Tag Archives: Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor of Salamanca – One of Spain’s Most Beautiful

2018_022523_3352_441Arguably, the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca is one of the most popular squares of Spain. I won’t hesitate to say that it must be the most beautiful plaza, even more than the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. If you’re Salamanca-bound, it is a must that you pass through this plaza – which is obviously humongous in area. During our visit last January, the square had our group in awe especially when we trooped to it during the evening, as it was a truly glowing spectacle.  Because of its beauty, grandeur and intricacy in decoration, the square was declared a major monument as early as 1936 — a beloved Spanish treasure.

Considered as the town’s major area where locals and tourists meet and gather, its most famous spot of the square is in the area of the building that features its clock. It is common for locals to refer to the spot underneath the clock as their meeting point if they get to meet inside the Plaza Mayor.

The porches on all four sides of the square is said to have been built as a means of protecting the sellers and owners of food stall during inclement weather, such as rain or snow. And like other major Spanish squares like that of Madrid, it was formerly used as a venue for bullfighting events up until the middle of the 1800’s.

2018_022523_3330_428The buildings surrounding the square glow like gold during the evening, brought about by the yellowish light coming from the numerous strong incandescent lamps trained on their facade. The bright hue is caused by the yellow silicon sandstone that makes up the materials of the wall. This glistening feature of Salamanca’s main square earns it the title of the Golden Square.


Plaza Mayor, 37002 Salamanca

Distance between Madrid and Salamanca: 212 kilometers

Travel time:

2 hours and 15 minutes



Madrid Churches: Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés

imageThis year’s first ever mass saw me skipping Parroquia San Fernando at Calle Alcocer, where I regularly attend Sunday service, and instead heard mass in one of the oldest existing churches of Madrid — the Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés. While another famous church, the Catedral de la Almudena is just a few blocks away, I opted for the smaller and more personal San Gines, located just along Arenal, the street that connects Puerto del Sol to Plazas de Isabel II and Oriente.

It must be one of the most accessible churches in the city since both the Sol and Opera Metro stations are a mere hundred meters away. Hence, it is not surprising that Sn Gines is among the most attended churches this side of Madrid.

Actually, it was much older than the sprawling Almudena Church, having been built in the middle of the 17th century; and until the latter was constructed, San Gines was considered the main church where all the major religious activities in Madrid was held. And like the nearby Parroquia Sta Cruz of Calle Atocha, San Gines Church is known to cradle the venerated image of St. Jude Thaddeus.

Nearby Madrid Attractions

imageDisplaying a simple facade, it was built using the Baroque and neo-classical designs, one of the prevailing architectural styles for edifices during those days

Eats: Beside the church is a narrow passageway that leads to the Chocolatería San Ginés, a popular churros shop serving the thickest and sweetest chocolate syrup there is. Always, I finish a cup of its special saccharine concoction with gusto, together with four piping hot churros or porras. The chocolateria, which opened in 1894, boasts of serving the best churros con chocolate in town. Just a stone’s throw away is the Mercado de San Miguel, if you decide that you want tapas, wine, bocadillos, and more tapas. Along Calle Mayor is the touristy Museo del Jamon, which is the perfect place if you want to grab a quick bite from its bar, or experience dining in its spacious comedor at the second floor, savoring all sorts of popular Spanish cocido.

Plazas: Puerta del Sol is one shouldn’t miss if you’re a first-timer in Madrid. There is also the Plaza Mayor, which is nearer to San Gines. What was once a bull-ring and execution area for criminals is now a popular tourist spot, where the city’s tourism office is found, as well as a host of bocadillo and Spanish comida restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Shops: El Corte Ingles is found in many parts of Madrid, but the one located in Calle Preciado is probably the busiest. In nearby Calle de Carretas are found popular boutiques such as Zara and Celio, among others.


Calle del Arenal 13 Madrid 28001

When Open

On Sundays, the church is open for mass service at 9AM, albeit I always go to hear mass scheduled at either 6PM or 8:30PM

imageA Nativity Scene, composing of the Holy Family and the Three Kings, is on display on the left front side of the Church


Madrid Palaces: Palacio de Santa Cruz

imageThere must be tons of buildings in Madrid — and the whole of Spain even – that are called Palacios. One of the most famous of these magnificent structures is the Real Palacio de Madrid, the official residence of the King of Spain. There is yet another one also situated within the center of the city, at the Madrid de los Austrias; it was really built to serve as a palace but now it houses a government office.

Known as the Palacio de Santa Cruz, it stands along Calle de Atocha, near popular attractions like Iglesia Santa Cruz and Plaza Mayor. Construction was from 1629 to 1643 under the supervision of Italian baroque painter and architect Juan Bautista Crescendi. The latter partly worked on the Pantheon of El Escorial.

The palace is of a few levels high, enough to overlook with pride the plaza of the same name that’s within striking distance. Its facade were mainly of bricks that are painted copper red, while found on its two sides are pointed towers, features that are commonly found many stately Spanish edifices.

Needless to say, the Sta Cruz Palace is one of the major building achievements of the Habsburg dynasty. The latter, also known as the House of Austria, was considered the most influential and outstanding European royal house of its times. It was able to produces great kings and leaders for countries from all over Europe, including Spain.

Former prison

Did you know that the Santa Cruz Palace was once a prison? The “La Carcel de Madrid” acted as one until such time when it was converted as a palace during the reign of King Philip IV.  Finally, it became the headquarters of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

It is interesting to note how the palace incurred an infamous past since it was once the seat of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition. It was here where the verdicts of the dreaded justice institution of Spain were drawn and meted to supposed criminals. Those who were sent to their deaths were executed at the nearby Plaza Mayor.

A beautiful edifice

The Palacio de Sta Cruz is considered as one of the most beautiful palaces ever built in Madrid. It is very near the Plaza Mayor. In fact, one of the entrances to the famous square is just a short distance away from the palace. Two other rather small squares are also nearby — the Plaza de Sta Cruz and Plaza de la Provincia. Within the latter’s ground you can find the Fountain of Orfeo.

imageEntrances to the Plaza Mayor nearest the Palace de Sta Cruz, located in Calle de Gerona

imageThe famous Fountain Orfeo, also known as the Fountain de Santa Cruz and Fountain of the Carcel del Corte

imageEntrance of the Palacio de Sta Cruz. The palace is a perfect example of a Habsburg designed building during Madrid’s early days

imageA carousel has been put up just recently in Plaza de Sta Cruz in front of the Ministry building – a sign that Christmas nears

imageNew ambassadors of countries travel from the Santa Cruz Palace (specifically in front of the Palace’s main door) to the Palacio Real to receive their Letters of Credence from the Spanish government. In the photo above (courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Madrid Facebook page), the Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain, His Excellency Philippe Jones Lhuillier is brought by a royal carriage en route to the Royal Palace to present his credentials to His Majesty King Felipe VI


Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012

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.

Autobuses: 3, 17, 18, 51, 50, 23, 26, 31, 32, M1


Madrid’s Fascinating Buildings: Real Casa de Correos

imageReal Casa de Correos is considered as one of the most imposing and grandiose edifices in all of Madrid. It dwarfs all others within Puerta del Sol, one of the city’s most popular squares. Also the oldest building around, the Correos is a major landmark that easily attracts visitors in throngs and busloads from all over, it being located right in the midst of Spain’s most touristy area.

While countless impressive spots are nearby — such as Plaza Mayor, Gran Via, Palacio de CibelesPalacio Real, and Plaza de Oriente, Casa de Correos is a major attraction in its own right, one that you must definitely see if you’re touring Madrid.

Built when

The building was the masterful work of Jacques Marquet, who used the Neo-classical style, one of the common architectural designs during those times. Construction dates was from 1760 up to 1768.

Real Casa has always been a government building. It was said to have been a post office in the beginning, hence its Spanish name. Afterwards, it became home to the Ministry of the Interior. At present, it serves as the seat of the Presidency of Community of Madrid (sede de la presidencia dela Comunidad de Madrid).

Kilometer zero

The Kilometro Cero at sidewalk of Real Casa de Correos, Puerta del Sol, MadridAnother reason to visit the Real Casa is the Kilometro Cero. In front of the building’s entrance, embedded on the sidewalk is this historic metal-crafted plaque. This symbol indicates the point leading to the major places in Spain. Kilometer zero is also the starting point of the major streets of Spain. You always measure the distance from this point to any other place in the country. And indeed, you would notice people milling around it, taking photos of their feet as they step on the Kilometer Zero marker.

Christmas tradition

Its best feature is the central tower that bears a 19th Century turret clock, made by the popular Spanish watch creator Losada. The Casa’s tower has always been the central attention of revelers every New Year’s Eve. Everyone gathers at the square, milling in front of the Casa Real, each bearing 12 grapes. It is a tradition to eat a piece of grape for every peal of the bell, continuing until all 12 had been consumed. As the clock strikes 12, the New Year is met by an impressive fireworks display as well as a major revelry throughout the plaza and the whole of Spain. The striking of the clock during New Year’s Eve is televised all around Spain.

imageIt is a popular landmark, especially on December 31 of every year when all roads lead to Plaza del Sol, and the building and clock tower becomes the center of attraction as the countdown to the new year is celebrated.

Location of Real Casa de Correos:

Puerta del Sol 7

How to go:

imageMetro Station: Sol (nearest station), Opera, Sevilla (all three belong to Metro Line 2), Callao (at Plaza de Callao, Metro line 3)

 Autobus: Number 51 (from Plaza del Pero and Principe de Vergara), Linea 3 (passes thru Puerta del Sol via Bravo Murillo up to Puerta de Toledo, Bus no 150 (from Principe de Vergara and Santiago de Bernabeu), Line 5 (paradas located along Paseo de Castellana)


Casa y Torre de Lujanes: Two of Madrid’s Oldest Edifices

It is a delight to be in the one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city of Madrid – this is the Madrid de los Austrias. If you still don’t know, the Austrian district is where you’ll find some of the most famous and visited attractions this side of Madrid. On top of the list are Plaza Mayor, the Casa de las Sieta Chimeneas, Royal Convent of the Incarnation, and the Palacio de Santa Cruz.

Another must-see is the Casa and Torre of the Lujanes, also in the Austria District, Madrid. It faces an equally popular and historical building, the Casa de la Villa. The Lujanes edifices are known as two of the oldest buildings in of Madrid. It is said that quite a number of generations of the Lujan family had occupied these buildings as residence.

Staring at the edifices as I stand in the middle of the Plaza de la Villa had me greatly astonished, as I am aware that it is like staring at monuments that had been  witnesses to an invaluable history of Spain of centuries ago.

imageThe Tower of Lujanes, situated along Calle del Codo. It houses the organization called the Real Sociedad Economica Matritense de Amigos del Pais

While the lanky tower’s height is average, did you know that it was once one of Madrid’s tallest buildings. Gaze at its peak and you’ll notice its turret. The design of its door, on the other hand, is obviously Mudejar, which was common style during those days. In fact, both edifices exhibit strong Mudéjar design, an evidence that this Muslim architectural design had been in used during the 15 century and even earlier in Spain.

imageThe sign at the facade of the Casa says “Plaza de la Villa 2 Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Politicas” refering to the group that is currently its tenant

The Casa de los Lujanes, the house, which possesses a patio in its interior, was rendered a major renovation by Juan de Luján during the last part of the 1400´s.

During its time, the Lujanes Tower was considered the tallest in the city. Its height proved to be helpful as the tower was utilized as a telegraphic station between the capital and nearby town Aranjuez.

imageDirectly in front of the two edifices is the Casa dela Villa, the Old Ayuntamiento of Madrid

The Torre de Los Lujanes acted as headquarters to a number of groups such as the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences; the Royal Academy of Natural and Physical Sciences and the Matritense Economic Society of Friends of Spain.

There were interesting stories behind the Tower and Casa, the most popular is that the tower acted as a prison to French King Francis I after he was defeated and captured during the 1525 Battle of Pavia.

Location: Within Plaza de la Villa of Austria District, Madrid

Nearest Metro Station: Sol, Opera

How to find: Finding the Lujanes Tower and House is easy. With the Real Casa de Correos in front of the Puerta del Sol as your starting point, walk along Calle Mayor to its left, passing by Plaza Sn Miguel and Mercado San Miguel, until you reach the buildings along the square’s Calle del Codo.

Entrance: Not open to the general public


Museo Thyssen Bornemisza of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art

2017_072317_5139_496After Prado and Reina Sofia, what else is next? Of course, it’s the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum along Paseo del Prado, another famous art museum in Madrid, Spain. It’s definitely one museum that I mustn’t miss since it is considered as one of the major ones in the city. For one thing, it holds a gargantuan collection of valuable art pieces, with over 1600 paintings and similar items on display.

I was simply awed by its current artwork, many of which are available for viewing by the public. Thyssen affords art connoisseurs and lovers the chance to experience and revel at the variety of outstanding artwork that come from different periods of time — these include the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and up to the modern popular art.

The Thyssen Museum boasts of unique paintings from major worldwide artistic movements such as the Fauvism, German Expressionism, together with the experimental movements that sprouted in the twentieth century.

You will find on its top floor a number of religious art work, most of which are from the  17th and 18th centuries, while on the lower floor are found a variety of modern art pieces. Clearly, there is something for every visitor to enjoy.

Likewise, Thyssen is known for its great massive collection of 19th-century American paintings, many of which cannot be found in other European museums. Because of its rich collections of artwork, it is understandable that the museum is packed with visitors every day of the year, attracting close to a million visitors a year. The presence of Thyssen, plus other major museums, renders the city of Madrid as a major player in the art world.

Where is the museum located?

What I love about Thyssen is that you can find it right in the midst of the city, together with the two other major Madrid museums, such as The Reina Sofia and The Prado Museums. These three popular museums, found in the area of Paseo del Prado and Atocha, form the so-called Golden Triangle of Art of Spain.

When it comes to the other nearby tourist sites and attractions, you can troop to the Puerta del Sol, Cibeles Palace, and The Temple of Debod, places that are just a few minute walk from the museum. Such sites are must-visits by anyone who is in town for the first time.

Another recommended place to visit after seeing Thyssen and getting hungry from all that art viewing is the Plaza Mayor, the ideal spot in Madrid. It is the most famous square of Spain, and one that I go to if I want to have a bocadillo or paella.

It’s an ever busy square that offer local events, and even a perfect place if you enjoy watching people walking and bustling by. Of course, there’s the Terrazas de Thyssen right inside the museum’s premises to satisfy your hunger.

2017_072317_5046_898The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday starting at 10AM up until  6:30PM. On December 24 and 31,  the museum is open until 3PM.  It is closed on December 25 and January 1.

Individual access tickets are available to all visitors; such a ticket allows full access to the Thyssen for one day. Access includes all temporary exhibitions on viewing during that day.

How much are the tickets to the Museo Thyssen?

The cost of the regular ticket is around  €12.00, but if you are a student, a fine arts teacher, or a senior, that give you the chance to avail of discounts.  The ticket prize is also reduced to 10 euro if you belong to a group of seven. But, you want to take advantage of free entrances, Thyssen offers free entry to the museum’s permanent collection during Mondays, from 12PM to 4PM.

Las Terrazas del Thyssen and the gardens compliments the museum

2017_072317_5115_526In front of the museum’s gardens is the Las Terrazas del Thyssen, a 3-floor food establishment that offers a variety of casual and easy-to-dine food. This makes the  restaurant one of the top dining choices this part of Madrid. In fact, the Las Terrazas is place to be by those who prefer to spend their night on an amazing u4ban dining club.

An exhilarating experience

2017_072317_5209_279I must say that my Thyssen visit is truly unforgettable. For one thing, I had the chance to view and experience immense amount of valuable artwork. Also, the place itself is inviting — it was easy for me to lose myself in the spacious rooms as I enjoy breathtaking art items on display.

The hours seem so short as I focused on immersing myself at the amazing collections; but still, I took time to also visit the gift shop and drink some bebida (refreshment) on the Terrazas. Needless to say, my visit to Thyssen is one to cherish forever, one that has enriched my life in a profound way.

How to go:

Autobus: Go for EMT 1, 5, 9, 14, 20, 34, 37, 41, 51, 53, 52, 146, 150

Metro: Take Line 2 and get off at Banco de España

Via RENFE, Atocha and Recoletos are the nearest stations to the museum


Tapas, Tapas, and More Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel

2017_040119_5904_095In the heart of Plaza Mayor and a stone’s throw away from Puerta del Sol, is the famous Mercado de San Miguel. The edifice itself, unusual for a market since it is made of iron and glass, is a major attraction of the city.

You see the instance you enter the market and make a quick round how diverse the food offerings at San Miguel is. In fact, the mercado has long been recognized as one of Madrid’s center for great food and Spanish gastronomy.

2017_040912_3617_604Day after day, whether it is a week day or the end of the week, the establishment attracts huge throngs of tourists, both local and foreign, many raring to buy all kinds of food stuff – wet or dry. Others troop to the place to relish some delicious tapa, drink a chilled copa of beer or wine while enjoying some animated conversation in some corner with friends.

Immediately after my first visit of Mercado de San Miguel, I place it high on my radar for places to have quick paella (two other favorite joints are Museo de Jamon and that take-away resto that sells some mean “para lleva” paella for only 2,70 euros).

2017_040119_5917_682Hungry people walk through the main middle isle of the market. There must be more than a hundred of these kiosks, selling all kinds of tapa delicacies you can think of17474080_10155154154059605_1650055860_oThe wide pan in the foreground is almost empty of paella2017_040120_0019_347Seafood paella at San Miguel – this small yet filling plate got me going thru the rest of my night at Puerta del Sol2017_040305_5504_474A tapa of pescado fritos (squid) is generously portioned and placed in a paper cone, but at 14 euros, I passed up on buying one. Luckily, a friend bought an order and shared it with the group. Tastes great, especially after we sprinkled it with a bit of lemon2017_040120_0104_739Compared to the squid, chicharones sells much less at 5.50, yet the serving is generous. I decided to have it with my paella, and thought the two paired well2017_040120_0129_852This crab burger is such a fine delicacy, and best of all, it doesn’t cost much (3.50 euros apiece)2017_040120_0145_179One of the best tapas you must taste at Mercado de San Miguel – olives tapas, which you can easily pop in your mouth. At 1 euro a piece, you can have several of these delightful goodies.

More tapas to relish at Mercado de San Miguel

2017_040912_0643_748Bacalao (codfish) con tomate y verdura, 1 euro

2017_040912_0557_582Anchoas (salted anchovies) con pimientos, 1 euro

2017_040912_0613_113Brandada bacalao con caviar de lumpo, 1 euro2017_040912_0658_757Gambas y huevos con caviar lumpo, 2.50 euros2017_040912_0710_933Ensalada de pato (duck salad), 2.50 euros
2017_040120_0116_235After you’ve had your fill, you might want to wash everything down by heading to the nearest cerveceria to buy yourself a copa or two of chilled wine or ice cold beer2017_040120_0154_300A bit of advice: If you do fancy some delicious tapas and would love to try as many as possible, the best time is from 10AM to 12PM and 5 to 7 PM, or hours before lunch and dinner. These are the best hours to roam around conveniently and hop from one food kiosk to another.

Prices: Generally affordable in spite of its touristy location. Tapas cost as low as 1 to 1.50 euros.

Horarios: Open to customers starting 10 AM, closes at 12 on weekdays and as late as 2AM on weekends

Plaza de San Miguel Madrid 28005. Nearest landmarks are Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real de Madrid, and Catedral de Almudena.


Ya es Navidad: Madrid’s Starting to Look Like Christmas

The happiest and most awaited month of the year has started, and so I deemed it best that my first post for December is light but nonetheless special. Let’s make it filled with lots of pictures of fun and Christmassy colors. Isn’t it obvious that the Yuletide air already pervades around? The season of hope and inspiration is definitely upon us.

Indeed, it is apparent that Madrid is fast turning into a Yuletide paradise; there’s just no stopping establishments from sprucing up their buildings – inside and out – with tons of exciting Xmas displays. Streets, side streets and avenues are one by one being adorned with multi-colored lights. Plazas and gloriettas, big and small, boast of giant, glowing Yuletide trees of yellow, red, and blue.

And so for this post, time again for me to get my phone cam busy and capture photos of Christmas scenes from around the city, where possible.

imageEasily, Puerta del Sol is one of the most crowded spots in Madrid during the holiday season. The famous square’s Xmas tree this year glimmers with its blue lights, instead of yellow from the past few years
imageYuletide decors of life sized and gigantic toys and cartoon characters are displayed in the upper facade of El Corte Ingles

Cibeles, Alcala, Puerta del Sol, Atocha — it’s a given that these neighborhoods are some of the most colorful spots in the city. I expect to have pictures of these places draped in full christmas display, as I alway had in previous years.

Of course, I’ll explore Madrid further — I am only too sure to find more neighborhoods that are suited up, proud that they’re part of this year’s Yuletide revelry.

Here is some initial photos showing how dazzling and enchanting Madrid can be during the Christmas season. I’ll leave this as an open post, which means I will be posting more from time to time, as more places become spruced up for the Yuletide season.

imageInstead of multi-colored lighting, the Palacio de Cibeles is bathe in red this time
imagePlaza Mayor is a venue for many different cultural activities during the Yuletide season. December 1 showcases a night filled with Rumanian festivities at the square
imageBrightly-lit holiday house at Azca, Paseo de Castellana, Madrid
imageMore or less a dozen Christmas tree stand in the plaza in front of Picasso Building
imageimageStores selling traditional Yuletide goodies such as asadas castañas and maize (roasted chestnuts and corn) are found in strategic corners of the city. The store in the first picture above stands in front of the Nuevos Ministerios Metro Entrance, the second is in the corner of Calle de Bravo Murillo and Paseo de la Castellana. Prices of castañas vary from 2 to 3 euros for a dozen.imageKids have a grand time ice skating at Plaza del Colon
imageNeighborhood shops and downtown boutiques have started filling their shelves with holiday merchandize items. The lower part of the collage is a photo of Xmas trees sold at a Chinese variety store, while the upper half shows multicolored decor balls from Tiger, a popular novelty gift shop.
imageYou know Christmas is just around the corner with the sprouting of more flower stands and kiosks around the city, like this one at the corner of Calle del Postigo de San Martin.

imagePlaza Remonta in Bravo Murillo is no Plaza Mayor. It’s like many other typical town squares in Madrid; quiet and dimly lit at night. No matter, this plaza is one with the season by putting up two Christmas trees in its midst — modest but helpful nonetheless in illuminating the place come nighttime, a delight to the kids at play.
imageThe Nativity and other scenes that depict the birth and early years of the Child Jesus, displayed at Parroquia de San Antonio, Bravo Murillo and Cuatro Caminos
imageChristmas trees brightly shine at night as they surround the Artichoke fountain replica at the roundabout or the Glorieta de Atocha

Christmas at Plaza Mayor, MadridBusiness is brisk at the Plaza Mayor, with Christmas lights and decors as best sellers year after year
imageMadrid, Spain, Calle Bailen, carouselCarousels and similar fun rides and attractions are a common sight around the city. The first carousel is found in Plaza de Sta cruz, along Calle Atocha, the second is located at Calle Bailen, near Palacio Real

imageEl Corte Ingles leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the display of Christmas decors. Its branch along Paseo de la Castellana has already begun showing Yulletide theme visual messages in its large electronic display

imageThe red Christmas tree now stands beside the yellow fountain in Paseo de la Castellana and Calle Vitrivio, livening up the area in time for the merry season

imagePlaza de Espana has put up its own Christmas Tree, which stands beside the square’s famous oblong-shaped fountain and near Calle Gran Via

Madrid, Spain, Christmas, Gran ViaGirl pals pose for the camera with their sweet smiles, reindeer antlers headband, red noses, and all.

imageTerrace restaurants install their outdoor heaters to warm  up the cool evening ambiance, like this one near Puerta de Alcala

imageChristmas is in the air, especially in Plaza del Callao where to be found in its midst is an adorable bright-yellow Xmas tree and the Tienda de la Navidad

imagePlaza Callao’s Tienda de Nativid sells Yuletide trees, bells, lights, decors, and everything else that’s Christmas
imageCalle Preciosa spruces up in time for the holidays
imageVarious attractive, Yuletide-themed pastelerias and other sweet goodies are available at La Mallorquina, a popular bakeshoop located in a strategic spot in Plaza del Sol
imageFancy holiday lights dangles along the length of Arenal, providing sufficient illumination as pedestrians traverse through the street, and perhaps towards San Gines Church to hear the evening mass, or even further down to Palacio Real

imageThe city has already installed the holiday lights, which I believe are the same ones for the last couple of years, along Calle de Alcala. In the background is the Palacio del Cibeles
imageIn the same manner as that of the Cibeles Palace, the Ayuntamiento building in Plaza del Sol is also bathe in red, as if to signify the solemnity of the place while still actve in the celebration of the festive occasion
imagePhoto of the Puerta del Sol Xmas tree in close range

Every year, the agency Loterias y Apuestas del Estado come up with a video advertisement promoting the Christmas lottery draw in December, with this year’s draw scheduled to happen on the 21th. 2016 Anuncio Loteria de Navidad’s theme is El Mejor Premio es Compartirlo, roughly translated as “The best prize is Sharing.” And like the previous ones, it proves to be a tearjerker. Be ready with your hankie as you watch this heartwarming Christmas lottery ad.

Chinchon: An Under-an-hour Travel Getaway from Madrid

Time and again, I try to be far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and all the stress and craziness that go with this big city. And enjoy a breather of sorts, even if only for a day.

This makes living in Madrid an advantage because of the nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. Just waiting to be explored are the beautiful towns of Toledo, Segovia, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial — amazing World heritage sites as declared by UNESCO.

Of course, small pueblos also abound. These are lesser-known towns within the periphery of Madrid. Found under the radar, you’d be surprised that they are just as enthralling, and boast too of fascinating tourist sites.

imageThe town of Chinchon, Community of Madrid, as viewed from the clock tower

One is Chinchon, Spain, which I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I learned it’s a mere 45 kilometers away from the capital. The town is known for its strong religious traditions, like commemorating Christian holidays thru passion plays, processions, and even concerts. What piqued my interest is its square, which doubles as a bullring, and so you know bullfighting is alive in this part of Spain. I looked forward to seeing the castle ruins and the clock tower as well.

Raring to explore the town, I decided to hit to road and go on a solo trip as a way of celebrating my birthday (this meant scrapping the usual birthday dinner at home).

And so, I was off to Chinchon.

The early morning of last Tuesday, I headed to Conde Casal Metro station, and then proceeded to Avenida de Mediterraneo where buses 337 await. Within an hour, I reached my destination. The trip didn’t tire a bit.  Instead I got invigorated, excited on what I was about to discover.

I found myself in the middle of the pueblo, which is noticeably tiny, quiet and rustic, like you’re in the countryside.

Immediately, I headed to the square and approached the much-fussed-about pasteleria located on one of its corners. I must have a taste of its famous sweet rounded pastry, which is described online as a soft bread that’s pretty much like a doughnut sans the filling. I bought two and gobbled one after the other, finishing both within minutes. Delicious and sweet little bread balls, just like what they say!

As I ate, my gaze wandered around, and saw a group of tourists roaming the Plaza Mayor. The square itself got my attention because of its appearance — “dressed up” as a bullring. I wondered if this is a permanent thing or it just looked that way because of a forthcoming bullfight event.

Later on, I ventured outside the square. Next stop is the clock tower, which could be reached by walking up a steep road of some one hundred meters. The tower is on an elevated land high enough to afford anyone a magnificent view of the town below, including the faraway castle ruins.

Like other Spanish towns, the streets are narrow and winding, and are hardly level, but run uphill and down. Still, I have to say that strolling around this town, from one site to another, was generally fun and relaxing.

One thing you’ll love about Chinchon is that most sites of interest are conveniently near one another and not spread out; well, except of course for the Old Castle. I had an easy time hopping from one place to the next.

I almost skipped the tourism office deeming I didn’t need an area map; but I did go anyway, because I wanted to ask if walking to the castle is doable. The people at the info counter assured me I’d reach the site within 10 minutes. They even gave instructions on which streets to take in order to get there the fastest. Some enthusiastic Chinchonites, indeed.

My final word about the town? Make it your next day trip destination. Tiny and unhurried it may be, but it packs with places of great allure. The town folks are friendly and helpful, especially those manning the square’s pastelerias, the alimentacion, and the tourism office.

Here are some of the Chinchon, Madrid attractions that you mustn’t miss.

The Counts’ Castle

imageSpread in a land found on the highest point of the town is the Counts’ Castle, or Castillo de los Condes. Also called the Chinchon’s Castle, it was the residence of the royals at the time when Cabreja was allowed to own a land in the area. Now in ruins, it is still under the ownership of the counts.

The Clock Tower

imageTorre del Reloj in Spanish, it was the only structure left standing and unscathed after the 15th-century Our Lady of Grace Church was destroyed during the War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia).

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

imageIglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunsion, with its bright-hued and solemn facade, is a sight to behold as you walk up the steep, winding calle known as Las Columnas de Los Franceses. Inside is the Blessed Virgin painting by Goya, Spain’s illustrious painter who lived in the town for some time. Nearby is the Clock Tower.

Hermitage of San Roque

imageThe Ermita de San Roque is dedicated to the town patron, the feast of which is on the 16th of August. You will encounter this monastery upon entering the square thru Calle de los Huertos.

Teatro Lope de Vega

imageTeatro Lope de Vega stands on the land where Palace of the Counts once stood. De Vega was a great Spanish artist, writer, and Chinchon admirer.

More Beautiful Chinchon Scenes

imageTourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square

imageThe wooden gate above is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor

imageBright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square

imageThe Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building

imageOne of the pillared walkways that surround the plaza mayor-bull ring

imageI captured a spectacular view of the pueblo as I walked back from the castle
imagePelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside

imageTeta de Novicia, another local delicacy, is a sugar-coated bread. So-called because it is shaped like a bosom
image Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products

ajos, chinchon, madrid, spainAjos de Chinchon hang on the wall of a lottery shop. Touching it is supposed to bring bettors good luck.

How to reach the castle

The Castillo de los Condes, lying on a low hill next to the town, might appear distant and unreachable when viewed from the Clock Tower, but it’s actually an easy walk from the Plaza Mayor. This 16th century Renaissance castle still stands mightily. It’s a pity, however, that some portions are already crumbling.

No one is allowed inside — they say nothing is found in the interior. Still, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive facade and the bridge of this otherwise haunting fortress.

From the square, you walk the length of Calle del Convento (which starts at the Plaza del Convento), until you turn right to Calle del Castillo. Walk time: Around 10 to 15 minutes

How I traveled to Chinchon, Madrid:

I highly recommend traveling to (and from) Chinchon by bus because it is convenient and easy on the pocket as well.

1. Take the Metro Linea 6 and get off at Conde de Casal Station.

2. From the station, proceed to Ave de Mediterraneo, where found are the “paradas” of green buses en route to various locations.

3. Look for the La Veloz-owned buses, and take number 337 — it will bring you to the town in less than an hour.

A bus is scheduled to go to the town every 30 minutes to an hour (during weekends) with trips starting at 7am. Tickets sell at 4.20 euros.


Top 10 Things to Do In and Around Plaza Mayor Madrid

If you just visited Spain’s beautiful capital for the first time, you might want to go straight to Plaza Mayor Madrid; there’s no doubt that this popular enclosed and pedestrianized square is one of the city’s most important attractions.
imageKnown before as the Plaza Arrabal, the square was first an arena where ancient bullfighting games were held, and so, you can only imagine how noisy the square used to be then, what with the boisterous spectators of the game. I myself was surprised upon knowing about the initial purpose of the square. Obviously, a substantial part of Spanish bullfighting history occurred in this place.

During the early days, fiesta and carnival activities were commonplace scenes in the plaza. Also, at the height of the dreaded Inquisition, heretics and other criminals were persecuted within the area. Those found guilty were put to death by burning or strangulation.

Today’s Plaza Mayor Madrid

imageOne thing you would notice is the uniform appearance of the facade of the structures found on all sides. The buildings also possess the same structural feature, specifically porticoes (porch) at the their front or roof structures over walkways. The thick columns provide support to these structures as they surround the whole square.

The appearance of the plaza was not always like it it now. In the late 1800’s, it was ravaged by a series of fires, and was only restored to its former greatness via the work of Senor Juan de Villanueva, Spain’s respected modern classical architect.

Things to do when in Plaza Mayor Spain

Did you know that the plaza takes on the shape of an almost perfect square? And that all its gates form beautiful aches? Thousands of people can be accommodated at the plaza, and because it is one of the most popular and accessible tourist sites in Centro Madrid, it never runs out of people.

Here are fun things that you can do inside the Mayor Plaza:

1. Dine at any of the plaza’s many restaurants (must get table at the terrace)

imagePlaza Mayor’s sides are lined with many popular restaurants and cafes. I suggest that you opt for the restaurante that offers terrace dining, as it meant the chance to enjoy the best views of exciting goings-in inside the plaza as you relish bocadillos, paella, or other delicious traditional Spanish cocido.

2.Eat bocadillo as you marvel at the beauty of the square

imageOn a hurry to see the plaza? Can’t wait to have a bite on a delicious bocadillo de calamares? Pleasure, contentment, and satiated hunger are easily achieved just by snacking on some hot, take-away bocadillo as you check out the square at the same time. Sandwich bars and cafes are aplenty; these establishments are found on all sides of the square, with prices of bocadillos ranging from 2.70 to 5 euro apiece.

3. Have a picture of you in a chulapo

imageDo you want to see yourself garbed in a chulapo? Find those headless mannequins that are dressed in such costumes. All you need to do is pose behind any of these mannequins and have someone take your photo, and Voila! You have a souvenir pic of yourself looking smart in this particular traditional Spanish costume. All for a fee, of course.

4. Visit the Tourism Information Center Office

imageHoused at the Casa de la Panaderia, the city tourism agency they will help you come up with the best tour itinerary. They also provide free  maps and brochures. Needless to say, the tourist information centre at the square is the most modern tourism information agency in the country. It offers assistance to local and foreign tourists all days of the year, starting at 9:30AM.

5. Purchase Madrid souvenir items to remember your visit by

imageSouvnir paradise, that’s what Mayor Plaza is – the place is where you’ll find Madrid mugs, dolls, abanicos, Real Madrid shirts, Flamenco figurines, and so many more. You will have a grand time choosing souvenirs as there are just many shops around to go to. Most offer fine quality souvenir items, all of which will help you cherish your Madrid Spain vacation.

6. Have a dose of rich Spanish history

I. Arco de los Cuchilleros

imageThere are more or less ten entrance gates to the square, the most popular of which is Arco de Cuchilleros (Arch of Catlers) on the southwestern corner of the square that leads to street of the same name. In this street, the knive-makers’ factories were found, and were there wares are made, to be sold to the butchers that worked in the plaza (Casa de la Carniceria)

II. Felipe III and horse bronze statues

imageA very impressive sculpture, a creation of Giambologna and Tacca, the Philip III statue and his horse statues are two highly valued art creations of the 17th century. The original location of the statues was actually not at Plaza Mayor, but Casa de Campo. In 1848, it was transferred to the square upon the request of Reina Isabel II. She intended it to be seen and appreciated by more residents of Madrid.

III. Casa de la Panadería

imageCasa de la Panaderia, built by Sillero by the end of the 16th century, reveals an original portion that separates it from the rest of the buildings that surround the square. Actually the only original parts of the building was the first floor and cellar.  Still, as you can observe, the buildings around the square are identical in design — they were patterned after that of Casa de la Panaderia.

IV. Gate Arch at Plaza Mayor


The arched entrance that opens to the Calle de Toledo experiences high pedestrian traffic since it is one of the touristy streets of the city

7. Join Free Tour

imageTake advantage of free tours that will take you to importnat spots and corners inside the square, but to other attractions of Madrid. Be alert for those who hold umbrellas the say “Free tours!”

8.Book at any of the hotels near Plaza Major Madrid

Hotel Plaza Mayor Madrid

imageHotel Plaza Mayor Madrid is actually not inside the square premises but a few meters outside, at the corner of Calle de Atocha. Still it is the choice of many tourists who want to be just a stone’s throw away from the plaza and other important attractions like Puerta del Sol and Palacio Real. The facade is quite simple, yet you know a lot of history has transpired in this building since it has been in existence since the 1700s. A mix of traditional and modern design in its interior, the hotel is complete with high-tech facilities like modern lighting and free WiFi

Petit Palace

imageAnother must-book hotel if you want to stay near the Plaza is the Petit Palace, just along Calle de Arenal. It is strutegically located, right in the midst of of the city. In fact, you are only a few steps away from Plaza Mayor, which is why it is an ideal place to book a room if you want to be near to the square. It offers vital amenities like free Internet and an iPad for use in your room.

9. Meet up with friends, hang out at the plaza

imagePlaza Mayor is much like Puerto del Sol, it is also an ideal place to meet up with your friends if you’re in the city. After checking out every nook and corner of the square, your group can later proceed to other major Madrid attractions, like Plaza de Isabel II, Museo de los Canos del Peral, or even Jardines de Sabatini, to name a few. Many of these touristy sites are in close proximity to the place

10. Experience a merry Christmas at the square

imageBe a part of Christmas joy in Madrid by visiting its xmas bazaar. As the Yuletide season nears, the place transforms itself into a sort of wonderland for the whole family, where multi-colored lights, kiddie rides, street performances for the kids, and bazaars can be found in the square. The story of the Navidad is usually depicted in the form of clay figures of the men and women during the birth of Jesus, including the Holy Family itself. A miniature town of Bethlehem, where within these figures are positioned to play out the Nativity scenes, are on display in the middle of the square, for everyone to see.