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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.

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

 

Plaza de Santa Ana – Home to Melia and Teatro Espanol

If you’re unfamiliar with Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Atocha, or surrounding areas, and decided to wander around these places, there’s a chance that you will pass thru  Plaza Santa Ana without even knowing it. This is precisely what happened in my case. From Plaza de Sta Cruz at Atocha, instead of taking my usual route to Plaza del Sol via Calle de Carretas, I turned right to Calle de las Huertas. Passing through Plaza del Angel,  I found myself inside a square, not aware that I’m already at Plaza de Santa Ana. As I head towards Calle de Principe, I realized that I just passed by ME by Melia. I was happy and awed by the sight of the hotel, which I heard is the hotel of choice by tourists who want to live near Sol. (Actually, I imagined Melia to be a hotel of swank, that speaks of grandeur, and is patronized by the rich who wouldn’t not spare any expense just to get the best.)
image Plaza de Santa Ana

Looking around, I see the hotel perfectly complements the plaza. The latter is an enclosed square surrounded by buildings in all sides. Plaza de Santa Ana resembles any typical plaza, except that at most times of the day, it teems with people, presumably a mix of locals and tourists. Melia Hotel directly faces the square, with the statue of Calderon de la Barca accentuating its front area. At the opposite side of the plaza, along Calle del Principe, is the Teatro Espana, touted as the oldest theater in Madrid. As I examine the building, I can’t help but be appreciative of the apparent neoclassical style of its facade.

Plaza de Santa Ana is perhaps one of the busiest plazas I’ve been to. People visit it for a number of reasons. For one, the plaza sees a good traffic of pedestrians walking through to reach surrounding side streets. Also, many consider the plaza as a worthy destination. Droves go there to be awed by the place, check Teatro Espanol to possibly watch current show offerings, and marvel at the statues of Calderon de la Barca and Ferrero Garcia Lorca. A privileged few choose the Melia as their temporary address while in Madrid.
imagePlaza de Santa Ana holds its own against other more popular squares in Madrid as it reeks of prestige and historical significance – and even affluence.

Of course, any square in Madrid is not without its share of terrace cafes and restaurants. Santa Ana has a few good restaurants surrounding it, such as Las 10 Tapas de Santa Ana, known to serve some of the best tapas, and Naturbier, a perfect option for those who crave for some great-tasting beer. Dining areas are extended to a significant part of the plaza’s center. Don’t be surprised if early in the day, you see the establishments, especially those with terrace areas, already bursting with customers. Most do opt for outside dining, since it offers the choice seats to enjoy some sumptious meals while taking advantage of the fine ambiance the plaza offers. Indeed historical Plaza de Santa Ana is an exquisite place to unwind after a tiring day of sightseeing, and cap the night with some sumptuous dinner and coffee or copas.

imageTeatro Español, a landmark of Plaza de Santa Ana, is directly opposite of the luxury hotel, ME by Melia.  A towering fixture at the Plaza de  Santa Ana, it is an edifice of grand design that exudes neoclassicism.

imageME Madrid Reina Victoria or Me by Melia has earned a distinguished reputation in the hotel industry  – this makes it a top favorite of local and international guests. It is also the hotel of choice of first-time visitors of Madrid because it is located in the heart of of the city, and hence near to the capital’s major tourist sites and attractions.

image The Statue of Pedro Calderon de la Barca, a man of letters and theater, stands in front of Melia Hotel at Plaza de Santa Ana. Calderon is recognized as one of the best Baroque writers of Spain during the Golden Age.

image The statue of Federico García Lorca facing the Teatro Espanol. Lorca is a well-known artist, playwright and major proponent of Spain’s 20th Century theater and literature

image Señor guitarist serenades dinners at Plaza de Santa Ana