All posts by talkmadrid

Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales

2018_041413_2318_581If you’re a first-time traveler to Madrid, there’s no way that you will miss the numerous churches and monasteries scattered all around the city. One of the most popular, not only because it is located in the tourist-magnet Centro, but adjacent to the majestic Palacio Real, is the grand Cathedral de Almudena. The most popular iglesia in the early days until the Almudena was built, along Calle Arenal and near the Plaza Mayor, is the history-rich Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés.

Yet another nearby church near the Monte de Piedad Building, is the Plateresque-designed Monastery of the Descalzas Reales. It is certainly a must-visit, if only for the beauty and magnificence of both the intricate interior and solid facade of the edifice. A visit of the monastery is sure to make your tour of Madrid a meaningful one.

Former Royal Palace

Did you know that the edifice’s name literally means the Monastery of the Royal Barefooted, and that it was given the Royal title because it was a former residence of Empress Isabel and Emperador Charles V of Portugal. At present, its vast area houses a small church and an orchard.

History of the Monastery

2018_041413_2329_977Originally built for the Nuns of Poor Claire order as far back as 1559, it eventually admitted and cared for spinster women or widows. It was said that every woman who was taken in to the convent had to pay a dowry. This allowed the monastery to gain a huge amount of wealth, allowing it to become one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. 

What to Find Inside

If you’re an art lover, you would surely love to take a look on the interior of the Monastery as there must be tons of valuable art items, particularly paintings and religious artifacts. A beautiful palace in its own right, the monastery displays a great deal of Plateresque style, combined with Renaissance touch, particularly in its interiors. Renowned painters and artists like Luini and Tinian have their paintings adorning various parts of the convent and chapel.

Nearby Sites and Attractions

After a visit of the Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales, shopping might be in order next. A stone’s throw away is the El Corte Ingles, along Calle Maestro Victoria, and a host of many other shops and boutiques within the areas of Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Plaza Callao. And if you haven´t gotten your fill of things that are royal, visit the Real Casa de Correos in Puerto del Sol, the former post office and now the Ministry of the Interior, and the Royal Palace, the King of Spain’s Official Residence.

Need to grab something to eat? The perfect choice is the Mercado San Miguel, the food kiosks of which probably sells thousands of varieties of tapas. Other choices offering good eats are Museo del Jamon and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, both within the confines of the Plaza Mayor.

Hours of Visit

Tuesday – Saturday: 10AM to 2PM, 4PM to 6:30PM.
Sundays & holidays: 10AM to 3PM
Monday: Closed

Price of Admission

6 euros

Free entrance

Wednesday, Thursday: 4PM – 6:30PM

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Map

Gran Via – Madrid’s Premier Street [What to See]

2018_040114_0940_949Gran Via, or the Great Way in English, is one of the most popular thoroughfares in Madrid, and is even compared to Broadway of New York, which is why it is affectionately called the Madrid broadway. A bonafide tourist attraction, you will certainly enjoy a leisurely tread of ts sidewalks filled with people, from one end of the avenue to the other in under an hour, for it is quite a short stretch of highway. The street begins in the street of Alcala and ends at the Plaza de Espana. In between, you will be amazed at how the street is filled with impressive buildings serving various tenants in its ground and lower floors, such as shops, restaurants, hotels, casino, government agencies, and even a church, would you believe?

A major portion in the middle of the street is where you will find the Plaza del Callao, itself a major tourist spot and a point of entry to Puerta del Sol. The Callao portion teems with commercial establishments such as El Corte Ingles, FNAC, and the popular movie theatre, the Cine Callao. We can say that Gran Via is Madrid’s center of Cinemas as other major theater chains are found within the area, like the Cine Capitol, housed in the building of the same name, and the Cine Palacio de la Prensa, found at the opposite of the Callao Square. On the far end, near the Puerta de Independencia of Alcala, is the Grassy, the so-called Number 1 Buildng, the first tall structure to rise on this part of Gran Via.
2018_040114_0804_131This building serves as the headquarters of Fundacion Instituto Spiral. One of the monumental and imposing edifices that line up along the Gran Via
2018_041509_5550_660Hotel Realto is another cinema with the popular magical show El Mago Pop cuŕently being shown there2018_040114_0832_085Villa de la Reina hotel is the choice of tourist with discriminate taste, especially if he wants to own a temporary address in one of Spain’s most fascinating streets. The building itself is a beauty and always something for Gran Via passersby to marvel at.
received_1681762398558362La Adriatica Building, rendered glistening gold due to the setting sun, is one of the taller buildings that line up the Gran Via thoroughfare. It also covers a corner of Plaza Callao.
2018_040114_0912_410Most edifices are historic since they were built in the 1920’s and displays impressive style known as Art Deco — such design is evident in their facade.
2018_041509_5538_036Kiosks stand on many parts of the street selling just about everything — souvenir items, snacks and refrescos, posters, magazines, and hop-on-hop-off and day-trip tickets2018_041509_5621_159Located in the Edificio Carrion is the Capitol Cinema, another major theater chain in Spain
2018_041121_5018_410The lanes that are immediate both sidewalks have been pedestrianized. This has caused considerable traffic especially during peak hours, since the road has become narrower, but the move of pedestrianization, albeit partial, has become quite a boon to locals and tourists who now enjoy more space while walking along Gran Via.
2018_041121_4941_877Primark, known for its rock-bottom prices, is just one of the many popular department stores found along the famous avenue.
2018_040114_0856_732Home to the Telefónica Company — One of the pioneer edifices built during the construction of the road. Once recognized as Spain’s main communications hub, it stands 90 meters tall, making it one of the talkest buildings in those days. In fact, the Telefonica was patterns after the early skyscrapers of the US. And indeed, looking at it from down the opposite sidewalk, you could feel its imposing stance. Today, the building is home to the Telefonica Foundation, and the site to many cultural activities and exhibits.
2018_033100_1128_813The Carrión Edificio, a famous building frequented by tourists if only for the Scwheppes neon sign on its top, which when lit during the evening mesmerizes onlookers. The building is also famous for its theater of the same name.
2018_033100_1106_296Another prominent building is the Palacio de la Prensa, located within Plaza del Callao and was built by Pedro Muguruza architect in the 1920’s. Formerly the headquarters of the city’s Press Association, it is currently home to a popular multiplex cinema, enjoying brisk business because of the loyal patronage of movie lovers.
2018_040123_1310_351. Should you wish to stay and enjoy the comforts of a luxury hotel and be near the Gran Via at the same time, the perfect choice is the Hotel Tryp.  It boasts of being in striking distance to Madrid Centro’s other famous landmarks and attractions — like Plaza Mayor, Plaza de España, Puerta del Sol, Palacio de Cibeles, Museo del Prado, and Plaza Santa Ana
2018_040123_1322_126Hotel de las Letras, a masterpiece of renowned Spanish architect Cesáreo Iradier, was the former residence of the then Count of Artaza stands as building number 11. Today it is one of the city’s national treasures, and a protected building as designated by the City Council of Madrid.
2018_041509_5639_738Hotel Atlantico, being a century-old luxury hotel, is considered a major landmark and an easy choice of tourists who want only the best accommodation in this part of Madrid
2018_040123_1332_485The lanky Grassy building greets you upon entering the street, coming from the neighborhood of Calle de Alcala. It is right next to another famous building, the Metropolis, which is claimed to be one of the prestigious tenant buildings within Gran Via; actually, it stands along Alcala street. The building, with the neon sign Rolex in its facade, is named after a famous Spanish watch expert Alejandro Grassy.

Map:

Arco de la Victoria de Moncloa — Madrid’s Victory Arch

2018_032513_0630_156Spain, a country that has enjoyed immense world power and resplendence since centuries ago, is known for its magnificent landmarks and monuments, serving as testaments to such power. One of Spain´s more common monuments is the arch, an imposing structure that is known to stand as either a gateway to a city or a representation of a victory from a war or battle.

The Arco de la Victoria, located in Moncloa, Madrid, is a popular victory arch, and is considered to be one of the breathtaking Spanish arches.

While it is also referred to as the Puerta de la Moncloa, or the Gate of Moncloa, it wasn’t constructed to serve as the entry way to the barrio, much less Madrid. Albeit indeed, the huge arch looms over the area of one of the capital’s main entrance points, right in the midst of of Moncloa-Aravaca’s major thoroughfare, Avenida de la Memoria.

In fact, it was an ambitious project of Franco, the military general who ruled over the so-called Francoist Spain, as a way of reminding the Spaniards of one of his victorious 1936 battles that happened in the country’s then civil war — the battle of Ciudad Universitaria.

People compare it to two magnificent Puerta de Alcala Monument, albeit the latter has more arches, and the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, at Champs-Elysees. Franco commissioned Otero and Bravo Sanfeliu, two of the most celebrated architects of Spain during those times.

One will find on the apex of the structure the likeness of Minerva, riding a green chariot.

Visit the site:

2018_032513_0640_862You will find on the apex of the structure the likeness of Minerva, riding a green chariot

The best way to go there is via the Metro Station. Take either linea 6 or 3, both these lines stop at Moncloa Station. The station is found near the monument itself, along the Arco de la Victoria Avenue. .

What Moncloa landmarks and attractions to see after checking out Arco de la Victoria:

1. Museo de AmericaBe fascinated by this museum, where one can find the best and most extensive array of artifacts and art pieces from the USA and the rest of the Americas.

2. Ejercito del Aire Sprawled in a vast area of land strategically located within the Moncloa District is the former Air Ministry of Spain. Nearby is the Metro station and the observatory station, Faro del Moncloa.

Map:

7 Worthwhile Museums to See when in Madrid

Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro — the list of great  artists of Spain is endless. This must be why there are countless museums in the country, for them to house all the precious works of art of these magnificent Spanish artists.

In fact, many are found in Madrid. Hence, if you’re bound for the city as a first-timer and plan to roam around and tour the place, remember to check out and explore its museums, even if only a few of them. Museum hopping is a must, as the city is known for its unique and exciting museums, each of which has numerous artifacts on display you can ever lay your eyes on. In fact, Madrid Museums boast of millions of art collections such as sculptures and paintings, not only the creation of Spanish maestros, but also artists from all over the world. Valuable archaeological discoveries are likewise on display, many coming from Spain, and others from Europe and Asia.

I’ve visited the following 7 Madrid museums, and was very much impressed that I got enticed to write this post, hoping that people will learn about them and pay them a visit as well. Admission to some are free every day of the week, others offer free entrance on certain days, and still others have free admissions on specific hours of the day. What’s true for all is that they are exciting ones that you must see and explore.

1. Museo del Romanticismo

2017_091022_0739_493A hundred meters or two from the busy Metro Station of Tribunal, in downtown Madrid, is the Museum of Romanticism, its accessibility of which makes it one of the most visited museums in the city. The museo occupies an 18th century edifice that’s a stone-throw away from the tourist-magnet stretch of Calle Fuencarral. The floors feature different rooms of a house or Spanish casa that’s typical of the olden days.

Direccion: Calle San Mateo 13 28004 Madrid

Admission is free on Saturdays, starting at 2PM

Regular admssion price is 3 euros

2. Museo de Historia de Madrid

History of Madrid MuseumAlso within the hip Chueca neighborhood is the popular Museum of the History of Madrid, housed within the former San Fernando Hospice building. And as its name implies, the museo boasts of valuable paintings and historical items that represent the  strata of society, ways of living, types of clothing, and means of livelihood of Madrileños from different eras. Visit the Museum and appreciate numerous artifacts from as early as the middle of the 1500’s up to the modern times.

Address: C/ Fuencarral 78 28004 Madrid

Admission: Free all days of the week

3. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

2017_072317_5046_898Part of the art promenade or the Triangle of Art, Thyssen’s permanent collection is mainly the history of painting coming from different European countries from the Middle Ages up the modern 20th century. Italian, Russian, German and American works of art are among the important displays with the museum.

Free Entry: Every Monday, limited to the Museum’s Permanent Collection between 12Noon and 4PM

Direccion: 8 Paseo del Prado 28014 Madrid

Regular Admission: 12 euros, covers at exhibits, both permanent and temporary

4. Museo de America

imageMoncloa is famous for the Victory Arch of Madrid, or the Moncloa Gate, and also the Spanish Air Force, or the Ejercito del Aire.  Likewise a crowd-drawer is the Museum of the Americas, considered to be one of the city’s major centres of culture and the art. Here  you will find numerous historical and archaeological items on display every day of the year. Many are not only from Spain and the US, but also from the Latin countries as well.

Direccion: Avenida Reyes Católicos 6 28040 Madrid

Admission: Free during Sundays. The rest of the days of the week: €3

5. Museo de los Caños del Perral

imageThe metro station of Opera does not only serve as an integral component of the city’s efficient transport system, but it is also home to a below-the-ground archeological museum — the Museo de los caÑos del Perral. Virtually a museum located underground, it displays valuable archaeological remains that provides efficient plumbing for fountains of the city, during the 1500 and 1600’s.

 Address: Within Opera Metro, Plaza Reina Isabel II

Admission: Free if you are a Metro train rider, 1.50 euros if you´re visiting from outside the Metro facility

The museum is open to the public on on weekends, Fridays to Sunday. Time open: 11AM to 1PM, 5PM to 7PM.

6. Chamberi Ghost Museum

imageWe have featured one metro station that’s permanent home to an underground museum. Still, there is another that doesn’t function anymore as a train station, but was converted into an actual museum- this is the Chamberi train station. For some reason, this station got closed down by the Metro administation. Eventually, it was turned into a museum, displaying artifacts that tell about the Metro’s early days.

Direccion: Plaza de Chamberi, Madrid

Admission is Free, but open only on Friday, 11AM – 1PM and 5PM – 7PM; and Saturday and Sunday, 10AM – 2PM

7. Prado Museum

imageStrategically located along the Museo del Prado is probably Spain’s most famous museum bearing the same name. It is a must-visit if you are a museum-phile as it contains a great number of art and painting work from and the whole of Europe. What was originally a museum intended for Spain’s Royal family, if only because of its rare collections, visitors will be enthralled to see some of the best Spanish art paintings and pieces like Goya, Rembrandt, Titian, and Velasquez.

Operational hours: 9AM to 8PM. Closed on Sundays.

Regular Admission fee: 6 euros

Free Admission: From 6PM to 8PM, Tuesday to Saturday; 5PM to 8PM, Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

Direccion:

Plaza Mayor, 37002 Salamanca

Distance between Madrid and Salamanca: 212 kilometers

Travel time:

2 hours and 15 minutes

Map:

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5 Amazing Edifices of Epoch Habsburg’s Madrid de los Austrias

Madrid during the 1600’s experienced a major shift of power when the city was occupied by Europe´s Imperial court of Habsburg. The Spanish Kings involved in its development during this glorious epoch, which was also known as the House of Austria, were Kings Felipe II and Felipe III, with the latter tirelessly working to develop the urban aspect of the new center of Habsburg.

Fortunately, the legacy of this empire is still very much visible today, and everyone has easy access to it since it is found in the midst of the capital. Where in the city did the Casa de Austria occupy? This so-called ancient center of Madrid is situated along a significant portion of Calle Mayor, running towards the southern part.

And indeed, as I visited this particular stretch of the street, it is evident that the Madrid de los Austrias, as how it is also called, is very much intact, with the beautiful edifices built during those times still preserved. You hop from one splendid building to another, and you realized how grand the contribution of the Habsburg Empire to the development of Madrid, and even the whole of Spain, really was.

One only has to pass through Calle Mayor, the end of which reaches Catedral de Almudena, and he will have a good glimpse of these Hadsburg edifices. Especially if you find yourself within the the midst of areas such as Plaza del Sol and Plaza Opera, and you are sure to have a thrilling taste of the glorious Habsburg Era.

Here are 5 of Madrid de los Austrias must-see beautiful edifices:

1. Casa de la Villa

2018_012121_5902_531A must-see edifice of the Madrid Austria District is the Casa de la Villa. Day in and day out, locals and tourists alike troop to one of Madrid’s oldest squares, if not the oldest, Plaza de la Villa, to wander around this historical area and appreciate the former town hall of the city. Constructed under the helm of Spanish builder Juan Gomez de Mora, Casa de la Villa did serve as the headquarters of Madrid’s city administration – but also, it once served as a prison to the incarcerated.

Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005

Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)

Nearest attractions: Mercado San Miguel

2. Casa de la Panaderia

2018_012121_5844_425What houses Madrid City Hall’s tourism office now is the Casa de la Panaderia, standing in the middle of Plaza Mayor´s northern part. With porticoes in front and its two sides capped by towers, tourists gain easy access to numerous sites and attractions found in Madrid. Damaged by the 1672 fire, this historical edifice underwent major design and renovation. Check out how a great portion of its facade is painted by semi-nude, somewhat mythical figures — they are said that to have been painted in order to compliment the rich history of of the city.

Nearest attractions: Casa de la Carniceria (also inside Plaza Mayor), bocadillo restaurants, Chocolateria San Gines

3. Real Casa de Correos

2018_012121_5938_277One of the most popular representatives of the Madrid de los Austrias is the Real Casa de Correos, an imposing building with an open tower, inside of which hangs a bell. At midnight of December 31, revelers gather to witness the pealing of the bell 12 times, signaling the start of the New Year.

Direccion: Puerta del Sol

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

Nearby attractions: Plaza Callao

4. Casa y Torre de los Lujanes

2018_012121_5831_370These edifices have the distinction of being two of the oldest buildings in Madrid. Both are integral parts of the ancient Spanish square found along Casa Mayor called the Plaza de la Villa. The Torre de Lujanes is known to be the former prison of King Francis I, who was captured upon his defeat at the Battle of Pavia of 1525. And indeed, while the place is now surrounded by modern buildings and establishments, the square itself somewhat brings you back to centuries ago when the place exudes power and authority .

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

Nearest Metro Station: Sol, Opera

Nearby sights and attractions: Plaza de Santa Isabel II, Palacio Real

5. Palacio de Santa Cruz

2018_012121_5902_531The old but beautiful edifice of the Austrian dynasty is the Palace of Santa Cruz. Formerly known as the ¨La Carcel de Madrid,¨ it did act as a former prison of the city, with convicted prisoners sent to the Plaza Mayor to be executed. Later on, it was turned into a palace to become a residence of Rey Felipe IV. Palacio de Santa Cruz is currently the home to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain.

Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012

Nearby attractions: Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Museo de Jamon

How to go

Metro Stations: Sol (Lines 1,2,3); Tirso de Molina (Line 1); Lavapies (Line 3); Opera (Lines 2,5); Sevilla (Line 2). All stations are a 5 to 15 minute walk to Calle Atocha.

Madrid Churches: Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés

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

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

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

Nearby Madrid Attractions

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

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

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

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

Location

Calle del Arenal 13 Madrid 28001

When Open

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

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

Map

Madrid Palaces: Palacio de Santa Cruz

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

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

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

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

Former prison

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

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

A beautiful edifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direccion

Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012

How to go

Metro Stations: Sol (Lines 1,2,3); Tirso de Molina (Line 1); Lavapies (Line 3); Opera (Lines 2,5); Sevilla (Line 2). All stations are a 5 to 15 minute walk to Calle Atocha.

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

Map

Madrid’s Fascinating Buildings: Real Casa de Correos

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

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

Built when

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

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

Kilometer zero

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

Christmas tradition

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

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

Location of Real Casa de Correos:

Puerta del Sol 7
28013-Madrid

How to go:

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

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

Mapa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nearest Metro Station: Sol, Opera

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

Entrance: Not open to the general public

Map: