Tag Archives: Palacio Real

15 Fun Things to See and Do In and Around Madrid’s Puerta del Sol

imageBustling, reverberating, full of life — these words describe Puerta del Sol, the Gate of the Sun in the midst of Madrid. A gargantuan, pedestrianized plaza of an irregular shape, it serves as a focal point from which important streets such as Calles Preciado and de la Montera branch out and lead to various major Madrid spots, like Plaza del Callao and Gran Via, respectively.

Needless to say, Puerta del Sol is the heart of Spain.

Whether you’re a backpacker, a first-time traveller, or a high-flying businessman-jetsetter en route to Madrid, it is a must that you include Puerta del Sol in your itinerary. All you need is a whole afternoon – and you will simply be awed by the place and its immediate surroundings.

Here are 15 things to see and do in and around Puerta del Sol:

1. Step on the Kilometro Cero Marker

imageThe Kilometro Cero marker is proof that Puerta del Sol is the heart of the country. Located on the sidewalk in front of the Ayuntamiento building, take a picture of the marker with your feet stepping on it. It’s a tradition done by first-time visitors of the square.

2. Ogle at the Oso y el MadroñoimageThe Bear and the Strawberry tree statue is regarded as one of the city’s important symbols. In fact, you will find its depiction in the official coat of arms of Madrid. El Oso y el Madroño is one of the most visited attractions of the square.

3. Be amused by the square’s street performersimageimageStreet performers are permanent fixtures of the square. One can be the Predator, Edward Scissorshands, or various other interesting characters, each of which is eager to grab the attention of passing tourists. Be wary about taking their pictures, however, as it isn’t free. See to it that you have at least a euro to pay afterwards.

4. Brought along your little ones? Delight them with kid’s face paintingimagePuerta del Sol is the ultimate fun place for kids if only because of the presence of the street performers dressed up as various fantasy characters. Heighten their excitement further by having their faces painted with the likeness of popular cartoon heroes like Spiderman and Incredible Hulk.

5. Shop till you dropimageEl corte Ingles is arguably the most popular retail chain in the country. The best times to shop — and get more out of your Euro — are the months when prices are at their lowest, like the mid-year months of July and August, and post-Christmas month of February.

6. Ride the Madrid MetroimageSol Metro Train Station has several access points in the plaza.  It’s one fast ride that connects Puerta del Sol to other spots of Madrid. Adequate signs make walking thru metro‘s labyrinth-like passageways easy even for first-time riders.

7. Explore the Nearest (and equally popular) squareimageThe historic Plaza Mayor is an enclosed square that once served as a bullring. Walk through the porticoed paths on its sides and check out the souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Need assistance in touring Madrid? Drop by the city’s largest tourism office, housed at the square’s Casa de la Panaderia

8. Buy all the souvenirs you wantimageLooking for an authentic abanico? Buy a traditional Spanish fan at Casa de Diego. Plaza Mayor boasts of shops that offer tons of souvenir items of all types, like porcelain statues of Flamengo dancers or toreros, Madrid shirts, mugs, and plates, keychains, and many others.

9. Sit by the central fountain
imageIn the midst of the square are two fountains, both of which have ledges that serve as popular resting places. Any spot here is perfect for you to people watch, gaze at the Casa de Correos and the giant billboards, or simply rest and while the time away.

10. Stroll around the royal gardenimageA must-see is the Jardines de Sabatini, which is a few hundred meters away from the plaza and just beside the Palacio Real. In contrast to the dizzying pace at Sol, here you’ll experience a relaxing promenade. Filled with manicured hedges and lush greeneries, stroll by the garden’s sandy paths while enjoying the magnificent view of the Palace from time to time.

11. Chomp on a bocadilloimageTake a filling break by having some bocadillos of Museo del Jamon, located along Calle Major (or at Carrera de San Jeronimo). Jamon, lacon, chorizo, cheese — you can eat all your favorite bocadillos for 1 euro a piece. Have them served with a cold glass of cola or a chilled copa of beer. What an affordable snack that will get you going for the rest of the day.

12. Visit nearby churchesimageimageThe San Gines Church (above) and Almudena Cathdral, located along Calle Arenal and Calle Bailen respectively, are popular among the locals and Madrid old-timers. Both are two of the most revered in the city, and are often the sites of the yearly major religious events.

13.Have a feel of Spanish royaltyimageAppreciate the facade of the stately Palacio Real in Calle Bailen, or even explore its interior and marvel at the fine furniture and work of art created by Spain´s most admired artists and craftsmen.

14. Relish on a Suckling PigimageA few hundred meters from the square, along Calle Cuchilleros, is Sobrino de Botin, famous for its roasted suckling pig. Order whole so you could cut it into half using the plate’s edge. Eating at Botin affords you the bragging rights for having dined at the world’s oldest restaurant.

15. Wiggle your way around on a segwayimageTour the plaza and beyond by renting one of those fast-riding, two-wheeled, foot-controlled contractions. Many who had done so swore the segway was a uniquely exhilarating way of exploring Sol.

The list doesn’t stop here. In fact, there must be tons of exciting things to do that make for a truly memorable visit of the square. Drop on by if you’re in Madrid, and find out for yourself why it is a must-see. Do so, for your trip to Madrid, Spain is never complete if you didn’t see Puerta del Sol.

Outside Madrid: Royal Town of Aranjuez

Aranzuez isn’t a huge, highly sought-after town, but it’s far from being hidden and obscure. It is one jewel of a Spanish pueblo, being the site of a spectacular royal palace. Still, many would consider it to be low-key compared to the more popular day trip destinations like Toledo, Segovia, or even the faraway exciting getaways like Santiago de Compostela.

There’s no bit of a doubt, however, that this town 80 kilometers away from Madrid can hold its own, boasting of some of the most alluring sites and attractions.

Aranjuez and its Royal Palace

aranjuez palace in plaza de las parejasThis town presents a great appeal to those who are interested in royal history, and this is thru the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, an 18th century palace that once served as the residence of the King of Spain. With the collaboration of distinguished Spanish architects such as  Juan Herrera, Juan Bautista de Toledo, and Francesco Sabatini, the royal edifice was built using a  mix of Renaissance and French style in its design.

It was in 1523 when the palace was officially declared the royal property of the Spanish Monarchy.  Beloved royalties who lived and died there were Elisabeth Fernese, wife of Philip V and Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II.  Likewise, the Palacio Real was the site of the signing of various important treaties.

If you haven’t been to Aranjuez, Spain, it’s high time that you do. The Palacio Real will certainly amaze you. It is easy to find since it is right in the midst, as if to assert its prime importance as the town’s top tourist attraction.

Apart from the palace, other major attractions are its sprawling plazas, the Tagus River, and the Casa del Labrador.

Where to start your Aranjuez tour

imageThe Ayuntamiento Building at Plaza de Constitucion. The statue in front is Alfonso XII

Aranjuez is less than an hour away – whether by bus or by train. It’s one of those charming towns that are near Madrid, and very easy to reach — you’ll be there even before you know it.

You might want to start your tour at the Plaza de la Constitution, where you can see the Ayuntamiento — simple yet stately in its facade. On one side of the square stands a metal board marked on which is a map specifying all the major places of interest to see. Or you can head straight to the tourism office for a tour map plus instructions and advices on how to get around the town.

I spent the whole day exploring Aranjuez, and had a great time discovering all the reasons why the whole town was declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape by the UNESCO. The Royal Palace was just impressive. You can see the grandness of the structure from the pictures that I took. I must say that my shots of the palace are all postcard-worthy. Equally impressive are the gardens and plazas, the surrounding bodies of waters, and the Casas.

Aranjuez might be small, but it can very well compete with the much larger and more touristy Spanish towns. Needless to say, it must be one the first town-members of the community of Madrid that you must visit. Engaging locals, lots of eager tourists, amazing tourist attractions, what more can you ask for? Add Aranjuez to your must-see town list, do visit and explore it, and I assure you it is all worth your while.

What to see in Aranjuez, Spain

1. Royal Palace of Aranjuez

imagePalacio Real de Aranjuez in Spanish, this UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was once the King’s official residence. One of the more popular Royal Sites, it now serves as a museum and is open to the public.

2. Iglesia de San Antonio

imageKing Ferdinand VI assigned Spanish architects Gonzalez Velazquez and Santiago Bonavia to build what was intended as a royal church, and one dedicated to San Antonio de Padua – St. Anthony’s Church or Iglesia de San Antonio. This Italian-inspired church from the 1700’s sprawls in one end of the Plaza de San Antonio. Nearby is the Tourism Office.

3. Iglesia de Alpajes

imageThe Alpajes Church, also called the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, is a small church located in the old Alpajes quarter. Eventually, the said quarter was incorporated into the expanded Aranjuez town.

4. Parterre Garden

imageThe beautiful Parterre Garden is the most colorful of all that surround the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, where beautiful flowers of all types and hues are found. The flowers were in blooming and exploding in all colors that the whole garden was such a fascinating sight. Parterre is in front of the West portion of the Palace.

5. Jardin del Principe

imageLiterally, it means the Prince’s Garden. The Jardin was a pet project of Charles IV which started when he was still the Prince of Asturias. Consisting of 150 hectares of land, it must have been the largest Madrid garden that I’ve seen so far. It took 19 years to build the garden, and was finished in 1908, at the time when Charles finally became king.

6. Casa del Labrador

Casa del Labrador, Aranjuez, Community of Madrid, SpainOne of the royal family of Spain’s favorite residences in Madrid, the Casa del Labrador is a World Heritage site. Public viewing and visits are allowed although I wasn’t able to because I visited Aranjuez on a Monday, when most of the sites are closed.

7. Jardin de la Isla

imageA beautiful garden found in the northern portion of the palace, the Jardin de la Isla is so-called because it is situated in the middle of bodies of water, by the Tagus River or Rio Tajo, and a man-made river.

8. Cascada de las Castanuelas

imageLocated beside the Jardin de la Isla, the Cascades was built to regulate the course of the Tagus River and to collect water for the gardens.

9. Tagus River

imageRio Tajo in Spanish, it is one of the main  bodies of water that surround the palace. Tagus River is of utmost importance to Aranjuez’ environment as it sustains the lives of a number of animal varieties, especially the waterfowl.

How to get to Aranjuez, Spain:

imageVia Bus: Take the 423 bus, found at Estacion Sur, Madrid’s biggest bus station. The latter can be reached via Metro Madrid Linea 6, at Mendez Alvaro.

Fare is 4.20 euros, and tickets are bought on the bus itself.

Via Train: Cercania train tickets are available at the ticketing counters of Chamartin and Atocha stations. Traveling by train is more or less the same as that with bus travel – around an hour.

For specific journey schedules and ticket prices, please refer to Cercania’s website.

Map of Royal Palace of Aranjuez:

Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales

2018_041413_2318_581If you’re a first-time traveler to Madrid, there’s no way that you will miss the numerous churches and monasteries scattered all around the city. One of the most popular, not only because it is located in the tourist-magnet Centro, but adjacent to the majestic Palacio Real, is the grand Cathedral de Almudena. The most popular iglesia in the early days until the Almudena was built, along Calle Arenal and near the Plaza Mayor, is the history-rich Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés.

Yet another nearby church near the Monte de Piedad Building, is the Plateresque-designed Monastery of the Descalzas Reales. It is certainly a must-visit, if only for the beauty and magnificence of both the intricate interior and solid facade of the edifice. A visit of the monastery is sure to make your tour of Madrid a meaningful one.

Former Royal Palace

Did you know that the edifice’s name literally means the Monastery of the Royal Barefooted, and that it was given the Royal title because it was a former residence of Empress Isabel and Emperador Charles V of Portugal. At present, its vast area houses a small church and an orchard.

History of the Monastery

2018_041413_2329_977Originally built for the Nuns of Poor Claire order as far back as 1559, it eventually admitted and cared for spinster women or widows. It was said that every woman who was taken in to the convent had to pay a dowry. This allowed the monastery to gain a huge amount of wealth, allowing it to become one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. 

What to Find Inside

If you’re an art lover, you would surely love to take a look on the interior of the Monastery as there must be tons of valuable art items, particularly paintings and religious artifacts. A beautiful palace in its own right, the monastery displays a great deal of Plateresque style, combined with Renaissance touch, particularly in its interiors. Renowned painters and artists like Luini and Tinian have their paintings adorning various parts of the convent and chapel.

Nearby Sites and Attractions

After a visit of the Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales, shopping might be in order next. A stone’s throw away is the El Corte Ingles, along Calle Maestro Victoria, and a host of many other shops and boutiques within the areas of Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Plaza Callao. And if you haven´t gotten your fill of things that are royal, visit the Real Casa de Correos in Puerto del Sol, the former post office and now the Ministry of the Interior, and the Royal Palace, the King of Spain’s Official Residence.

Need to grab something to eat? The perfect choice is the Mercado San Miguel, the food kiosks of which probably sells thousands of varieties of tapas. Other choices offering good eats are Museo del Jamon and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, both within the confines of the Plaza Mayor.

Hours of Visit

Tuesday – Saturday: 10AM to 2PM, 4PM to 6:30PM.
Sundays & holidays: 10AM to 3PM
Monday: Closed

Price of Admission

6 euros

Free entrance

Wednesday, Thursday: 4PM – 6:30PM

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Map

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

Royal Palace of Madrid – Jewel of Spain

imageSimply put, Spain is one of the best vacation options here in Europe, whether you’re traveling as an individual or flying in with your family or friends. What’s interesting about the country is that impressive attractions are not only found in Madrid, its capital, and other large cities, but also in small towns, barrios, and pueblos. One of the major attractions to see is the Palacio Real Madrid — once the residence of the Familia Real de Espana, and now a sought-after museum and considered by many as the  royal jewel of Spain.

Royal Palace of Madrid

imageIf you’re looking for some royal Spanish history to soak into, a must-see within the vibrant city of Madrid is the Royal Palace. Under the administration of the Ministry of the President’s Patrimonio National, it was once the  residence of the Spanish royal family. These days, however,  it functions as a venue for official ceremonies and  events.

Interesting Facts about Palacio Real de Madrid

imageDid you know that the palace covers a wide area of roughly 135,000 square meters? This easily renders it as one of the largest in Europe. It has about 2,800 lavishly decorated rooms, a good number of which the public has access to for general viewing. Entry of visitors is via the Plaza de la Armeria side of the palace.

imageHere are some other important trivia about the royal edifice:

1. Palaces built by the Moors are scattered all over Spain, including Madrid. In fact, it was an Alcazar or Moorish castle/fortress that once stood in the palace’s current location.

2. After the fortress was destroyed by a fire in the 18th Century, Spain’s ruler then, King Philips V, had reconstruction work done with the new design of the palace patterned loosely after France’s own extravagant palace – the Versailles.

3. It was the  royal residence up to 1931, when the King and his family decided to take residence at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, located in the outskirts of the capital. The the Real Palacio, it is under the administration of Spain’s Patrimonio Nacional.

image4. Reconstruction was started by Italian architect Filippo Juvarra and finished by another architect, Francesco Sabatini. The latter, also from Italy, was likewise the designer of the famous Jardines de Sabatini, the official royal garden.

5. A strong rival to top Spanish museums, on display everywhere the palace are a rich collection of gold and silver items, expensive jewels, luxurious furniture, and a wide array of valuable painting from revered artists like Velazquez, Giordano and Goya.

6. The Royal Palace of Madrid has a coveted location within Madrid, if I must say. It is near charming and quaint plazas, the Plaza del Oriente and Plaza de Isabel II and beautiful and luscious gardens, the Sabatini Gardens and Campo del Moro. It has one of the most spectacular Spanish churches in its front, the Almudena Cathedral, the underground museum Museo de los Canos del Peral that’s situated at Madrid Metro Opera, and a good choice of cafes and restaurantes within the vicinity.

Nearby Madrid Attractions

imageAlmudena Catedral, or Sta Maria la Real de La Almudena, Madrid’s Catholic Cathedral

imagePlaza del oriente, the square fronting the Royal Palace
imageStatue of Philips IV and his horse, located in the midst of Plaza del Oriente
imageTeatro Real Madrid (also known as the Royal Thetre) borders the Plaza del Oriente and fronts the palace

imageJardines de Sabatini, an integral part of the palace, sprawls on its northern portion

imageChalet de la Reina at Campo del Moro, a garden beside the palace and located at Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto

Easily, Madrid is filled with museums, plazas, alcazars, and churches. Not only does this afford vacationers the chance to a once-in-a-lifetime vacation; but the city also allows everyone to have a deeper knowledge of the rich Castilian history and culture. And if indeed, you’re staying in the city even for just a few days, do pass by the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Now touted as one of the city’s major museums, thousands upon thousands of visitors go to the site every year. Needless to say, the Palacio Real Madrid is one of the most precious monuments the city has ever possessed.

Opening Hours:

October to March – 10AM to 6PM
April to September – 10AM to 8PM

Royal Palace Madrid Tickets – Admission Prices and Admission Fees

General Admission: 11 euros

Reduced price of 6 euros: Available to children aged 5 to 16, seniors of EU and Latin American countries aged over 65, students under the age of 25

Free admission: Available to children below five years old, teachers, people with disability, and unemployed persons.

You may also gain free access if you go to the site from Monday to Thursday, starting at 4PM up to 6PM (months of October through March); and the same days, from 6PM to 8PM (from April to September). This is applicable only to EU and Latin American citizens.

How to go:

Direccion: Calle de Bailen, Madrid
Nearest Metro Station: Opera (next nearest is Vodafone Sol)

Mapa: