Tag Archives: Don Quixote

Plaza de España: Madrid’s Premier Square

imageThe grandest square in Madrid, and perhaps the whole country, is the Plaza de Espana. Located at the western portion of Gran Via, this square is a must-see Madrid attraction if only for its wide expanse filled with sculptures and lush greenery. It boasts of a spacious area that covers roughly 36,900 square meters, no wonder it is listed as one of the biggest in Spain.

One would observe that the plaza is well-tended and maintained. Its central fountain is an inviting sight — complete with statues and a strong, flowing water — features typical of a major Spanish square. I had visited the park a couple of times during the earlyv hours, and often I would see gardeners caring for the greens and keeping the surrounding clean. Evidently, it is a maintained plaza, with every corner serving as a perfect spot to have photos for cherished souvenirs.

Plaza Espana is a major spot in downtown Madrid among tourists from all over and locals as well. It is not surprising since its location is strategic, acting like a crossroad that leads to many other Madrid attractions – such as the Royal Palace, the gardens of Sabatini and Campo del Moro, the Puerta del Sol, Debod, Retiro Park’s Rose Garden, and Plaza Mayor.

1. Monumento de Plaza de Espana

At the center of the square is the Monumento a Cervantes. The tall structure itself, with the globe on top, is made of granite, while the sculptures standing on its sides are made of Sepúlveda stone and bronze as main materials. In the photo below, on the left of the monument is the Torre de Madrid, while on the right is the Edificio Espana.
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2. Water Birth Fountain

The Fountain of Water’s Birth at Plaza de Espana, known locally as the Fuente del Nacimiento del Agua, is like any other found in a typical Spanish square — it serves to further add aesthetics to the place. It features the sculpture of fountain nymph Naiad holding a pitcher from which the water pours.
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3. Miguel de Cervantes

The centerpiece of the square is the Monument of Miguel de Cervantes, erected at Plaza de Espana in 1929. Cervantes is the country’s most celebrated writer and novelist, and author of the Spanish novel – Don Quijote de la Mancha.
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4. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Bronze Statues

Don Quixote on horseback holds a metal lance. To his left is his assistant Sancho Panza with his donkeyimage

5. Aldonza Lorenzo

A. Lorenzo’s stone sculpture, a fictional character in Don quixote de la Mancha. She is also known by the name of Dulcinea del Toboso.
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6. Edificio España

Directly in front of the plaza is the much-photographed Edificio Espana. Constructed in 1953, it is popular among tourists because of its simple yet attractive facade of white and rust hues. image

7. Torre de Madrid

Popular plaza edifice and located along Gran Via is the Torre de Madrid. Like the Edificio Espana, it is touted as a precious Madrid landmark and city treasure.image

8. Real Compania Asturiana de Minas

Directly facing the plaza and the Calle Bailen is Real Compania Asturiana de Minas. With its construction spanning 8 years, from 1891 to 1899, the French-inspired edifice is one of the most admired examples of architecture of its time.

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Visit Plaza de Espana via:

Metro: Plaza de Espana Station — Lines 10 and 3 service this station, found right within the plaza. It is also connected to Linea 2.
Bus: C1, C2, 3, 48, 44, 133, 1, 46

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Map:

Outside Madrid: The University Town of Alcala de Henares

imageAlcala de Henares is famous for two things: first, it is the birth place of premier Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, and second, it is recognized as the earliest planned university town in the world.

But I believe many flock to Alcala because it is conveniently close to Madrid. Imagine a beautiful town just 30 kilometers away from the city, such a proximity makes Alcala Spain a perfect day-trip destination. It is very near the capital many thought it is a mere suburb of Madrid when it is actually a legitimate Spanish town.

And so the fact that Alcala de Henares is just 50 or so minutes away and could be reached easily by train or bus, not to mention it owns a few impressive bragging rights and titles – all this makes it a popular and favourite destination for tourists.

Despite being home to top schools and tourist attractions, Alcala appears to me as a quiet and quaint town, the opposite of the noisy and tourist-drenched Madrid. I love that many of its sites and attractions are clumped close together; allowing tourists to explore them without having to make long walks in between.

Here are some of the Alcala de Henares attractions that are certainly worth seeing:

1. Cervantes Square

The plaza is dedicated to one who´s widely regarded as the greatest writer of Spain — Miguel de Cervantes. His statue stands in the middle of the plaza, while in its far end is the 19th-centuray built Kiosk of Music. You can also see in the background the Church of Santa Maria Tower (what´s actually seen in the photo is the remains of the ancient edifice).
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2. Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso

Also called the Old University and the University of Alcale de Henares, San Ildefonso College is famous for its Plateresque facade (currently being renovated). It is the best known creation of Rodrigo Gil de Hontanon, a Spanish architect from the Renaissance era.

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3. Capilla del Oidor

This baroque-style chapel is where Miguel de Cervantes was baptized. Capilla del Oidor is actually the existing remains of the Santa Maria Cathedral and one of the important edifices on the south end of the Cervantes Square.

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4. Museum of Miguel Cervantes

Cervantes’ birthplace is transformed into a museum in his honor. Here, I’m seated between the bronze likeness of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the main characters from the Spanish writer’s most famous novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Museo de Cervantes is located at the historic Calle Mayor.

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5. Corral de Comedias

Below is the Courtyard of Comedies, situated at the right side of the Cervantes Square if you face the statue. It is claimed as the oldest comedy courtyard since it dates back to the beginning of the 17th Century. It now functions as a theatre, and permits guided tours.

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6. Catedral de los Santos Niños Justo

The early 16th century Gothic Church is built in dedication to Saint Mary Magdalene. It is situated in the middle of the town, an imposing presence at the Plaza de los Santos Ninos.

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7. Calle Mayor

A highly historical street in the country, the Calle Mayor is one of the best proof that urbanism and commercialism already existed and flourished in medieval-era Spain.
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8. Archbishop’s Palace

What was once a fortress castle, as evidenced by the presence of the murallas nearby, is now the the residence of the Alcala de Henares Diocese. The palace is a proud World Heritage site monument.  Direccion: Plaza de Palacio

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9. Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego y Alonso Carrillo

Standing in front of the Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego is the statue of Archbishop Alonso Carrillo. The convent is of the Franciscan order. Direccion: Calle Beatas (near the Colegio de San Ildefonso)

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10. Puerta de Madrid

A historical structure from way back 1788, it primarily served as the point of entry from the ancient town of Alcala to Madrid, and vice versa. Direccion: Calle Andres Saborit

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11. Alcala de Henares Walls

Known as the Murallas de Henares, a significant portion of these 12th century walls are seen near the Palacio de Arsobispo. It served as the town´s protection, and was a effective means of taxing products entering the city.

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12. Laredo Palace

An edifice built in the 19th century by Spanish architect Manuel de Laredo, it features no distinct style but rather displays a strong evidence of varied architectural influences from Moors, Renaissance, and Goth. It currently functions as a Museo de Cisneros.
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How to Go

Cercanias (train): Ida y vuelta tickets are available at 7.60 euros, with the vuelta ticket valid until the morning of the next day. I bought my tickets at Nuevos Ministerios, albeit I presume tickets can also be had at Chamartin, Recoletos, and Atocha since the trains also pass thru these stations.

A little advice: For first timers to Cercania service, be attentive of the periodic voice announcements informing passengers of the train stops. The train is fully-packed at certain points of the trip and so the noise from the crowd can render the announcement weak and hard to hear. This might cause one to miss his stop altogether.

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