Do you agree with some people on the Internet referring to Plaza del Callao as Madrid’s version of New York’s Times Square? I’d say I’m not quite sure about that, if you ask me. Well, a mini Times Square perhaps?
Some will insist, however, on the resemblance of the two on account of the fact that both are beautiful plazas and widely popular among tourists.
The legendary square in the “City that Never Sleeps” always teems with crowds – it’s a people magnet. The same can be said about Callao. The latter pulls in swarms from all over, but especially from the touristy areas such as Puerta del Sol and Gran Via.
For me, I think it’s about the massive digital neon ad signs of all sizes that litter the plaza – Callao does mimic the Times Square in this regard. It boasts of a dozen or so signs that when lit up further flood the already brightly-lighted vicinity with a continuous glow of iridescent illumination, mesmerizing people as they ogle at the beamed advertisements. Most of these LED displays are owned and run by top establishments such as department stores and theaters within the Callao area.
Considered as a major attraction is the Cines Callao edifice, an iconic theater created by the Spanish master-architect Luis Gutierrez Soto. It is one of the most photographed sites in the square, it’s main come-on being the giant screen on the center part of its exterior wall that faces the square itself. Here you can watch the trailers of the movies being shown or soon to be featured; they are flashed alternately with product commercials and announcements on the city’s various activities and public interests. I’m not sure whether the theater is doing the latter as a form of public service or the city government compensates it to do so. There is another similar screen, by the way, that faces Calle de Jacometrezo.
A look at the facade as well as its interiors, and you could easily discern it to be one of those sixties-styled cinemas that give off an old feel. Such has an effortless appeal to old-fashioned cinema patrons, who instead of playing their DVD machine, would rather go out, buy tickets at the taquilla, and enjoy a latest full-length feature on the silver screen. Most movies here are dubbed in Spanish, and without English subtitles.
The Cines Callao edifice is located at the corner of the square near the streets, with the main facade in front of the plaza itself. This screen, the one at Jacometrezo, and the 3 other screens at Palacio de la Prensa are all part of what is known as the Callao City Lights, making such screens modern sources of information – commercial (advertisements) or otherwise (Madrid government publicity) – via impressive and breathtaking visuals
Taquilla of the cinema. Listed are current box-office movies like Alicia a Traves del Espejo and Rumbo. It helps that the theaters are located right in the central district of Madrid; hence, more people have convenient access to them. Tickets are available at affordable prices
Palacio de la Prensa
An integral part of the plaza and standing proudly along the busy thoroughfare of Gran Via is El Palacio de la Prensa. Designed by renowned architect Muguruza Otaño, its construction was finished in 1928. During those times, it had the distinction of being the tallest edifice around the area. It is a building of mixed use, with a variety of businesses and offices as well as residential units occupying most floors, including the Associacion de la Prensa. In fact, the building used to be the main office of Madrid’s Press Association, hence the name, until the group transferred to its current headquarters at Calle Juan Bravo. As part of the Callao City Lights, La Prensa boasts of four cinemas on its lower floors – known as the Cines Palacio de la Prensa.
Imposing Palacio de la Prensa accentuates the busy Gran Via thoroughfare. Seen even from afar are multi-screens installed in its lower facade, showing LED-based visuals
Colorful Giant Digital Billboards
Similar to the Times Square’s probably hundreds of electronic screens and billboards are the commercial, digital versions of El Corte Ingles and FNAC, both of which show advertisements of popular brands that are mostly sold in their stores. The strong light that radiates from these screens become more pronounced during nighttime; they are literally an eye-catching enticement to people from all around, inviting them to come to the plaza and check them out.
The tall buildings of El Corte Ingles, the premier department store in Spain, and FNAC, a French shopping chain of electronic products dominate over the rest of the structures surrounding the square. The two boast of gargantuan and high-tech electronic screens showing ads of major consumer brands. The attractive displays start in the early hours of the day and continue well into the night
Edificio Carrion (The Capitol Building)
It is understandable that Edificio Carrion is made more popular because of the Schweppes neon sign found on top of the building, which for years had been visually enhancing the night skies this part of Madrid. This shining, multicolored ad of a world-renowned beverage is attached on top of the building, and had been stared at and admired by countless people ever since. Likewise located on top of the roof of the building a few meters above the Schweppes logo is yet another ad sign, the Capitol Vodafone. It’s much smaller but nonetheless visible, especially at night.
The edifice is also called the Capitol Building because it houses the Capitol Cinemas, a theater chain popular among avid cinema goers.
Callao has become totally pedestrianized like many other major squares in Madrid, making it a more desirable destination of people who enjoy roaming around at a leisurely gait. As it is, turning a square, or any part of the city for that matter, pedestrian-friendly is a boon to tourists who shun riding cars, but are instead eager to walk or even promenade in order to check closely and appreciate the place’s many sites and attractions.
Albeit, I was at the plaza early in the morning a few times and noticed the delivery trucks and vans parked within the premises, presumably to load off goods to waiting establishments. This is a scene also familiar in other supposedly pedestrianized plazas in Madrid, like Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ana. I lament the lack of benches considering Plaza del Callao is a major square. I counted only three located near the Adriatica Building. Hence, some who had to wait or want to spend the afternoon at the plaza are forced to sit on the concrete planters that hold the plants or trees, while many others stand in front of El Corte Ingles building and Cines Callao.
While many visit Callao to see its many amazing attractions, others consider it as a perfect place to meet up and interact, or as a starting point from which they proceed to other nearby prominent and sought-after tourist sites such as Plaza Espana, Lavapies, Alcala, Gran Via, and Puerta del Sol
More Plaza de Callao Photos
Calle preciado. This street connects the plaza to Puerta del Sol
View of the Cines Callao building and Schweppes or Capitol Building. Photograph taken from across Gran Via
La Adriatica Building towers over the corner part of the square. It stands beside the buildings of El Corte Ingles shopping mall and FNAC
I had soft and tasty Croissant bread and cafe con leche at Restaurante el Jamonal, along Calle de Jacometrezo. Apart from light snacks, Jamonal also serves a variety of jamon and lacon sandwiches, Spanish cocidos, tapas, bocadillos, paella and much more
Figure of the Crucified Jesus Christ is displayed at the Parroquia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen y San Luis, one of the parroquias nearest to the plaza
Hotel II Castillas boasts of its 3-star facilities and being in close proximity to the square of Callao. It is located at Calle de la Abada, a stone’s throw away from the plaza and Puerta del Sol. The hotel is an ideal accommodation option for those who want to be near the prime tourist and commercial areas of the city
The Capitol theater of the Edificio Carrion, designed by architects Martínez-Feduchi and Eced, is another popular cinema chain in the Callao-Gran Via area
Desigual is just one of the many popular high-end boutiques in the vicinity
A group of teens presumably on a tour got off their ride at Gran Via and rushed towards the middle of the square Pasteleria Portuguesa Natas Belem, with its chilled and icy treats, must be bracing for a deluge of customers the whole summer season. The establishment boasts of a strategic location in the area, alongside the Cines Callao
The last time I was there, I counted three chairs (they’re not even benches) in all of the square. Now there’s only one I swear. Que esta pasando? Lucky is the guy in the photo above who was able to enjoy the best, and the only seat, in Plaza Callao
Cines Callao and Edificio Carrion come nighttime
Metro sign within the plaza. Other entrance gates to the station are found along Gran Via, in front of La Adriatica Building, and Calle Jacometrezo
Direccion: Plaza del Callao, Barrio del Sol
Distrito: Centro de Madrid