Calle de Alcalá of Madrid is known as the longest street in Spain, and if only for this distinction, I had always been fascinated by it, what with all the shops, establishments, cafes and others dotting it, especially around the Goya area. In fact, I already walked a good portion of Alcala a number of times, from as far as Retiro down to my place in El Carmen. Every time, it was a thrill doing so.
Needless to say, this stretch of road, historically important as it is, is filled with some of the most fascinating and breathtaking sights and attractions you can find. You won’t just find shops, but a lot more. There are magnificent edifices, an imposing arch, a church, a huge park, a theater, and even a bull ring stadium.
1. Puerta de Alcala
The Puerta de Alcalá is one of the most important Madrid monuments, and is often compared to other major European arch structures such as the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, France. The city under the reign of Phillip IV was said to have been guarded and secured by this gate. The arch is so-called because it served as a gate to the road that extended all the way to Alcala de Henares. As in other Spanish puertas, the Puerta de Alcala exhibits strong Neo-classical design. Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find the Retiro Park.
Location: Plaza de la Independencia
2. Palacio de Cibeles
Cibeles Palace, that grayish-white coated building standing in the corner of Calle de Alcalá and Paseo del Prado. It houses the Centro Centro, the Center for the Culture and the Arts of Madrid. It has a public observation deck that, after paying 2 euros for entry, affords you a breathtaking view of the city, especially the nearby neighborhoods like Sol, Colon, and Atocha.
Direccion: Plaza de Cibeles 1
A Spanish edifice of immense beauty, it is no wonder that the Metropolis building is a much photographed building in Madrid. And like the Grassy Building (one with the famous Rolex clock in its topmost portion), it is one of the most iconic edifices within the Alcala and Gran Via areas.
Direccion: Calle Alcala 39
4. Instituto de Cervantes
Another impressive building along Alcala is the headquarters of the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish-government cultural institution known for fostering the learning of the Spanish language and culture. The institute was named after Miguel Cervantes, one of the greatest literary minds of Spain.
5. Nuevo Teatro Alcalá
Also known as the Alcala Palace and Pardiñas Coliseum, this performance center is a watering hole for avid theater goers in Madrid. The Nuevo Teatro Alcala is a huge favorite, attracting musical show and play lovers, night after night, in droves. Currently being shown is Billy Elliot. I wonder when the Los Miserables musicale will be featured here next.
Where to buy your theatre tickets
6. Casa Arabe
If you want to learn anything about the Arab world, its culture, arts, and way of life, the place to visit is the Casa Arabe. The building was formerly used by the Aguirre schools of Don Lucas Aguirre y Juarez until it was turned over to the Arabic institution to be used as its headquarters. Open to the public since 2008, the center maintains its goal of strengthening friendship between Spain and the Arab countries.
Dirrection: Calle de Alcala 62
Website: Casa Arabe
7. Iglesia de San Manuel y San Benito
Churches abound in Madrid, and so, it isn’t surprising that you can also find them in Alcala Street, like the Church of San Manuel and San Benito, a work of art by Tremanti and Fernando Arbós.
8. Banco de España
Formerly called the Banco Nacional de San Carlos, it was constructed in 1782 under the reign of Carlos III as the latter’s solution of attaining 18th-century Spain’s financial stabilization. Today, it operates as the country’s Central Bank. This magnificent edifice is a veritable landmark, and together with the Palacio de Cibeles, is a crowd drawer not only because of its outstanding beauty in design but because of its rich history.
9. Plaza de Toros de las Ventas
The Alcala Street also has the distinction of being the site of the most famous Spanish bullring, the site where Spaniards enjoy their favorite traditional past-time. Las Ventas, for short, is famous for its Neo Mudejar or Moorish design meticulously done by Spanish architect Jose Espeliu. A gargantuan structure, it can accommodate thousands, and activities other than bullfights were held here. It was regularly used as a concert venue, where major artists such as the Beatles and Diana Ross performed. It was also used as a tennis game venue, with the bullfight arena transformed into a clay court so everyone could witness the games of Spain and the US in 2008. The Spanish team led by Rafael Nadal prevailed over their opponents.
Information about the ticket prices
10. Parque del Buen Retiro
The Park of the Good Retreat, in English, the Retiro Park sprawls in the heart of the city of Madrid, and the Street of Alcala happens to pass by it. It was actually a royal park in the beginning, being a property of the king. Eventually, it was converted into a park for use by Spanish commoners during the 19th century. Filled with varied attractions, a thousand varieties of flora and fauna, rose gardens, palaces, exhibit halls, jogging lanes, fountains, sculptures, and a man-made park lake — you’ll love to roam around and be lost, and stay awhile in Retiro as there is so much to see.
Location: 7 Plaza de la Independencia
Time Open: April to September: 6am to 12am; October to March: 6am to 10PM
11. Puerta del Sol
The Street of Alcala starts on this busy and boisterous square, one of the most visited in Madrid. Known to be the gate to the old city, the square is so-called because it faces the East, and hence, the rising sun. I intend to walk the length of the street starting at Sol square, at the store facing it which is the Apple store, up to the Plaza Norte at Ciudad Lineal. A mere 6.8 kilometers spans these two points, and so, estimate I’d be able to do the task in under 1 and a half hours.