Tag Archives: Plaza Mayor

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_5155_940
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

Map

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

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

Map:

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.

Map

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

image

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.

All Roads Lead to the Pradera: Las Fiestas de San Isidro

The official festival of the city is the Fiestas de San Isidro. From May 12 to 16, everyone in Madrid is a witness to what is touted as one of the liveliest, most colorful, and most attended festivities in the city. Yes, it’s a four-day long affair, albeit the 15th is when most of the activities that matter happen, at the place where you will find the shrine of city’s Patron saint – the Pradera de San Isidro. At the vastness of this parque is where chotis is danced the whole day long, performances are held, and thousands arrive to pay homage to Madrid’s beloved saint. The wide, winding stretches of streets around the fields sell Madrileno cocido as well as clavels (carnations), berets, complete sets of chulapas, Castizo souvenirs – just about anything associated with the fiestas.

Where is the Parque de San Isidro?

The Parque, or the Pradera (which means grassland or meadow), is found along Paseo de la Ermita del Santo. It is a wide expanse of land just beside the famous Manzanares River; hence, it’s impossible for you to miss it. How to go? If you’re taking the Metro at Valdeacederas (nearest station to where I live), ride Line 1, and get off at Gran Via station. If you’re coming from Plaza Castilla, take the Line 10 ride to Alonzo Martinez. From there, transfer to line 5 and get off at Marquez de Vadillo. Tread the Calle de General Ricardos, then turn right upon reaching the first corner, at Paseo del Quince de Mayo. Walk the length of this street until you reach the Ermita de San Isidro, the shrine of the patron saint.

What happens at the Pradera?

It was here where the journey of pilgrims to the pradera happened after the saint’s death. The pilgrimage was a major, historic event that it became the subject of one of Francisco Goya’s painting, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro. For four days, the park is transformed into a huge venue offering various activities that everyone can watch, participate and enjoy. It’s quite a huge place, and so probably anyone in Madrid who wants to go there can be accommodated. Entrance, of course, is free. People are expected to wear chulapa costumes, set up their picnic cloth onto the ground to eat traditional Spanish comida (paella, jamon, rosquillos, bocadillos, watch various performances, and dance the hours away. By mid-morning of May 15, everyone is treated to an exciting parade of gigantes, including that of San Isidro and his wife, Santa Maria de la Cabesa.  A lavish display of fireworks is scheduled at midnight of May 16; this signals the end of the festivities.

Celebration all around the city

By the time this article goes online (probably tomorrow), the fiestas will have ended. Today, May 16, the celebration is almost finished, and whole city must be exhausted from all that had transpired so far. Remember that it is a Madrid-wide event, and so while the Parque de San Isidro was the focal point of the fiesta, other areas of the city also participated in the festivities. For instance, the streets of Plaza del Sol and Gran Via were treated to the Parada de Gigantes. Plaza Mayor, on the other hand, was host to the festival of Madrileno dances. Lavapies was the venue to the performances of various bohemian and blues bands. At Templo de Debod, visitors enjoyed concerts on classical music. Those inclined in arts and crafts were able to see the exhibit at Plaza de Las Comendadoras at Plaza Espana, which featured an extensive collection of Spanish ceramic pieces.

Bullfight season

The fiesta coincides with the bullfighting season, which is during the months of May and June. For many, the bullfights add further to the excitement of the festivities. Undoubtedly, Madrid’s bullfighters are known to be the best in the world. By May, however, tickets for the Las Ventas stadium where top-seeded bullfights are held become more difficult to obtain. Hence, it is advisable to get them during off-season.

Few Facts about the beloved Saint

  • San Isidro is not only patron saint of Madrid, but also that of the farmers.
  • A miracle attributed to him involved saving his son who fell on a well. Another account tells about him creating a spring just by plowing the ground. Later, the water that originated from the spring supposedly healed and saved lives.
  • His complete name is San Isidro Labrador, which means Isidore the Laborer, or Isidore the Farm worker.
  • He was born in Madrid in 1070, died in 1130, and canonized as a Saint in 1622, some 492 years after his death.
  • Aside from Spain, the Feast of St Isidore is celebrated in many other countries around the world, including the United States, the date of commemoration of which is either May 15 or March 22, depending on the state. In Catholic Philippines, St. Isidro Labrador is also honored as the Patron saint of farmers.

image I was running late, and so was worried that I might miss the Gigantes parade scheduled at 10AM. I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way, even with the Madrid Metro App and all.  Good thing I encountered these two comely senoras at Grand Via Station, and was relieved when I learned that they were also headed to the Park of Sn Isidro. I wasn’t lost after all. Donning the complete traditional Castizo dresses, they were gracious enough to allow me to take their picture

imageThe amiable gigante and his mini-me wearing identical chulapo, which consists of a checkered cap or beret, waistcoat, and a bright red carnation on his breast pocket. Chulapo is derived from the word chulo, the meaning of which is not quite clear to me. Some websites use chulo to denote a pimp or cheat,  while others define it as  hot and smartly dressed. The Parada de los Gigantes of May 15 started at the corner of Paseo de Quince de Mayo
image Food stalls doing business along the streets surrounding the park of St Isidro. Here is where you can find paella, Grilled pork, salchichon, bocadillos, rosquillas, pulpo, Madrileno cocidos, and other traditional food stuff served during major Madrid festivities
image Paella is one of the popular dishes or “cocidos” sold at the park. The large wok at the photo is filled with shellfish, pulpo, eggs, and other meat ingredients commonly used for paella. The rice or arroz is yet to be addedimageAubergines or baby eggplant, which according to the food seller, is pickled in vinegar, cumin, and olive oil, with some garlic and salt added to taste. It is usually stuffed with sweet red bell pepper

image Pickled stuffed olives wrapped in anchovies are skewered onto barbeque sticks to keep everything (olive and fish) together imageRosquillos de San Isidro – Spain’s version of the donut. These traditional pastries are sold aplenty during the month of May. The most common types are listas and tontas; the former is covered with deliciously sweet fondant, while the latter is baked without any outer sweetened covering image Couples garbed in chulapos perform a traditional dance called the Chotis. The dance was originally Scottish, but was embraced by the Spaniards as their own imagePerformers momentarily rest and enjoy some laughs after a dance performance. Here in Quince de Mayo, just in front of Ermita de San Isidro, some of the most lusty and engaging chotis dances were performed image Like how history happened when the pilgrims went to the hermitage to attend mass and pay homage to San Isidro, I joined many others who visited the shrine at the Paseo de Quince de Mayo to kiss on the saint’s remains

imageI had the opportunity to kiss the reliquary, or the small container holding the remains of San Isidro

imageI rue missing the gigantes parade at Central Madrid (Plaza Mayor, Gran Via) as they were supposedly joined by more characters. The parade at Pradera, of course, was no less interesting. People followed the gigantes of four as they walk the streets of San Isidro. Here, you can see the crowd milling around themimageThe gigantes couples face each other and start to dance the chotis, to the glee of spectatorsimagePerformer dons the costume of a zaldiko, the Basque term for horse

imageThe kiliki, like the gigante, is a popular character of the San Isidro Fiesta. He holds a whip with a foam rock at the end, which he uses to punish erring childrenimage A Latino guitarist performs a traditional Castizo musical piece together with his twin puppets, a fun performance immensely enjoyed by the kids at the park image This is what I only managed to take a shot of – since I was late for the pyrotechnics show. I arrived a good 10 minutes after the final song that accompanied the pyrotechnics display was through. Still, the illuminated Alfonso XII monument and the Retiro lake were a sight to behold.  Along with many other revelers, I decided to stay a few more minutes to enjoy the mesmerizing view until the lights were turned offimageThis Madrileno family, complete with cool sunglasses and chulapo costumes sit upon their chosen spot at the Pradera  near the Ermita de San Isidro.  The gathering together of families at the meadows is a tradition  that has been observed over the years
imagePeople sit on the meadows near the shrine as they wait for the start of the midday mass
image In keeping with the tradition, a open-air midday mass is celebrated at the Paseo de la Ermita del Santo

image The bust of Goya stands at the entrance of the park. One of the greatest Spanish artists ever, he preserved his memory of the San Isidro meadows through his immortal paintings, The Pilgrimage of Sn Isidro and The Meadow of San Isidro, both of which are on display at Museo del Prado

La pradera de San Isidro de Goya This painting offers a lush and vivid telling of the celebration of the feast of San Isidro happening at the park by the Manzanares River. A beautiful masterpiece by Francisco Goya (Source: Public Domain, Francisco Goya, Wikimedia Commons)
image A few blocks from the La Latina, at Plaza de San Andres, is The Museo de San Isidro. Here is where the saint spent his last days. The museum boasts of collections that date back from prehistoric times of Madrid up to its development as a modern city

Bocadillo de Calamares: That Spanish Sandwich Goodness I Had Come to Love

Squid is an essential ingredient of that tasty rice-seafood-chicken dish beloved in Spain known as paella. There’s no perfect paella without calamari. It’s the same case as concocting this dish without saffron – don’t ever be caught doing that in Spain or risk the scorn of true-blooded paella lovers. That’s how important squid is to paella. But, are you aware of another popular Spanish dish that uses calamari? It’s that sandwich drenched in gustatory divineness – bocadillo de calamares.
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My delicious plate of bocadillo de calamares (also called bocata de calamares) costs 2.50 euro at Museo del Jamon Restaurante, located at Calle de San Jeronimo, Puerta del Sol

Jamon owns the title of Spain’s premier food – there’s no doubt about that. But, being a big sea food lover, I’m glad that the spotlight’s also on this squid sandwich fare. In fact, calamares is among the top choices as far as bocatas are concerned.  At first, I thought it’s an odd combination, calamari and bread. But after the first bite, I fell for it instantly. Since then, my palate has been pestering me in a regular fashion, making me crave incessantly for this wonderful deliciousness of a sandwich to which I have no choice but to satisfy – to my own utter delight.
imageBocadillo de Calamares is traditionally paired with a copa of chilled local beer (Mahou), but I’ve grown used to eating it with cold cola, which for me is the perfect wash-down beverage. Here, we dined at Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, where a meal of bocata de calamares and cola is worth 5 euro. We paid an extra 10 for dining on its terrace.

Fried to perfection

The squid is dipped in batter and deep-fried just right to ensure that the meat isn’t tough or rubbery. Bocadillo restaurants in Madrid always cook their squid to perfection, and rightly so, unless they want their diners to endure prolonged mastication for naught (and lose valued patronage as a result). In the end, it is a simple bread-and-fried-calamares affair; but no doubt everyone will agree it to be exquisite gastronomically.

Overflowing goodness

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My fill for the day from La Ideal bar, located at Calle Botoneras. It serves some of the tastiest squid bocatas around, giving “next-door neighbor” La Campana good competition. The restaurant seems serious about its quick-service mission; always got my takeaways in a jiffy the few times I was there – whether there were huge crowds or not.

I veer away from those fancy restaurantes that offer hours-long dining consisting of multi-course meals (well, you have no choice really but to shun them if you lack the necessary ‘efectivo’), and rather eat bocadillo de calamares at my favourite sandwich bar. But what I really love about these establishments is that despite wanting on frills and refinement, they compensate with a generous amount of calamares. Yes, this is true every time. I like how my favorite bars like La Campana and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor fill my baguette plenty with these squid rings like there’s no tomorrow.

imageBocadillos at Plaza Mayor are usually overstuffed  with calamares to the point that pieces spill onto the plastic bag (which is totally fine with me since I’d have more to munch on). Prices range from 2.50 to 3.50. The popular La Campana Bar also found at Calle de Botonelas sells them for 2.70 euro each.

It’s common for calamares restaurants in Madrid to serve it baguette-and-squid plain – and nothing else on. This way, customers can appreciate fully the taste of the squid meat. Hence, don’t go looking for condiments spread over the squid rings – like mayonesa, aioli, lemon, or the other usual. Still, they are available upon request; restaurants readily accede knowing that some customers would want tweaks on their sandwich’s taste once in a while. But for me, the bare calamares-bocata combination always works just fine – it’s more than enough to satisfy my hunger.
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You might think that a sandwich as delicious as this might be complicated to prepare. On the contrary, it’s never rocket science. Once, I’ve seen a sandwich guy fry the squid rings, stuff them onto the baguette, wrap it, and hand it to the customer faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Suffice it to say that even if bocadillo de jamon is hands down the one sandwich to beat here in Spain, calamares holds its own, and is an equally favorite option of many. It’s a must-eat bocadillo, one that shouldn’t be missed by any first-timer in Madrid. In my case, if I were to choose between jamon and calamares, I’ll go for the latter any time of the day.

Semana Santa 2016 Madrid

As I observe and celebrate my second Holy Week here in Madrid, I decided to be up close and more into it this time.  Especially during the days leading up to Easter, I soaked up the city’s main way of celebrating the Semana Santa, which is the procession, a congregation of a variety of people, or “los gentes” – the devotees and believers, Cofradia officers and members, Nazarenos, Costaleros, tourists, and even the watchers and the curious lot. It’s fascinating to see how everyone wants to participate, whether as one of those parading through the streets and plazas for hours to carry heavy religious statues, or as a mere bystander who’s content to watch from the sidelines. Lent in Madrid is all about things meant to remember Christ – chanting, band playing, reciting oraciones, hearing masses, and even more processions.

Needless to say, my effort to be more involved was greatly rewarded. More than being the learning experience that it is, everything was a total eye-opener, which meant me letting out the boxed-up feeling of my somewhat latent appreciation for the Catholic faith. It’s just one of the many positive things that I gained as I went through the almost-sublime experience that is Madrid’s Semana Santa.

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo

JUEVES SANTO – Nuestro Padre de Jesus del Gran Poder / Maria Santisima de la Esperanza Macarena at Real Colegiata de San Isidro, Calle Toledo

HOLY THURSDAY – the day when I thought some cosmic forces decided to conspire against me. Just an hour before the procession, I discovered that I left my abono (Metro train/autobus travel pass) while already at the stop, so I went scrambling back to the apartment. Precious time gone to waste. Then later, while already having boarded the bus, I thought I left my ID card as I checked my things. So I hurriedly got off the next stop at Cuzco, only to find out upon rechecking that it was tucked in my passport wallet after all. And to make things worse, when I arrived at Calle Toledo, all I managed was to be within 100 meters, a distance so far I couldn’t even see the facade of the church. These wretched circumstances, they caused me to miss the procession altogether. Despite (or because of?) the frustration, I resolved to be early for Good Friday’s procession.

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I was far, too far from the entrance of Real Colegiata de San Isidro. Worse, the procession turned the opposite way

VIERNES SANTO: Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores, at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Calle Atocha, 6

GOOD FRIDAY – I gave up the usual engagement (read: home chores, blogging) to clear my afternoon and make sure that I am off to Santa Cruz early. Leaving home an hour and a half before the procession time, I rushed to the bus station at Paseo de la Castellana and Calle de Rosario Pino, hoping that autobus no. 5 would arrive soon. It did. As soon as I was seated, it somehow put my mind on ease about missing the procession. Arrived at Puerta del Sol at 6.45, now I am too early. I decided to look around to while away time. To my surprise, the sight of a myriad of people greeted me – doing the usual things like shopping, roaming around, and sightseeing, like it’s an ordinary Friday. Yes, I agree that Puerta del Sol is a tourist area, but then again, I presumed that on a Good Friday, activities in the area would be toned-down. As it is, most establishments were doing business that day. El Corte was open, and so were other high-end boutiques, the Mercado de San Miguel, restaurantes like Museo del Jamon, and the souvenir shops in Plaza Major and beyond.

I realized that the Holy Week isn’t quite enough reason for the Spaniards to deviate, even if momentarily, from their normal day-to-day life, which I thought is a demeanor that’s fine and not offensive or even egregious. It is apparent that being observant of the Holy Week, while acting like it’s just another normal one, is a behavior typical of them. It’s their nature, which I wouldn’t dare judge or underrate, in the same degree that I don’t want anyone to judge mine.
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Upon arriving at Parroquia de Santa Cruz, I chanced on the Nazerenos gathering at the front part of the parade, carrying their processional crosses, torches, and banners. They had their faces behind pointy capirotes to hide them from general view. Minutes after 6:30, the crowd livened up and roared with gusto upon seeing that the procession is about to start. The procession moves at last, even if slowly, to cause everyone to applaud in appreciation.

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Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores stands atop a float exquisitely decorated with flowers and candle lights. Hearty cheers and applause from devotees welcome her as she is brought out of the church to join the procession.

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Cofradia or brotherhood is depicted in this photo, wherein the Costaleros work together to carry the magnificent float of Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores to its destination. Typical statues chosen for display atop such floats are the major players of the Lent, like Christ or the Virgin Mary, or the barrio’s patron saint. The floats, tronos in Spanish, are themselves an attraction. Many are priceless, being in existence for decades, some even centuries, and have been passed on from one generation to another. They are masterful creations of well-known Spanish artists. 

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At the end of the procession is the marching band playing music in honor of the Maria Santisima de los Siete Dolores

SABADO DE GLORIA – Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo, Iglesia de la Concepción Real de Calatrava, Calle Alcalá, 25

According to procession schedule posted online, there is only one religious parade on Black Saturday in Madrid, and it is happening at the Iglesia de la Concepcion Real de Calatrava, along Calle Alcala. I liked that the event was on an afternoon – the photos were clearer as every shot comes with great, natural lighting. The sun was up and the air was cool – I felt comfortably warm even with just a light sweatshirt on. The weather was conducive to holding a great procession.

imageWomen and men don traditional clothes as they await the start of the procession. Elderly officials and members of the Cofradia are dressed appropriately in attune to the occasion. Customary wear for women are black gowns and veils (mantillas). The latter are a beautiful adornment, held high on their heads with the use of a comb called the peineta. Men are also dressed in black attire, either a suit or robe. In contrast, penitents wear a simple garb, with their faces behind a cover and feet bare to emphasize a remorseful mood.

image The statue of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo emerges from the church atop the float carried by costaleros. It’s obviously heavy beyond description, which must be why the pall-bearers do rhythmic swaying motions – they probably help ease the load that pushes hurtfully onto their shoulders.

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Following the statue of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo is the musical band playing slow-beat music

imageJoining the procession are officials of La Communidad de Madrid and leaders of the Cofradia

imageThe statue passes by the former BBVA building and the current headquarters of the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning

image Participants wear purple and black-colored pointy hoods and carry scepters as they trail the float of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo. Nazarenos, who hold crosses and candles during religious parades, are known to walk barefoot as a sign of penance. However, I didn’t notice this group doing so.

DOMINGO DE PASCUA – Plaza Mayor

Happy Easter! It has been the tradition to welcome the Risen Lord via the beating of the drums at Plaza Mayor, in Central Madrid. Called the Tamborada del Domingo de Resureccion, it is the awaited event of the day, where numerous drums are beaten and played to recreate that thunderous sounds and quakes that were said to have happened during the Resurrection of Jesus.

image The Lord is risen! Throngs congregate in the middle of Plaza Mayor to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
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Drummers beat their instruments loudly to signify the Risen Christ. Each participant’s pounding is  in sync with the rest to create a simple yet melodious booming rhythm, keeping everyone engrossed in their performance.

Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena: Procession at the Almudena Cathedral

November 9 is a special holiday in Madrid. For the residents of Madrid, Spain, this is a very important date — when the beloved patroness La Virgen de la Almudena is feted. It’s no-work day for Madrilenos in order to offer full honors to the Patron Saint of the city and  celebrating the Lady’s feast.

imagePeople wait for the procession to pass through and enter the Almudena Cathedral. The icon of the Virgin involves a few popular stories, one of which is that the people of ancient Madrid town decided to hide the statue as the town was captured by the Moslem warriors. Upon reconquering of Madrid by Rey Alfonso VI, he and his soldiers looked for the whereabouts of the icon. It was discovered hidden behind a portion of the walls that protected the town

11AM Mass at the Plaza

Everyone gathers within and around the Plaza Mayor, many of them garbed in brightly-colored capes and gowns — known as chulapos and chulapas. Here, they await and hear the special mass that is meant to celebrate Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de la Almudena. People join the procession of the patron as the icon is carried around the area until it is brought to the Cathedral Almuneda. It is one of the most special Spanish holiday, a highly awaited religious event of the city — with all of the local women invited to come and participate in the feast day’s activities, especially the procession.

Legend about the City Patroness

Recognized as the most important religious holiday in Madrid, it comes with a popular legend. It tells about a miracle that is attributed directly to the Virgin of Al Mudena. This particular story, which has been handed down from one generation to another, tells about the icon being hidden during the Moorish invasion and conquest. It was said that 3 lighted candles accompany the statue as it was hidden behind a wall. It was only after three hundred years that the icon was found after an exhaustive search by the Madrilenos, with the candles miraculously still lit.

imageMen and women participants at the plaza in front of the Almudena Cathedral, wearing beautiful suits and gowns as well as long capes – these are the traditional dresses that are worn in celebration of the Fiesta of Madrid’s patron – Virgen de la Almudena
imageWe proceeded to one of the city’s most popular squares – the Plaza Mayor – where a midday mass was held in the midst. This is one of the highlights of the celebration of this religious Spanish holiday of Madrid.  You would realize from the number of attendees in the square that the Virgen de la Almudena is well-loved by the Madrilenos

imageParticipants of the procession walk the streets around the plaza of the Almudena, wearing traditional Chulapo and Chulapa dresses. To honor the Virgin, people offer beautiful flowers to her – this is also a common gesture that befits Madrid’s beloved patroness
imageEveryone joins the Spanish holiday celebration in Madrid last November 9, either as onlookers and participants to the procession. The Virgin of the the Al muneda is an ancient and revered representation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The icon serves to remind the people of Madrid that the Virgin of Almoneda is the city’s Patroness
image Statue of Pope John Paul IV in the courtyard of the Catedral.

Where in Madrid:

Calle de Bailen, 10

Map:

My Meanderings Thru Madrid’s Two Plazas

December 21 in Madrid, Spain. Four days to go before the most awaited day of the year. Where shall I go in this city, almost all expanse of which I am hardly familiar with?

Actually, the group has decided to spend the last few hours before Christmas Eve at Plaza Puerta del Sol’s Museo del Jamon.

Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid
Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid

We were looking to imitate what the Spaniards do at the Museo – standing with one hand holding jamon bocadillo and the other a glass of wine or beer, dining with friends while having animated conversations and laughs – seriously, but all in good nature, of course.

I agree that the 24th is strictly for merry-making and bonding among buddies; with me not doing any excessive sightseeing or photo-taking that would otherwise weigh down my Yuletide-moded amigos.

Off to Plaza Puerta del Sol

With this plan already set, I decided to proceed with my other plan tonight, which is to go to Puerta del Sol

Arguably Madrid’s most exciting tourist site, the plaza I thought should be toured in solitude. I am ready to lose my way through the plaza’s main streets, and perhaps even the confusing networks of alleys and inner streets.

Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid
Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid

Traveling alone helps me explore to the optimum, what with nary a single human distraction that being in a group often brings about.

On the other hand, touring in a group means different minds ready to oppose your own plans and agenda and push their own. You travel with even just one companion, and your well-laid plan most likely goes all for naught.

I also needed great photos, lots of it that I can post here. And I’m doing it now as I know I won’t be able to on the 24th.

With a bunch in tow, most will be content on dining at the Museo and afterwards go to a nearby cafeteria for a round (two for some) of warm Americano or con leche.

Missing La Violeta

Another reason why I wanted to go to Sol is to see La Violeta, a popular candy shop that sells unique confectioneries.

We just received a box of its lavender sugared candies, and so I thought that it’s a sign for me to write a piece on the establishment, or at least make a mention in one of my posts (done here).

I find it to be really nice in taste. Hence, I just cannot make any sense of others commenting on it as weird. To be frank, I’m happy to have relished La Violeta, it being considered as a well-loved status symbol.

La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain's Old-fashioned Candy. It tasted so nice and sweet, similar to other common confectioneries, which is why I can't understand it also being called one of the world's strangest candies. Calle Canalejas, Madrid
La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain’s Romantic, Old-fashioned Candy. It tastes very nice and sweet, no different to other popular confectioneries. I strongly disagree with others labeling it as “one of the world’s strangest candies.” Calle Canalejas, Madrid

Referring to an online map, I learned that it was located beyond Calle Major, further down Carrera San Jeronimo.

However, I wasn’t one with a sane sense of direction. In other words, I went the opposite way and reached Cathedral Nuestra Senora de Almudena instead.

I will see you next time, La Violeta.

Quaint bakeshop along Calle Major selling Christmas themed cakes and pastries, its window display filled with colorful and beautifully-designed bake treats attracting many onlookers.
I might have missed La Violeta, but was lucky to have chanced upon a quaint bakeshop, also along Calle Major. Its window display is filled with beautifully-designed Christmas-themed baked treats that easily attract passers-by.

The mistake turned out to be a blessing because I found out that the church has a 6PM mass schedule.

I was already late, however, because I got there at 6:15. By this time, the offertory part was more than halfway finished. I attended the mass anyway and promised to be on time next Sunday.

Many evening masses in Madrid begin at 7PM, some as late as 8:30. San Antonio in Murillo starts at 7:30. I guess I’ll be attending at Almudena Cathedral for the next couple of months, now that evenings these days have turned extremely cold.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid, Spain
Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid

Lo and behold, the tree at Puerta del Sol

Mass finished at exactly 6:47PM, and after taking a photo of the Cathedral, I proceeded back to the Plaza to finally see the Christmas tree. I haven’t seen it lighted before so I expected to see a spectacle.

And a breathtaking spectacle I did witness!

Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol
Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol.

Radiant in bright yellow-colored lights, the gargantuan tree was a sight that’s unrivaled in all of the plaza. It was devoid of colorful lighting decors or fancy trimmings, but its imposing height and steady golden luminescence was more than enough to captivate anyone.

Street performers are usual fixtures at the plaza. This time, however, the themes of their acts are appropriate to the season, with many dressed up as Santa Claus, elves, Christmas trees, and cheery cartoon characters.

Vendors of lottery tickets, barquillos, bootleg bags, shirts, and CDs, Christmas decors, fireworks also litter the place.

Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.
Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.

Speaking of lottery, I don’t know exactly how the sweepstakes work here, so I refrained from buying the Navidad ticket (the draw was December 22). Besides, I can’t afford to pay 20 Euro needed to secure a single ticket.

Albeit, I am already a regular of Euromilliones lottery, the play of which I am more familiar with. It is also cheaper, costing me only 2 euro every Tuesday and Friday.

I then proceeded to Plaza Mayor, and upon entering, was easily awed by numerous Christmas lights that adorn the square. I thought that everything inside was magical and ready to enthrall everyone in time for the Yuletide season.

A major highlight of the place was the glass display showing miniature scenes that serve to narrate the Nativity, or events leading to the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Check out these beautiful scenes from PLaza Mayor. Feliz Navidad!

These multi-colored lighting shaped in boxes greet you as you enter Plaza Mayor. Madrid en Navidad!
Greeting everyone and providing entrancing luminescence are the Plaza’s multicolor-lighted hanging boxes. Madrid en Navidad!

Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds - decors, dresses, food, and toys
Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds – decors, dresses, food, and toys.
Everyone, especially kids, were happy with the act of this performer - using a contraption to create gargantuan soap balloon. Children can't wait to burst them to oblivion.
Everyone’s thrilled with the act of this performer – he uses a contraption to create and throw gargantuan soap balloons high up the air. Children can’t wait for these soapy formations to fall so they can burst them to oblivion.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the wires of the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Madrid en Navidad! In the middle of the plaza was a square-shaped display that features miniature scenes and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
In the midst of the plaza is a square-shaped display that features miniature forms and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
Oglers intently checking out the impressive miniature display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Oglers intently watch intricate miniature structures on display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ's birth. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ’s birth.
An angel appeared before Mary, announcing that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
An angel appears before Mary and announces that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus.
An angel descended and appeared to astonished sheperd on the cold night when Jesus was born.
An angel descends and appears before astonished shepherds on that cold, holy night when Jesus is born.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.

People occupied the sidewalks for some momentary lull and some quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.
People occupy the sidewalks for some momentary lull and quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.


Merry Christmas everyone, from Let’s talk Madrid!