Tag Archives: Gran Via

Plaza del Callao – Plaza Famosa en el Distrito Central de Madrid

imageDo you agree with some people on the Internet referring to Plaza del Callao as Madrid’s version of New York’s Times Square? I’d say I’m not quite sure about that, if you ask me. Well, a mini Times Square perhaps?

Some will insist, however, on the resemblance of the two on account of the fact that both are beautiful plazas and widely popular among tourists.

The legendary square in the “City that Never Sleeps” always teems with crowds – it’s a people magnet. The same can be said about Callao. The latter pulls in swarms from all over, but especially from the touristy areas such as Puerta del Sol and Gran Via.

For me, I think it’s about the massive digital neon ad signs of all sizes that litter the plaza – Callao does mimic the Times Square in this regard. It boasts of a dozen or so signs that when lit up further flood the already brightly-lighted vicinity with a continuous glow of iridescent illumination, mesmerizing people as they ogle at the beamed advertisements. Most of these LED displays are owned and run by top establishments such as department stores and theaters within the Callao area.

Cines Callao

Considered as a major attraction is the Cines Callao edifice, an iconic theater created by the Spanish master-architect Luis Gutierrez Soto. It is one of the most photographed sites in the square, it’s main come-on being the giant screen on the center part of its exterior wall that faces the square itself. Here you can watch the trailers of the movies being shown or soon to be featured; they are flashed alternately with product commercials and announcements on the city’s various activities and public interests. I’m not sure whether the theater is doing the latter as a form of public service or the city government compensates it to do so. There is another similar screen, by the way, that faces Calle de Jacometrezo.

A look at the facade as well as its interiors, and you could easily discern it to be one of those sixties-styled cinemas  that give off an old feel.  Such has an effortless appeal to old-fashioned cinema patrons, who instead of playing their DVD machine, would rather go out, buy tickets at the taquilla, and enjoy a latest full-length feature on the silver screen. Most movies here are dubbed in Spanish, and without English subtitles.

imageThe Cines Callao edifice is located at the corner of the square near the streets, with the main facade in front of the plaza itself. This screen, the one at Jacometrezo, and the 3 other screens at Palacio de la Prensa are all part of what is known as the Callao City Lights, making such screens modern sources of information – commercial (advertisements) or otherwise (Madrid government publicity) – via impressive and breathtaking visuals

imageTaquilla of the cinema. Listed are current box-office movies like Alicia a Traves del Espejo and Rumbo. It helps that the theaters are located right in the central district of Madrid; hence, more people have convenient access to them. Tickets are available at affordable prices

Palacio de la Prensa

An integral part of the plaza and standing proudly along the busy thoroughfare of Gran Via is El Palacio de la Prensa. Designed by renowned architect Muguruza Otaño, its construction was finished in 1928. During those times, it had the distinction of being the tallest edifice around the area. It is a building of mixed use, with a variety of businesses and offices as well as residential units occupying most floors, including the Associacion de la Prensa. In fact, the building used to be the main office of Madrid’s Press Association, hence the name, until the group transferred to its current headquarters at Calle Juan Bravo. As part of the Callao City Lights, La Prensa boasts of four cinemas on its lower floors – known as the Cines Palacio de la Prensa.

imageImposing Palacio de la Prensa accentuates the busy Gran Via thoroughfare. Seen even from afar are multi-screens installed in its lower facade, showing LED-based visuals

Colorful Giant Digital Billboards

Similar to the Times Square’s probably hundreds of electronic screens and billboards are the commercial, digital versions of El Corte Ingles and FNAC, both of which show advertisements of popular brands that are mostly sold in their stores. The strong light that radiates from these screens become more pronounced during nighttime; they are literally an eye-catching enticement to people from all around, inviting them to come to the plaza and check them out.

imageThe tall buildings of El Corte Ingles, the premier department store in Spain, and FNAC, a French shopping chain of electronic products dominate over the rest of the structures surrounding the square. The two boast of gargantuan and high-tech electronic screens showing ads of major consumer brands. The attractive displays start in the early hours of the day and continue well into the night

Edificio Carrion (The Capitol Building)

It is understandable that Edificio Carrion is made more popular because of the Schweppes neon sign found on top of the building, which for years had been visually enhancing the night skies this part of Madrid. This shining, multicolored ad of a world-renowned beverage is attached on top of the building, and had been stared at and admired by countless people ever since. Likewise located on top of the roof of the building a few meters above the Schweppes logo is yet another ad sign, the Capitol Vodafone. It’s much  smaller but nonetheless visible, especially at night.

imageThe edifice is also called the Capitol Building because it houses the Capitol Cinemas, a theater chain popular among avid cinema goers.

Pedestrianized square

Callao has become totally pedestrianized like many other major squares in Madrid, making it a more desirable destination of people who enjoy roaming around at a leisurely gait. As it is, turning a square, or any part of the city for that matter, pedestrian-friendly is a boon to tourists who shun riding cars, but are instead eager to walk or even promenade in order to check closely and appreciate the place’s many sites and attractions.

Albeit, I was at the plaza early in the morning a few times and noticed the delivery trucks and vans parked within the premises, presumably to load off goods to waiting establishments. This is a scene also familiar in other supposedly pedestrianized plazas in Madrid, like Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ana. I lament the lack of benches considering Plaza del Callao is a major square. I counted only three located near the Adriatica Building. Hence, some who had to wait or want to spend the afternoon at the plaza are forced to sit on the concrete planters that hold the plants or trees, while many others stand in front of El Corte Ingles building and Cines Callao.

imageWhile many visit Callao to see its many amazing attractions, others consider it as a perfect place to meet up and interact, or as a starting point from which they proceed to other nearby prominent and sought-after tourist sites such as Plaza Espana, Lavapies, Alcala, Gran Via, and Puerta del Sol

More Plaza de Callao Photos

imageCalle preciado. This street connects the plaza to Puerta del Sol

imageView of the Cines Callao building and Schweppes or Capitol Building. Photograph taken from across Gran Via

imageLa Adriatica Building towers over the corner part of the square. It stands beside the buildings of El Corte Ingles shopping mall and FNAC

imageI had soft and tasty Croissant bread and cafe con leche at Restaurante el Jamonal, along Calle de Jacometrezo. Apart from light snacks, Jamonal also serves a variety of jamon and lacon sandwiches, Spanish cocidos, tapas, bocadillos, paella and much more

imageFigure of the Crucified Jesus Christ is displayed at the Parroquia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen y San Luis, one of the parroquias nearest to the plaza
imageHotel II Castillas boasts of its 3-star facilities and being in close proximity to the square of Callao. It is located at Calle de la Abada, a stone’s throw away from the plaza and Puerta del Sol. The hotel is an ideal accommodation option for those who want to be near the prime tourist and commercial areas of the city
imageThe Capitol theater of the Edificio Carrion, designed by architects Martínez-Feduchi and Eced, is another popular cinema chain in the Callao-Gran Via area
imageDesigual is just one of the many popular high-end boutiques in the vicinity

imageA group of teens presumably on a tour got off their ride at Gran Via and rushed towards the middle of the square imagePasteleria Portuguesa Natas Belem, with its chilled and icy treats, must be bracing for a deluge of customers the whole summer season. The establishment boasts of a strategic location in the area, alongside the Cines Callao

imageThe last time I was there, I counted three chairs (they’re not even benches) in all of the square. Now there’s only one I swear. Que esta pasando?  Lucky is the guy in the photo above who was able to enjoy the best, and the only seat, in Plaza Callao

imageCines Callao and Edificio Carrion come nighttime

imageMetro sign within the plaza. Other entrance gates to the station are found along Gran Via, in front of La Adriatica Building, and Calle Jacometrezo

Direccion: Plaza del Callao, Barrio del Sol
Distrito: Centro de Madrid

That One Afternoon when Streets were Carless in Madrid

That Sunday afternoon of May 15 was a peculiar one. Scattered were throngs of people on certain areas in Madrid, specifically around the Palacio de Cibeles, Banco de Espana, Sevilla, and Puerta del Sol. It was just for a few hours, but was an event quite unusual, nonetheless. “Humans triumphed over vehicles,” I should say; it was a rare time when pedestrians enjoyed street domination. Cars were hardly in sight that it afforded people to be able to walk in the middle of the streets, not one hurrying, but instead walked at a leisurely pace. While many headed straight towards Sol, others sauntered off a bit presumably to better check the surroundings.

Roads literally had everything in them except auto buses plying the affected route. A municipal car was parked in the middle of the Plaza, beside the Fuente de la Cibeles (Cybele fountain). Policemen stood in the middle of the plaza to direct traffic. I noticed one of them approached an autobus coming from Paseo del Prado and seemed to have instructed the driver to reroute to the opposite direction.

Everyone at my bus (Line 5) got off as told by the driver. All went down the parada across the Casa de America building, along Paseo de Recoletos. Seeing throngs already milling around the fountain, many of my co-passengers followed suit and rushed to the middle of the plaza.

My immediate thoughts were to take some photos of the Cibeles, both the fuente and the edifice. I’ve always wanted to have really clear pictures of the fountain but since I can only take it from the sidewalk or even through the window of the bus, I couldn’t produce clear photos. I avoid using the zoom-in feature since it doesn’t do the pictures any good. Zooming in the view on your phone camera only creates unsightly pixels, which renders the photos as inferior.

That afternoon afforded me the chance to stand a mere few feet from the fountain, gazing unflinchingly at it,  and happy that all the shots I took gave me crispy, vivid results.

Afterwards, I walked at Gran Via, in the middle of road,  moving at a crawling pace to better examine and takes shots of the buildings that lined its sides. However, as I viewed the photos that I took, the results were less than desirable. It might be because of the lighting at the time, and the fact that the buildings at Gran Via were too tall that I had to assume awkward positions and take shots from poor angles. Pictures came out with the edifices partially captured, or with unwanted shadows on their facade. Eventually, I decided to tuck away my mobile phone onto my pocket and just enjoyed the rest of my walk to Sol.

Overall, it was great timing indeed. I was glad I made the decision to attend the Sunday mass at the Iglesia de San Gines de Arles at Calle del Arenal. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have experienced it – that fine afternoon when streets were car-less in Madrid.

imageThe Palacio de Cibeles y Fuerte de Cybele. I was right in front of the fountain when I took this shot

image I’m within the vicinity of the Plaza de la Independencia, a major square in Madrid. Here is where  important vias intersect, like Calle de Alcala, Serrano, and Calle de Alfonso XII.  In the background is the Puerta de Alcala, a landmark near the entrance to the Retiro Park

imageTurning into a long pedestrian walkway for a few hours that Sunday, May 15 was Gran Via, where mothers and dads push the strollers carrying their babies and couples holding hands while enjoying some leisure walk. Many others take advantage of the chance to have unique shots of themselves doing crazy poses while in the middle of the street

imageThis is such an opportune time when everyone enjoys walking the roads of Madrid (at least, in this corner of the city) freely – without the traffic lights impeding the flow of pedestrians, or without worrying about passing vehicles

image As I near Puerta del Sol, the movement of people in the streets turned slower. Crowds were all around and became thicker. Upon arriving at the plaza (Sol) I saw a rally was being held. While first, I thought the streets were closed because of the Fiesta de San Isidro, I could only surmise later on that the rally created a mayhem that it caused the nearby streets to be unavailable to car traffic

Let’s Talk Madrid, Spain

Having had the chance to stay in Tel Aviv (5 years) and travel to Paris (5 days), I thought of myself as truly lucky.

Now this time, I am in Madrid, Spain. For how long? Nothing’s definite yet.

All I’m sure is that I am one fortunate soul.

Because for one thing, I am a blogger. In me now is this overflowing exhilaration knowing that once again, I can write about another great city.

puerta del sol madrid picture
At Puerta del sol, the heart of Madrid

Indeed, there is no other acceptable way to talk about a place, gush and rave about it, or even spew rants about it (if need be) than to be there – in the flesh!

To write honestly about a place, you must breath its air, soak in its culture, bask in its sun, and mingle with its people, asserting yourself as like one of them at some point (take it as a challenge).

estadio santiago bernabeu picture photo
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Europe’s third largest stadium

You do so, and everything becomes spontaneous, easy, and frank. You don’t become exact in your words, sounding like that in a wiki – but more like insightful, discerning, or even idiotic.

Needless to say, you’re licensed to articulate your emotions in any way you want if you see things first-hand.

And put simply, if you’re within, around, and a witness to your subject, you churn beautiful and evergreen pieces about it.

Lucky me, I am here in Madrid. For real.


Hence, letstalkmadrid.com is born.

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Feast of Nuesra Senora de Almudena Mass, at Plaza Mayor
Your caballero is ready and raring to travel around this beautiful Spanish capital. I dare to either conquer (read: blend in), or yield (read: be captivated by all its splendor).

To wander aimlessly along Madrid streets and inner streets is more to my liking; excited to be surprised by things, places, and sights that await to be discovered.

Here I come Gran Via, Puerta del Sol, Prosperidad (the Distrito where I live), Chamartin, Rastro (and its limitless antiquities), and Plaza Mayor, among so many others.

Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid
Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid

These blog-worthy places are but a drop in this city’s deep bucket of beautiful sites and attractions.

My humble website will feature some of Madrid’s parks (such as Parque de Berlin, across Avenida Ramon y Cajal) and churches (like Parroquia de San Antonio de Cuatro Caminos, along Calle Bravo Murillo), where I go to spend my times of idling and worship, respectively.

Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid
Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid

Also worth noting are their cafes, cafeterias, cantinas, coffee shops, coffee bookshops – which ever way they are called. Spaniards dearly love their coffee, explaining why these establishments are in the thousands, scattered around the city.

Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo Madrid
Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo, Madrid

Do I have to mention that Spanish food will be prominently featured here? No Madrid blog is complete without discussing tapas and paellas, cochinillos and pollos asados, and turones and jamones. Occasional reviews of popular Madrid restaurants are in the offing as well.

My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon
My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon

Por favor, join me in my journey as I write about my day-to-day experiences, adventures, travels, and travails as a Madrileno nuevo – a self-appointed one at that.

Undoubtedly, Madrid is a travel blogger’s haven; and so I can’t thank the Universe enough for being here.

Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue
Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue, Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Most importantly, it’s a privilege to be in Spain knowing that not everyone has the means to travel.

It is hard enough to gather resources needed to tour one’s own country. It’s even more difficult to travel to another country in a faraway continent.

Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo
Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo

I know that countless individuals ache for a chance to see Madrid. Sadly, most can only dream about it.

In my case, I am living my own.

For this, muchas gracias.

Do keep me company as I learn to live in this city; experiencing bliss and sadness, and everything in between. I’ll take it a day at a time while embracing Madrid tightly, and all that it has to offer.

Palacio Real picture photo
Palacio Real

Let’s talk Madrid.

Hasta pronto!