Tag Archives: Puerta del Sol

Parque Europa – Little Europe of Madrid

Parque Europa might not be even a bit comparable to world-famous theme parks such as Euro-Disney of Paris or the Ocean World of California USA, but definitely it is well worth your time going there. For one thing, you can stay inside without having to spend a single dime. Entrance to the park is free. Found within Torrejón de Ardoz, one of the Community of Madrid, the parque is quite sizable and there is adequate space for any activity that you and family or friends might want to engage in. Likewise, you can bring your own food and drinks inside. In fact, there is a portion of the park filled with tables and benches for visitors to eat and rest.

You can stay inside the park, seat on a bench, and be in touch with nature all day long. Varieties of well-manicured plants, bushes, and trees abound, while roads and pathways are well-paved to allow easy access from one place to another.

But beautiful flora is not only what Parque Europe has to offer, but attractions and rides as well. The most popular rides are zip-line, pony riding, and boating along the lagoon. Food stands, restaurants, and vending machines are found in strategic places throughout the park.

But its best attractions are the replicas of the premier landmarks and monuments of major European countries. There are at least 17 of these impressive structures, with the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, and the Trevi Fountain as three of the most popular ones. Visit Parque Europa and experience all the fun things that it has to offer.

Have a taste of Europe via these Exciting Mini-European Landmarks

Torre de Belem of Lisboa, Portugal

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Puerta de Alcalá of Madrid, Spain

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Garden Pathway

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The Little Mermaid of Copenhagen

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Ayuntamiento de Madrid at Puerta del Sol

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Dutch Windmills of Holland

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London Bridge (As seen from C/ Antonio de Solis)2017_052918_1656_946

London Bridge (Side)

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Plaza de Europa

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El Atomium of Brussels

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Biblical King David by Michaelangelo

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Eiffel Tower of Paris, France

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Trevi Fountain of Rome

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Puerta de Brandeburgo of Berlín

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Activities to do inside

Boat ride at the Lagoon

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Biking

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Pony ride

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Picnic with family and friends

2017_052922_4909_399We enjoyed our lunch on one of the picnic tables found near the Puerta de Brandeburgo

Dine at Restaurante El Mirador de Europa

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How you can get to Parque Europa:

Parque Europa is a major attraction of Torrejón de Ardoz, a nearby Madrid town. You can reach this recreational park from Madrid proper by taking Cercanías train C-7. As soon as you reach Torrejon, you will have to take autobus C2 to arrive at Parque Europa. You will reach your destination in under 1 hour, or approximately 45 minutes. The cheapest way to get to the park from Torrejón De Ardoz is by autobus 224A

Gates/Entrances to the park:

2017_052918_1535_151Most visitors enter by the front of the Brandenburg Gate, along Paseo de los Cipreses. Another gate is by the Puerta de Alcala replica, found at Calle Hilados. Another means of access to the park is via Calle Compass, at the corner of Alamo Street.

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Palacio de las Cortes de Espana – Home to the Spanish Congress of Deputies

imageGreat things abound that make Madrid a place to marvel at, they include the beautiful and majestic public offices found all around the city. Tall, sprawling, and possess impressive architectural designs — these are the qualities that the country’s government buildings have in common.

A fine example is the headquarters of the Congreso de los Diputados or the lower chamber of Spain’s legislative beanch, located at the Carretera de San Jeronimo. The Congress of Deputies in English, this branch of the Spanish Parliament is housed at the Palacio de las Cortes de Espana, the single most important edifice at the Plaza de las Cortes,

imageIt boasts of a grand design highlighted by the six columns in its entrance that lends strength to its dacade. The building is touted as one of the best examples of the city’s neoclassical architecture.

It is relatively new compared to other buildings in Madrid, having only been constructed in 1843 under the helm the Spanish architect Narciso Pascual Colomer and during the reign of Reina Isabel II. Still, the palace boasts of interesting stories about it, like its location being the former site of a convent. Needless to say, the Congress headquarters is one of the reasons the Carretera de San Jerónimo enjoys an influx of tourists throughout the day.

imageRenowned architect Pascual y Colomer is responsible for the neoclassical style of the building, while the attractive relief found in the upper front is a creation of sculptor Ponciano Ponzano. The most popular portion of the relief is the depiction of a lady with a girl on her side. Ponzano is also responsible for sculpting the two bronze lions found by the building’s staircase. His other creations are figures that represent various aspects of the state, such as Justice and Peace, Agriculture, and Fine Arts.

It is easy to reach Palacio de las Cortes since it is connected to Puerta del Sol via San Jeronimo street. It is also near other important tourist spots of Madrid such as Prado Museum,Puerta del Sol, Atocha station, Reina Sofia Museum,Plaza de Espana, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Cibeles Palace.

Opening hours:

Lion in front of Palace of the CourtsIndividual visits: Congreso de los Diputados is open to the public during Saturdays. Visiting time is from 10:30AM to 12:30PM. Schedule may change during the month of August, depending on the official activities.

Group visits: Guided tours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00AM to 2:30PM and 4:00PM to 6:30PM. Time of visit may change during August, depending on scheduled official activities. Reservation is a must for guided tours.

Address:

Calle de Floridablanca, 28071 Madrid

How to Reach:

Long shot of Palacio de los CortesThe best way to get to the site is via Madrid Metro, with Sevilla, Banco de Espana, and Vodafone Sol as the nearest stations

Autobus: 3, 5, 9, 10, 15, 20, 34, 37, 45, 46, 52, 53, 203, 150

Admission

Enttance is Free, however visitors are required to present and ID or passport.

Map:

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La Iglesia de San Nicolas — The Oldest Church in Madrid

La Iglesia de San Nicolas, MadridBasilicas, cathedrals, parroquias — the Spaniards do love their places of worship, treating them as their go-to place after toiling the day at work, and their quiet sanctuary every weekend. They have such great respect for their churches that throughout the centuries, generations upon generations of Spanish builders put immense time and effort in the construction of these edifices, turning them into architectural and design masterpieces. It is typical for the churches’ interiors, such as the altarpiece and the nave, to be awed at, if only because of the fine, intricate details put into them.

Undoubtedly, Spanish churches, big and small, are not just creations of impeccable craftsmanship, but are great works of art.

Noticing how even the most recently built churches in the city possess the most breathtaking appearance, I always wondered how the oldest church of Madrid — Iglesia de San Nicolas de los Servitas — would look like. I always picture it to be a tall, imposing edifice sprawled on some major city plaza. Imagine how surprised I was when I finally got to visit it. The church was hidden in an inner street, obscured by surrounding edifices. Immediate streets are narrow, and the space in front is cramp, giving anyone a hard time taking a good photo of the church. Albeit still, it is located within the center of the capital.

Evidently, Saint Nicholas is a regular church, but considering its location, I deem it is still appropriately-sized to accommodate and serve the local parishioners of that particular area in Central Madrid.

Oldest Madrid Church

La Iglesia de Sn Nicholas dates back in the medieval 12th century, and so it is now listed to be the oldest parish church in Madrid, after the original Iglesia de la Santa Maria de la Almudena was torn down. Throughout the centuries, it had undergone a number of changes both in its facade and interior, particularly the small chapels found within.

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell tower and its Mudejar features

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell towerUpon closer look at its edifice, you would know that it exhibits a Mudejar or Moorish design, most especially in its bell tower. Not a few archaeologists have strongly suggested that it might have been originally a mosque. Another theory is that a Muslim place of worship was standing in its location.

The bell tower, in particular, is the oldest structure of the church. It is said to have been built in as early as the 12th century. This must be the reason it was the first to be recognized as a Spanish National Monument, way back in 1931. The rest of the edifice was built and finished about three centuries after, during the 15th century. Recognition of the church itself came in 1978, as a Bien de Interes Cultural.

Italian Iglesia de Madrid

The San Nicholas Church is often referred to as the city´s Italian church, since from time to time the mass is said in Italian. For a mass to be performed in the said language, a request must be done beforehand, together with an assurance that a large number of Italians will attend. They must have adopted the church as their own because of its proximity to the Institute of Culture of Italy, which is just nearby, also at Calle Mayor.

San Nicholas Church Bell Tower MadridThe bell tower, exhibiting rich Mudejar features, was constructed long before the rest of the church, way back in 1100’s.

Iglesia de San Nicolas Traviesa de BiomboAt the back of the church is the Plaza del Biombo, from which pedestrians can take the Traviesa del Biombo, a narrow and short passageway that traverses the side portion of the church and into its front

Iglesia de San Nicholas Baroque ReliefYou will find on top of the main entrance to the church a sculpted Baroque relief of San Nicolas, a work of art by Spanish sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona

How to find Iglesia de San Nicolas

Direccion: Plaza San Nicolas 6, Madrid 28013

Madrid Metro: Opera Station (Lineas 2 and 5), Vodafone Sol Station (Lineas 1, 2, 3).

From the Opera, you will have to walk down to the right direction of Calle de Vergara. Turn upon reaching the corner of Plaza Plaza Ramales and continue until you reach Plaza San Nicolas.

From the vodafone station, take the right side of Calle Mayor, passing by Plaza de San Miguel and Plaza de la Villa. Turn right at Calle San Nicolas and a short walk will bring you to the church.

What time to visit:

Mondays: 8:30AM to 1PM
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:00AM to 9:30AM; 6:3PM to 8:30PM Sundays: 10:00AM to 2:00PM; 6:30PM to 8:30PM

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Casa de la Villa, Ayuntamiento de Madrid [Old Town Hall]

imageWe all know that the Palacio de Cibeles is the City of Madrid´s current Ayuntamiento or town hall, where its administrative functions and duties are performed. However, not many might be aware that the original town hall of the city is found near the Puerta del Sol, along Calle Mayor. It’s name is Casa de la Villa — and it is often referred to as the Old Town Hall of Madrid.

It is easily the most visited building among those found within the Plaza de la Villa, and early in the morning, throngs of people would already flock to the square and appreciate this beautiful Juan Gomez de Mora-designed edifice. There’s no doubt that Casa dela Villa is very popular if only for its historical importance as the city’s former main headquarters and town hall.

The monument is easy to reach since it is in a stragetic location, being situated between two popular Madrid squares — the Plaza de Oriente and Puerta del Sol and just along a street tourists and locals must know. The square is full with rich history itself, acting as the site of various important events that occured during the ancient, Renaissance period of Madrid. Its former name is Plaza de San Salvador, after the Church that bears the same name.

imageStately facade of the Town hall impresses many visitors and tourists. Not only did it function as a town hall, but Casa de la Villa was once designated as a jailhouse for the city´s prisoners

Plaza de la Villa Madrid, SpainIn honor of the death of famous Captain General Alvaro de Bazan, a bronze monument was sculpted by Mariano Benlliure and erected in the middle of the square, right in front of the town hall. On its pedestal are words by Lope de Vega honoring him. Bazan was the Captain who commandeered the Spanish Armada. imageHouse of Cisneros used to  be a palace from the 16th century and was built under Jimenez de Cisneros, the nephew of Cardinal Cisneros. The latter was the founder and builder of the Universidad de Alcala, found in the Comunidad de Madrid town of Alcala de Henares. Various renovations were done in the property, which included connecting the building with the Old City Hall via a short enclosed walkway.
imageThe enclosed walkway between Casas de Cisneros and de la Villa, serving as a connection or bridge between the two edifices
imageThe bridge that connects the House of Cisneros to the Old Town Hall was built during the early part of the 1900’s. The narrow street that traverses between the two buildings and below the enclosed walkway is called the Calle Madrid. It is connected to other small streets; these are Calle del Rollo and Calle Duque de Najera

imageThe House and Tower of the Lujanes take pride in having two of the oldest Madrileno architectural designs — these are the Gothic and Mudejar styles. The tower is said to be the older of the two structures; it has been in existence since the start of the 15th century. Originally the home to Gonzalo Garcia, it was acquired by Pedro de Luján in 1450

imagePlaza de la Villa is considered to be of high historical value since it is the focal point of ancient Madrid, being the site of the seat of old city´s administrative power – Casa de la Villa. It was here where streets found in the city´s old and original layout are connected — Calles Madrid, Cordon, and El Codo

imageThe facade of the building that faces the Calle Mayor. On its immediate side is the Palacio Marques Canete, or the Centro Sefarad. Just nearby is the building of the Italian Cultural Institute.

Want to see Casa de la Villa?

If you want to know more about the monument and perhaps see its interior, the best time to visit is Mondays at 5 PM, when a tour is held for visitors, and conducted in Spanish and English.

How to find Casa de la villa

Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005

The historic edifice-monument is easy to reach: From Puerta del Sol or the Opera, walk the length of Calle Mayor until you reach Plaza de la Villa, at Number 5. The site is near two Madrid attractions, which incidentally are both Palaces, or at least named as such. These are the Palacio Marques de Canete, or the Centro Sefarad Israel (located immediately after the Casa) and Palacio de Abrantes or the Italian Cultural Institute (right in front of it).

Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)
Auto buses near the site: Numbers 3, 20, 33, 39, 50 to 53, and 150

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.

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

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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.

Metro Museo: Plaza de Chamberi Ghost Museum in Madrid

Had your fill of the conventional museums that are aplenty, found in almost every barrio of the city?  Looking for a museum in Madrid that veers away from the norm? Here’s one museo that’s quite different from the rest — the Metro Museum in Plaza de Chamberi, Madrid.

imageLine from Station Chamberi to Tetuan

Fantasma de Estacion de Metro de Chamberi

imageOld-styled metal entrance to the station – a recreation. This ghost station at Chamberi boasts of over 170,000 visitors

It was functioning at first, like any other Madrid Metro station. In fact, it was one of the original stations of Linea 1 that ran from Cuatro Camino to Puerta del Sol. However, for whatever reason, the early administration of the train system had to  close it down.

Fast track to current times, and the metro is now a museo.

I had the chance to visit it just recently. And indeed, as soon as I stepped inside, somehow I experienced that feel of an eerie air that seems to pervade all around.  It is the same weird, if not ghastly feeling you might get if you ride the metro, and try to have a glimpse of the station as the train passes through it.

imageThe old Line 1 included stations that are also found in the modern line, like Cuatro Caminos and Estrecho

 imageOld notices on the ticket prices posted on the Wall

This must be the reason why it is called the Ghost station of Madrid. While the area quite had the ghostly feel, nothing of the supernatural occurred. Thankfully, no fastasma showed up, as seeing one would really scare the daylights out of me. At any rate, I’m sure Madrid Metro and the people behind the museo don’t mind the title – it might even add great to prospective visitors, instead of scaring them.

imageCompanies had their advertisements painted into the tiled walls of the metro

While this metro stop is not useful anymore as a station, it certainly served well in the past, as it acted as a major shelter for civilians who needed a safe place to stay during the Civil war. It was also used as  a warehouse where vital supplies were hidden.

imageGal was one of the major companies that advertised at Chamberi Station. You will have a good glance of it and other old advertisements still posted on the tiled walls, as well as the early logos of the train system as you look through the train window as it passes through

The fantasma museo concept started in 2008, when the railway management decided to reopen it but as a museum. Everything within, specifically the design and display, was the work of Spanish architect Antonio Palacios, the same genius who was commissioned to design the Palacio de Cibeles. He was also responsible in creating the interior areas of the early  station.

imageTrain runs fast that you could see as it bypasses the Chamteri Station

Metro Museum in Madrid is compact, its area is more or less similar to that of the current modern stations. In fact, you can explore the place and finish the tour in under thirty minutes. Still, it was effective in providing interesting facts about the history of the station. Needless to say,  the museum offers an interesting glimpse to the beginnings of Plaza Chamberi station.

imageCarabana is another company that has its ad posted at the tiled wall of the station

imageThe ad is literally translated as “Philips Lamps – the best in the world”

imageEntrance to the museum

Where located: Plaza de Chamberi, Madrid

Touring Days & Hours:

1. Friday – 11AM to 1PM and 5PM to 7PM

2. Saturday and Sunday – 10AM to 2PM

How to go: The fastest and nearest line to take is Line 1. Get off at either Station Iglesia or Bilbao, and a few minutes of walking will bring you to your destination. If you go down at Metro Iglesia, you must take Calle de Santa Engracia

imageThere is also a film showing at the end of the tour. People are fortunate to be treated to a unique Madrid museo that features the Old Metro. My visit was invaluable as it transported me to the past; ticket machines and booths, the yellow and tarnished signs, the wall ads – all are reminders of the good old Metro Station at Chamberi

Plaza de Chamberi: A Beautiful Madrid Square

After a interesting tour of the museum, I thought that the Plaza de Chamberi is the next place for me to check out. In fact, my original plan is to see just the museum, but realized that the plaza is just nearby. And so, off to it I go. One thing I noticed about the place is that it’s well-kept. The promenades within are clean, like they are swept of fallen leaves at all times of the day. You can enjoy the sight of a fountain, its water supply flowing creating a number of water spouts in the middle. Also found in the midst of the fountain are three child statues. Also found within the square are the church, the municipal hall, and a few local bars.

Beautiful Images of Plaza de Chamberi, Madrid

imagePlaza y Iglesia of Chamberi – beautiful and well-maintained, one that you would like to stay all afternoon even on a hot summer day

image A safe place that’s conducive for child’s play. At the foreground is the Iglesia delas Siervas de Maria (Convent of the Servants of Mary) by Francisco de Cubas

imageFountain in the midst of the Chamberi plaza

imageSenor Francisco Largo Caballero, a popular politician and union leader, was born in Chamberi

imageMarker of the El Racing Club attached to the wall of the Municipal Hall. The organization, which was created in 1914 was popularly associated to the place

imageThis beautiful walkway within the plaza leads to the Iglesia de las Siervas de Maria

imageA fews bars and cafes situated alongside the municipio are frequented by locals

imageSimple yet elegant facade of the municipal hall

 

Exploring Plaza de Isabel II: Back in Madrid [Back to Reality]

Till now, brimming in me is this euphoric feeling created out of the experience I had from my trip to Southern Spain’s Andalucia. While I was still thinking (and gushing) about it, rereading the articles that I wrote about it, editing them, adding images – I thought it’s high time that I lift myself from this and switch to normal mode, and go about my usual, normal days in Madrid like I didn’t leave at all.

I must say, however, that I was glad I made that trip to Cordoba and Granada’s Alhambra because these are just awesome, historic sites that are must-sees, even if once in your lifetime. Frankly I came out from that trip racking my brain, trying to make an iota of it comprehend what I just witnessed and experienced. At the very least, the trip served to prove there’s so much more to see outside Madrid – ones that are as fascinating and beautiful.

But so far, Andalucia is the best, bar none.

imageAnd so, these days I constantly remind myself that my blog is all about Spain’s capital. After two consecutive outside-the-city articles, I need to post one that discusses anything Madrid (this is necessary in the quest for search engine optimization). This particular post is about a topic that I am really fond of, and have written about many times already – Madrid’s plazas. Let’s visit one that’s right in the city’s midst — Plaza de Isabel II.

Isabel II is small, much smaller than the larger ones like the square of Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Cibeles and even Plaza Major.

But certainly, it’s no less popular.

In fact, it never runs of crowds all throughout the day – maybe it’s because of the many seats scattered in the area, several in front of Teatro Real, as well as the long concrete bench that line the border between the square and Calle de Arenal, the street that immediately adjoins it.

I was lucky to have passed by the place last Sunday as I got the chance to watch a group of dancers that did a couple of traditional-type dances to the delight of everyone around. They were doing the Chotis, a popular, age-long Spanish dance usually performed during important occasions such as the Fiesta de San Isidro.

imageGoing to Isabel square was not intentional really, I was there to while away time as I waited for the 6PM mass at San Gines Church. Fortunately, I chanced on these three lovely dancers in their finest chulapa attires and performing the lusty dance called Chotis in front of the Teatro Real. Lucky day indeed for me, having been treated to a chotis show

No ordinary square

Plaza de Isabel II is not like those ordinary squares. It is special mainly because it’s dedicated to one of the historic queens of the country – Reina Isabel. It is a quaint and beautiful square, connected to Plaza del Sol via a partly pedestrianized street – Calle Arenal. Also within walking distance is the another square, the Plaza del Oriente, the Royal Palace, and the Jardines de Sabatini.

At times, you would think you had enough and must have some time away from Madrid’s bars and similar places that are all about busy, noisy, and sometimes (this can’t be denied) nauseating goings-on. A great alternative are those plaza – they offer open spaces with plenty of fresh air and warm sunshine, benches to sit in and have some great chats, and sometimes, entertaining outdoor performances. Of course, one of them is the Isabel II Square.

Here’s what to see at Plaza de Isabel II

imageTeatro Real or Teatro Opera is a unique edifice in that its front and back facade face two squares – Plaza de Isabel and Plaza del Oriente
imageStatue of Isabel II, standing in the middle of the plaza, dedicated to the Queen Isabel II
imageReal cinema, also known as Cine Real Opera, is a theater fronting the Plaza de Isabel II. At the time it was inaugurated in 1920, the cinema was considered the largest theater not only in the city, but in the whole of Spain,. It boasted of a seating capacity of 1000. By the looks of it, the theater is now non-operational, although it is said that theater shows and acts are being held here from time to time

imageA man takes a rest on a concrete seat in front of the Opera Theater

imageTaberna Real Restaurante is found at the corner of the plaza and Calle Arenal. It is the restaurant of choice by many locals and tourist if only because of its special location – within a plaza that’s historical in its own right. One can enjoy the nice views and interesting happenings at one of the city’s important squares by getting a table at Taberna’s outside dining area. Tapas and vinos are priced quite high, but if only for its location and ambiance, it’s all worth it

imageThis is Calle Arenal, the street that connects Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Oriente, and the Palacio Real to the Isabel II square

imageThe Opera is one of the Stations of Metro Line 2. Next nearest station is the Vodafone Sol

Map:

That One Afternoon when Streets were Carless in Madrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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