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.
The 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.
The 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.
Directly 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.
We 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.
Stately 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
In 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. House 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. The enclosed walkway between Casas de Cisneros and de la Villa, serving as a connection or bridge between the two edifices The 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
The 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
Plaza 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
The 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
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.) 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. Plaza 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.
Teatro 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.
ME 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.
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.
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
Señor guitarist serenades dinners at Plaza de Santa Ana
December 21 in Madrid, Spain. Four days to go before the most awaited day of the year. Where shall I go in this city, almost all expanse of which I am hardly familiar with?
Actually, the group has decided to spend the last few hours before Christmas Eve at Plaza Puerta del Sol’s Museo del Jamon.
We were looking to imitate what the Spaniards do at the Museo – standing with one hand holding jamon bocadillo and the other a glass of wine or beer, dining with friends while having animated conversations and laughs – seriously, but all in good nature, of course.
I agree that the 24th is strictly for merry-making and bonding among buddies; with me not doing any excessive sightseeing or photo-taking that would otherwise weigh down my Yuletide-moded amigos.
Off to Plaza Puerta del Sol
With this plan already set, I decided to proceed with my other plan tonight, which is to go to Puerta del Sol
Arguably Madrid’s most exciting tourist site, the plaza I thought should be toured in solitude. I am ready to lose my way through the plaza’s main streets, and perhaps even the confusing networks of alleys and inner streets.
Traveling alone helps me explore to the optimum, what with nary a single human distraction that being in a group often brings about.
On the other hand, touring in a group means different minds ready to oppose your own plans and agenda and push their own. You travel with even just one companion, and your well-laid plan most likely goes all for naught.
I also needed great photos, lots of it that I can post here. And I’m doing it now as I know I won’t be able to on the 24th.
With a bunch in tow, most will be content on dining at the Museo and afterwards go to a nearby cafeteria for a round (two for some) of warm Americano or con leche.
Missing La Violeta
Another reason why I wanted to go to Sol is to see La Violeta, a popular candy shop that sells unique confectioneries.
We just received a box of its lavender sugared candies, and so I thought that it’s a sign for me to write a piece on the establishment, or at least make a mention in one of my posts (done here).
I find it to be really nice in taste. Hence, I just cannot make any sense of others commenting on it as weird. To be frank, I’m happy to have relished La Violeta, it being considered as a well-loved status symbol.
Referring to an online map, I learned that it was located beyond Calle Major, further down Carrera San Jeronimo.
However, I wasn’t one with a sane sense of direction. In other words, I went the opposite way and reached Cathedral Nuestra Senora de Almudena instead.
I will see you next time, La Violeta.
The mistake turned out to be a blessing because I found out that the church has a 6PM mass schedule.
I was already late, however, because I got there at 6:15. By this time, the offertory part was more than halfway finished. I attended the mass anyway and promised to be on time next Sunday.
Many evening masses in Madrid begin at 7PM, some as late as 8:30. San Antonio in Murillo starts at 7:30. I guess I’ll be attending at Almudena Cathedral for the next couple of months, now that evenings these days have turned extremely cold.
Lo and behold, the tree at Puerta del Sol
Mass finished at exactly 6:47PM, and after taking a photo of the Cathedral, I proceeded back to the Plaza to finally see the Christmas tree. I haven’t seen it lighted before so I expected to see a spectacle.
And a breathtaking spectacle I did witness!
Radiant in bright yellow-colored lights, the gargantuan tree was a sight that’s unrivaled in all of the plaza. It was devoid of colorful lighting decors or fancy trimmings, but its imposing height and steady golden luminescence was more than enough to captivate anyone.
Street performers are usual fixtures at the plaza. This time, however, the themes of their acts are appropriate to the season, with many dressed up as Santa Claus, elves, Christmas trees, and cheery cartoon characters.
Vendors of lottery tickets, barquillos, bootleg bags, shirts, and CDs, Christmas decors, fireworks also litter the place.
Speaking of lottery, I don’t know exactly how the sweepstakes work here, so I refrained from buying the Navidad ticket (the draw was December 22). Besides, I can’t afford to pay 20 Euro needed to secure a single ticket.
Albeit, I am already a regular of Euromilliones lottery, the play of which I am more familiar with. It is also cheaper, costing me only 2 euro every Tuesday and Friday.
I then proceeded to Plaza Mayor, and upon entering, was easily awed by numerous Christmas lights that adorn the square. I thought that everything inside was magical and ready to enthrall everyone in time for the Yuletide season.
A major highlight of the place was the glass display showing miniature scenes that serve to narrate the Nativity, or events leading to the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Check out these beautiful scenes from PLaza Mayor. Feliz Navidad!