-renowned jazz artists, which fill the theaters of Madrid of this amazing changing chords.
Jazz Festival

Winter

Winters in Madrid are overshadowed by the celebration of Christmas, that every year comes to town with its classic market of the Plaza Mayor, the decorative urban lighting, the exhibition of nativity dioramas and various themed entertainment. It's nice to walk the streets and browse the stalls where you can buy all kind of Christmas decorations and listen traditional Spanish carols.

The last evening of the year is famous in the city for being the day of the San Silvestre Vallecana Classic Race, one of the popular races that has one of the highest participation rates in the world.
San Silvestre Vallecana

Although undoubtedly the most popular event in Madrid is the eve of the New Year, when crowds of people gather on the in the Puerta del Sol on the night of January 31st and eat twelve grape for each peal of the first hour of the new year. The bank holidays end in Madrid on the 5th of January with the parade of the Three Kings, who deliver gifts to the children who have behaved good during past year.

In January, the city pays homage to the cuisine. The Madrid Fusión is a large congress of the art kitchen that gathers the worldwide best chefs, while the Gastrofestival is an initiative of the most important restaurants and bars of Madrid that brings the haute cuisine closer to the general public with special menus and tapas at reasonable prices.

Tastings and cooking classes complete both programs.
Madrid Fusión

In the late January and early February about 10,000 tourism companies from over 150 countries present their offers at the fair grounds of Juan Carlos I in the prestigious FITUR, considered the most important congress of this kind in the world.
FITUR

madrid guide Mercado navideño en la Plaza Mayor
Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor.

Also at the Fairground of Juan Carlos I, every February takes place a new edition of the prestigious annual ARCO Contemporary International Art Fair, also considered one of the major events worldwide of this kind.
ARCO madrid

Finally, the Carnival of Madrid gather hundreds of people who dressed up in extravagant costumes to go out through the streets of the city between the late February and early March.





©Copyright: AllWorldGuides Ltd /Reg: 8727139. - All Rights Reserved 2015.
145-157 St. John Street, London, EC1V 4PW. - info@allworldguides.com.