Tag Archives: Calle Mayor

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

Old Madrid of the 1600’s experienced a major political upheaval when the city was occupied by Europe´s Imperial court of Habsburg. The Spanish Kings who reigned during this glorious epoch, likewise 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 very much visible today to one and all and everyone; the remnants of such glorious era are found in the midst of the capital. Which part of 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, everything that represents the Madrid de los Austrias, is very much intact, what with the beautiful edifices built during those times well-preserved and in use. You hop from one splendid building to another, and you realized how grand the contribution of the Habsburg Empire is to the development of Madrid.

One only has to tread 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 Puerta del Sol and Plaza Opera, you are sure to have yourself immersed within 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, 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 did you know that 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 Administration’s tourism office 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, it advises tourists on which Madrid sights and attractions to visit. Damaged by the 1672 fire, this historical edifice underwent major repair and renovation. Take notice of how a marked 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, within which hangs a bell. Come 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 during the Battle of Pavia of 1525. And indeed, while the place is currently dominated by modern buildings and establishments, the square itself somewhat brings you back to centuries ago when it 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

imageThe 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.

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

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


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


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

My Meanderings Thru Madrid’s Two Plazas

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.

Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid
Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid

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.

Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid
Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid

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.

La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain's Old-fashioned Candy. It tasted so nice and sweet, similar to other common confectioneries, which is why I can't understand it also being called one of the world's strangest candies. Calle Canalejas, Madrid
La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain’s Romantic, Old-fashioned Candy. It tastes very nice and sweet, no different to other popular confectioneries. I strongly disagree with others labeling it as “one of the world’s strangest candies.” Calle Canalejas, Madrid

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.

Quaint bakeshop along Calle Major selling Christmas themed cakes and pastries, its window display filled with colorful and beautifully-designed bake treats attracting many onlookers.
I might have missed La Violeta, but was lucky to have chanced upon a quaint bakeshop, also along Calle Major. Its window display is filled with beautifully-designed Christmas-themed baked treats that easily attract passers-by.

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.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid, Spain
Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid

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!

Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol
Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol.

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.

Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.
Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.

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!

These multi-colored lighting shaped in boxes greet you as you enter Plaza Mayor. Madrid en Navidad!
Greeting everyone and providing entrancing luminescence are the Plaza’s multicolor-lighted hanging boxes. Madrid en Navidad!

Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds - decors, dresses, food, and toys
Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds – decors, dresses, food, and toys.
Everyone, especially kids, were happy with the act of this performer - using a contraption to create gargantuan soap balloon. Children can't wait to burst them to oblivion.
Everyone’s thrilled with the act of this performer – he uses a contraption to create and throw gargantuan soap balloons high up the air. Children can’t wait for these soapy formations to fall so they can burst them to oblivion.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the wires of the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Madrid en Navidad! In the middle of the plaza was a square-shaped display that features miniature scenes and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
In the midst of the plaza is a square-shaped display that features miniature forms and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
Oglers intently checking out the impressive miniature display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Oglers intently watch intricate miniature structures on display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ's birth. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ’s birth.
An angel appeared before Mary, announcing that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
An angel appears before Mary and announces that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus.
An angel descended and appeared to astonished sheperd on the cold night when Jesus was born.
An angel descends and appears before astonished shepherds on that cold, holy night when Jesus is born.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.

People occupied the sidewalks for some momentary lull and some quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.
People occupy the sidewalks for some momentary lull and quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.

Merry Christmas everyone, from Let’s talk Madrid!