Tag Archives: Palacio de Cibeles

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 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

Map:

CentroCentro y El Mirador de Palacio de Cibeles

“Refugees welcome” is the message you’d see written on the huge rectangular banner that hangs on the middle of the façade of Palacio de Cibeles. Also known as Palacio de Communicaciones, that gargantuan and majestic, former-post-office-turned-city hall must be the first thing you’d see whenever you’re at Plaza Cibeles. The sign alone is a clear indication of the willingness of Spain to help alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe. (As of yet, an effective solution to the problem seems nowhere in sight.) Surprisingly, the cloth has remained white and maintained its pristine appearance (that’s how it appears from the distance of a few hundred feet) despite its exposure to the common elements. Or has it been replaced a number of times already?

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It must have been hanging there for eternity, or at least since I got here in Madrid. Perhaps, it will continue to be until the message is no longer relevant.  Frankly, the constant sight of the banner had me thinking that the building has become a huge refugee center, a wild conjecture I must possibly share with others.

Well, at least today, the beloved Ayuntamiento will be my refuge as I say it’s time for me to take on its rooftop.

El Mirador – Rooftop or Observation Deck

You might ask,”Are people even allowed there?”

Yes, I’m pretty sure. Because of the banner, it had me venturing my gaze way above it, and in the process, spotted people populating the upper portion of the middle tower of Cibeles (I realized later it was the building’s observation deck on the 8th floor).

And since then, I would always throw a glance at that faraway spot at the Palacio’s middle tower, often from a seat of an autobus whenever I’m headed to Embajadores, Lavapies (27) or Puerta del Sol (5), both lines of which pass through the Plaza. The deck seems to never run out of people, all crowding near the ledge presumably to take the best pictures possible. Always, I look at such a scene with great envy,  and this odious feeling is only made worse by the Palacio itself, with its mere sight almost like coaxing me in some dogged manner to be there myself, and just make it happen.

“Go to the roof of the Cibeles?  But who wants to climb up a building rooftop, which is a precarious location as you can imagine?” Yes, I know. To begin with, it’s not even a roof top but an observation deck, for Pete’s sake.

But I do agree with everyone else who says that a rooftop is never a desired destination, as it is somewhat of a bore, a dull area of almost-nothingness, save for a few pieces of old furniture huddled at a corner or some rusty, jutted-out reinforcing iron bars meant for future building extension. A bit of correction: everybody agrees to these not-so-pleasant statements about the rooftop, except perhaps for some half-witted lovers who look to them as the perfect place to effect the consummation of their romantic tryst (presuming it is secluded).

Clearly, we’re not talking about that of Cibeles – it doesn’t fit such descriptions (especially the one with the amorous slant). To reiterate, it’s an observation deck, and not any ordinary roof. It was created for a more essential, a rather touristic purpose, among others, which is to offer great viewing experience of the stunning places in Madrid.

Inside Palacio de Cibeles

Actually, there are two things that you can do at Cibeles. One, check out the floors of the Centro Centro, that part of the building that acts as the city’s center of culture and arts; and two, go to the observation deck for some awesome viewing enjoyment. You can do both, but I would rather you engage in the rooftop activity later, which is what I did.

Since it was still early, I surveyed the area first. On the second floor (main floor), you are greeted by an information counter and a souvenir and gift shop. After loitering around, I can’t for the life of me feel that I’m actually inside the Madrid Ayuntamiento. The place was quiet, and hardly had the chaotic fuss and goings-on typical of any government office, let alone, a city hall.

So, I thought some chat with the information desk officer is in order.

“Yes, this is the city Hall.” Unable to respond quickly, I must have appeared dumbfounded to the lady at the desk, so she explained that everything is located at the back of the building.

“And the office of the mayor?”

“Also at the back.” Still sensing my confusion, she added, “Where we are now is the CentroCentro – the culture and arts center of Madrid.”

I had a bunch of questions that I’d like to bring up but lest I might sound stupid, I decided to let her be and continued to look around. At left of the main floor is a lounge, offering a number of sofas to rest on. Here, you can have some shut-eye for a few minutes if you want to, which I did, although only after hiding my face behind one of those tourism brochures that I grabbed from nearby. There was a lot of them, by the way – revistas, flyers, and booklets. All are colorful, attractive, and professionally printed with details on various exhibitions and similar activities at the CentroCentro. They are tucked neatly in their respective shelves, ready for any visitor who wants good introductory reading on Madrid culture.

It’s apparent that Centro Centro’s current expositions are more into the visual arts, as attested to by the exhibits, galleries, and film-showing dedicated to conventional and digital photography, sketches, illustrations, and paintings. Most are found in the third and fourth floor.

Anyway, the quick siesta gave me ample energy to be propped up and ready for what I really wanted to do – go up the observation deck.

image The reading room / lounge is located at the 2nd floor

image The 2nd floor of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid used to be the Old Post Office’s operations courtyard. It now serves to receive guests and introduce them to the city’s cultural focal point – the Centro Centro. At the photo’s left is the info center, while opposite is a shop selling  souvenirs and memorabilia. In the middle is a row of computer booths that offers online access on CentroCentro information

imageDepicted in this old photo is the postal operations during the heyday of the Palacio del Communicaciones. This and the other photos of the old post office and telegraph building are on display on the middle section of the main floor (second floor)

imageInformation counter at CentroCentro. They advised me to forgo any visit to the mirador in case of inclement weather. Even the gentlest of rains is enough to close the observation deck.

imageSouvenir and gift shop at the main floor of the CentrCentro

imageThis picture of a lady with a detached prosthetic arm is part of an exhibit on digital photography with people with disabilities as theme. Las Personas Con Discapacidad Exhibit, 3rd Floor, March 18 to June 6, 2016

imageD-Espacio – an exhibition that tackles contemporary design, located at the 3rd floor, CentroCentro

image Simplicity and ingenuity as well as convenience in usage is evident in these pieces of furniture at the D-Espacio exhibition

imageSeries of sketches and photos that are part of Aliadas (Allies), an exhibition of variety of art work that celebrates women. 3rd Floor, CentroCentro, March 10 to September, 2016

imageLa Crecion, a splendid artwork by Nuria Meseguer, is included in the Aliadas Exhibit

image Cachetejack is the name of the duo Nuria Bellver and Raquel Fanjul, popular Spanish artists/illustrators. They have global brands like Elle Magazines and Hermes for clients. Their exhibit is at the 4th floor of the Cibeles. A must-see

image See the work of Catalan artist Rut Panuse at the 4th floor, March 04 – May 08, 2016

El Mirador de Palacio de Cibeles

A few minutes after 6PM, I bought my ticket at the Taquilla outside the Palacio. imageThe teller told me to go straight to 6E floor, where I will be given further instruction. Upon reaching the floor, I was greeted by another comely lady who directed me to the stairs that leads to the 8th floor.

“How long can I stay at the Mirador,” I asked her, even if I already knew I can only remain at the deck for 15 minutes.

“You have to leave at 6:25.”

And so I proceeded to climb up, along with two other guests.

What can I say about the experience? I wouldn’t say it’s mind-boggling because it’s not. That’s too much of an exaggeration to say. But still, I must admit I’m very much amazed by the experience. Breathtaking is the appropriate description to use. Every view from the observation deck is just beautiful. Everywhere I look is picture-worthy that I consumed much of my mobile phone’s memory, filling it with photos. (Sadly, I can only post so much because of website bandwidth issues)  The 15 minutes allotted to each visitor is definitely not enough. I’ll return another time, and do less picture-taking and more soaking on the unique moment of being up there. Make the effort yourself. I promise it’s worth your while, to say the least.

imagePor fin! I see the Cybele goddess and her chariot and the fountain in a whole new, dizzying way. Wonder how great the angle of depression that my looking at the statue from the height of 70 meters has created. I must say that the statue is one of the most beautiful in all of Madrid. And its view from afar and from a place this high makes it even more spectacular

imageThe flag of Spain flying high and mighty. Here’s a beautiful view of Paseo de Recoletos that leads to Plaza de Colon and the opulent areas of Salamanca and Chamberi

imageRight tower of Palacio de Cibeles obscures the view of Paseo de Recoletos from the observation tower

image From El Mirador, you have a nice of view of the Torres de colon, the tall, dark building from afar. It is named after Cristobal Colon, Spanish for Christopher Columbus, the famed explorer

imageThe edifice with the flag houses the Naval Museum and the Naval Headquarters, located along Paseo del Prado

imageDark, errie clouds loom, seemingly with a menacing threat to bring great rains

Useful Tips when visiting El Mirador de Cibeles:

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1. Palacio de Cibeles is closed to the public on Mondays. Likewise, entry to the mirador is not allowed during rains/inclement weather.

2. Be ready with your 2 euros, the cost of an entrance ticket of an adult visitor. You have to pay 50 cents for every child you bring.

Two euros is a mere pittance yet it takes you through an exhilarating experience that involves all your senses as you feast on the unique views of many awesome places in Madrid.

3. You can take advantage of free entrada if you set your visit on the first Wednesday of every month.

4. Remember you are only given a scant 15 minutes to stay, so make the most of it; and by this, I mean take quality photographs. We tend to focus on the quantity, but who cares about so many pictures, if most would end up on your mobile phone’s trash bin anyway.

Work on finding the best angles and lighting before you click; this will help you come up with photos that you will be proud to post on your blog/website later.