Madrid during the 1600’s experienced a major shift of power when the city was occupied by Europe´s Imperial court of Habsburg. The Spanish Kings involved in its development during this glorious epoch, which was also known as the House of Austria, were Kings Felipe II and Felipe III, with the latter tirelessly working to develop the urban aspect of the new center of Habsburg.
Fortunately, the legacy of this empire is still very much visible today, and everyone has easy access to it since it is found in the midst of the capital. Where in the city did the Casa de Austria occupy? This so-called ancient center of Madrid is situated along a significant portion of Calle Mayor, running towards the southern part.
And indeed, as I visited this particular stretch of the street, it is evident that the Madrid de los Austrias, as how it is also called, is very much intact, with the beautiful edifices built during those times still preserved. You hop from one splendid building to another, and you realized how grand the contribution of the Habsburg Empire to the development of Madrid, and even the whole of Spain, really was.
One only has to pass through Calle Mayor, the end of which reaches Catedral de Almudena, and he will have a good glimpse of these Hadsburg edifices. Especially if you find yourself within the the midst of areas such as Plaza del Sol and Plaza Opera, and you are sure to have a thrilling taste of the glorious Habsburg Era.
Here are 5 of Madrid de los Austrias must-see beautiful edifices:
1. Casa de la Villa
A must-see edifice of the Madrid Austria District is the Casa de la Villa. Day in and day out, locals and tourists alike troop to one of Madrid’s oldest squares, if not the oldest, Plaza de la Villa, to wander around this historical area and appreciate the former town hall of the city. Constructed under the helm of Spanish builder Juan Gomez de Mora, Casa de la Villa did serve as the headquarters of Madrid’s city administration – but also, it once served as a prison to the incarcerated.
Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005
Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)
Nearest attractions: Mercado San Miguel
2. Casa de la Panaderia
What houses Madrid City Hall’s tourism office now is the Casa de la Panaderia, standing in the middle of Plaza Mayor´s northern part. With porticoes in front and its two sides capped by towers, tourists gain easy access to numerous sites and attractions found in Madrid. Damaged by the 1672 fire, this historical edifice underwent major design and renovation. Check out how a great portion of its facade is painted by semi-nude, somewhat mythical figures — they are said that to have been painted in order to compliment the rich history of of the city.
Nearest attractions: Casa de la Carniceria (also inside Plaza Mayor), bocadillo restaurants, Chocolateria San Gines
3. Real Casa de Correos
One of the most popular representatives of the Madrid de los Austrias is the Real Casa de Correos, an imposing building with an open tower, inside of which hangs a bell. At midnight of December 31, revelers gather to witness the pealing of the bell 12 times, signaling the start of the New Year.
Direccion: Puerta del Sol
Metro Station: Sol (nearest station), Opera, Sevilla (all three belong to Metro Line 2), Callao (at Plaza de Callao, Metro line 3)
Nearby attractions: Plaza Callao
4. Casa y Torre de los Lujanes
These edifices have the distinction of being two of the oldest buildings in Madrid. Both are integral parts of the ancient Spanish square found along Casa Mayor called the Plaza de la Villa. The Torre de Lujanes is known to be the former prison of King Francis I, who was captured upon his defeat at the Battle of Pavia of 1525. And indeed, while the place is now surrounded by modern buildings and establishments, the square itself somewhat brings you back to centuries ago when the place exudes power and authority .
Location: Within Plaza de la Villa of Austria District, Madrid
Nearest Metro Station: Sol, Opera
Nearby sights and attractions: Plaza de Santa Isabel II, Palacio Real
5. Palacio de Santa Cruz
The old but beautiful edifice of the Austrian dynasty is the Palace of Santa Cruz. Formerly known as the ¨La Carcel de Madrid,¨ it did act as a former prison of the city, with convicted prisoners sent to the Plaza Mayor to be executed. Later on, it was turned into a palace to become a residence of Rey Felipe IV. Palacio de Santa Cruz is currently the home to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain.
Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012
Nearby attractions: Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Museo de Jamon
How to go
Metro Stations: Sol (Lines 1,2,3); Tirso de Molina (Line 1); Lavapies (Line 3); Opera (Lines 2,5); Sevilla (Line 2). All stations are a 5 to 15 minute walk to Calle Atocha.