Tag Archives: Plaza del Sol

Plaza del Callao – Plaza Famosa en el Distrito Central de Madrid

imageDo 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.

Cines Callao

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.

imageThe 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

imageTaquilla 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.

imageImposing 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.

imageThe 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.

imageThe edifice is also called the Capitol Building because it houses the Capitol Cinemas, a theater chain popular among avid cinema goers.

Pedestrianized square

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.

imageWhile 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

imageCalle preciado. This street connects the plaza to Puerta del Sol

imageView of the Cines Callao building and Schweppes or Capitol Building. Photograph taken from across Gran Via

imageLa Adriatica Building towers over the corner part of the square. It stands beside the buildings of El Corte Ingles shopping mall and FNAC

imageI 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

imageFigure 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
imageHotel 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
imageThe Capitol theater of the Edificio Carrion, designed by architects Martínez-Feduchi and Eced, is another popular cinema chain in the Callao-Gran Via area
imageDesigual is just one of the many popular high-end boutiques in the vicinity

imageA group of teens presumably on a tour got off their ride at Gran Via and rushed towards the middle of the square imagePasteleria 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

imageThe 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

imageCines Callao and Edificio Carrion come nighttime

imageMetro 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

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

Christmas 2015 in Madrid

Christmas is just around the corner. A week from now, Spain and the rest of the world will again be commemorating the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In my case, this will be my second Christmas in Madrid. And as in the previous year, it’s all bright, colorful and Christmassy everywhere I look, with the sentiments of warmth, love and happiness pervading the air around. There’s no doubt that Madrilenos love Christmas and are just all out when it comes to celebrating this festive season, such as looking forward to lots of parties, attending occasions of family get together and reunions, and gift-giving.

For posterity, I will again post a number of Christmas scenes from various places in Madrid – Plaza del Sol, El Corte Ingles in Calle de Castellana, Calle de Alcala, and Cibeles. I wish that this particular post will somehow send out the spirit of the Yuletide Season, even if in its small and humble way. Feliz Navidad a todos! image Colorful lanterns hang along the length of the the street of Alcala, which starts from Plaza de Independencia to Plaza de Cibeles

image Formerly known as the Palacio de Communicaciones, the Palacio de Cibeles lords over everything else within the whole area of the Plaza de Cibeles. During Christmas, it serves as the centerpiece of the vicinity, being the most intricately lighted and decorated edifice in tune with the Yuletide season.

image Anos Luz at Calle de Alcala 111, a seller of modern lighting fixtures and systems puts up a beautiful display that’s appropriate for the season.

image As soon as December starts, you will definitely not miss this yellow light-decked Christmas Tree as it becomes the center of attraction at Puerta del Sol. It is actually the same tree that they put up at at plaza last year, with the same decor, lighting, and all. Still, it never fails to buoy up the Yuletide spirit in everyone. This tree alone makes Sol – hands down – the most Christmassy in all of Madrid.

imageEl Corte Ingles, one of Spain’s premier shops, takes the season seriously with its gargantuan board showing moving Xmas displays for everyone, customers and pedestrians, to see and appreciate.

Kilometro Cero at Puerta del sol

If you are traveling to Madrid, Spain, be sure to pass by Puerto del Sol – on your first day if possible – and head to that particular sidewalk in the plaza where the ground plaque or marker they call the Kilometro Cero is found. According to popular Spanish tales, anyone who steps on it is assured of a return to the city in the future.

And so that is exactly what I did as soon as arrived in the city (or rather, what my friends had me done on my first day). I flew into the Barajas airport in the afternoon, and after some much-needed rest, went straight to Puerto del Sol come nighttime by taking the Metro Linea 9 from Colombia station.

It was already 8:30 in the evening and dinnertime in the city, I thought the plaza would be less crowded. On the contrary, everywhere in Sol, including the area around the KM Cero were thick throngs of people.

I proceeded to the kilometro cero. A lot of tourists were abuzz and milling around the plaque, taking turns to have their pictures taken while they stepped on it. Across its surface was the line that read, “Origen de las Carretelas Radiales.” As I stepped on the plaque, I found myself making a wish. I swore immediately afterwards I had this reassuring feeling that it wouldn’t be my last visit to Madrid.

Where exactly is Kilometro Cero? In spite of being a ground-embedded marker, you won’t have any problem finding it. The plaza is found in the sidewalk right in front of the Casa de Correos, the gargantuan government edifice the width of which must be about the same as that of the plaza itself.

No doubt about it, Kilometro Cero of Plaza del Sol, that plaque that’s made out of granite, is one of the most popular and visited landmarks in Madrid.

Kilometro Cero, Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain What’s the Kilometro Cero? It is the spot from which the distance from Madrid to anywhere in Spain is measured, hence the name. So, if for instance, the distance from the Spanish capital to Toledo is a 200 km, such number is obtained using the KM Cero as the starting point. It is safe to say that if you standing on this point, you may brag that you have “conquered” the centremost point of the city.

Real Casa del Correos, Puerta del Sol, Madrid, SpainReal Casa de Correos is the massive Madrid government building in Puerto del Sol that towers over the Kilometro Cero (and perhaps everything else in the plaza, literally and figuratively). It 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.

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!