Tag Archives: Plaza Mayor

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.

Chinchon: An Under-an-hour Travel Getaway from Madrid

imageThe town of Chinchon, Community of Madrid, as viewed from the clock tower

Time and again, I try to be far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and all the stress and craziness that go with this big city. And enjoy a breather of sorts, even if only for a day.

This makes living in Madrid an advantage because of the nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. Just waiting for everyone to explore are the beautiful towns of Toledo, Segovia, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial — amazing World heritage sites as declared by UNESCO.

Of course, small pueblos also abound. These are lesser-known towns within the periphery of Madrid. Found under the radar, you’d be surprised that they are just as enthralling, and boast too of fascinating tourist sites.

One is Chinchon, Spain, a member of the Community of Madrid,  and a place that I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I learned it’s a mere 45 kilometers away from the capital. The town is known for its strong religious traditions, particularly the commemoration of Christian holidays thru passion plays, processions, and even concerts. What piqued my interest is its square, which doubles as a bullring, and so you know bullfighting is alive in this part of Spain. I looked forward to seeing the castle ruins and the clock tower as well.

Raring to explore the town, I decided that it’s time to hit the road and go on a solo trip as a way of celebrating my birthday.

And so, I was off to Chinchon.

The early morning of last Tuesday, I rode Metro Linea 6 at Nuevos Ministerio, and got off at Conde de Casal. Then, I proceeded to Avenida de Mediterraneo where buses 337 wait. Within an hour, I reached my destination. The trip didn’t tire a bit.  Instead I stayed invigorated, excited on what I was about to discover.

I found myself in the middle of the pueblo, which is noticeably tiny, quiet and rustic, like you’re in the countryside. I headed to the square and found the much-fussed-about pasteleria located on one of its corners. I must have a taste of its famous sweet, rounded pastry, which is described online as a soft bread that’s pretty much like a doughnut sans the filling. I bought two, gobbled one after the other, finishing both within minutes. Saccharine pastry balls, they were delicious indeed, just like what they say!

As I ate, my gaze wandered around, and saw a group of tourists roaming the Plaza Mayor. The square itself got my attention because of its appearance, being “dressed up” as a bullring. I wondered if this is a permanent thing or it just looked that way because of a forthcoming bullfight event.

Next, I ventured outside the square. First stop is the clock tower, which could be reached by walking up a steep road of a few hundred meters. The tower is on an elevated land high enough to afford anyone a magnificent view of the town below, including the faraway castle ruins.

Like other Spanish towns, the streets are narrow and winding. They are hardly level, but run uphill and down instead. Still, I have to say that strolling around this town, from one site to another, was fun and relaxing.

One thing you’ll love about Chinchon is that most sites of interest, with the exception of the Old Castle, are near one another and not spread out. I had an easy time hopping from one place to the next.

I almost skipped the tourism office deeming I didn’t need an area map; but I did go anyway, because I wanted to ask if walking to the castle is doable. The people at the info counter assured me I’d reach the site within 10 minutes. They even gave instructions on which streets to take in order to get there the fastest. Some enthusiastic Chinchonites, indeed.

My final word about the town? Make it your next day trip destination. Tiny and unhurried it may be, but it packs in places of great allure. The town folks are friendly and helpful, especially those manning the square’s pastelerias, the alimentacion, and the tourism office.

Here are some of the Chinchon, Madrid attractions that you mustn’t miss.

The Counts’ Castle

imageSpread in a land found on the highest point of the town is the Counts’ Castle, or Castillo de los Condes. Also called the Chinchon’s Castle, it was the residence of the royals at the time when Cabreja was allowed to own a land in the area. Now in ruins, it is still under the ownership of the counts.

The Clock Tower

imageTorre del Reloj in Spanish, it was the only structure left standing and unscathed after the 15th-century Our Lady of Grace Church was destroyed during the War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia).

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

imageIglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunsion, with its bright-hued and solemn facade, is a sight to behold as you walk up the steep, winding calle known as Las Columnas de Los Franceses. Inside is the Blessed Virgin painting by Goya, Spain’s illustrious painter who lived in the town for some time. Nearby is the Clock Tower.

Hermitage of San Roque

imageThe Ermita de San Roque is dedicated to the town patron, the feast of which is on the 16th of August. You will encounter this monastery upon entering the square thru Calle de los Huertos.

Teatro Lope de Vega

imageTeatro Lope de Vega now stands on the land where Palace of the Counts once stood. De Vega was a great Spanish artist, writer, and Chinchon admirer.

More Beautiful Chinchon Scenes

imageTourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square

imageThis wooden gate is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor

imageBright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square

imageThe Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building

imagePart of the pillared walkways that surround the Plaza Mayor-bull ring

imageBreathtaling view of Chinchon from the area of the Old CastleDelicious pastries in Chinchon are aplenty such as pelotas de frailePelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside

imageTeta de Novicia, a local, sweet delicacy, is so-called because of its bosom shape

image Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products

ajos, chinchon, madrid, spainAjos de Chinchon hang on the wall of a lottery shop. Touching it is supposed to bring bettors good luck. And so, I did after I bought a ticket

How to reach the castle

The Castillo de los Condes, lying on a low hill next to the town, appears distant and unreachable when viewed from the Clock Tower, but it’s actually an easy walk from the Plaza Mayor. This 16th-century Renaissance castle still stands mightily. It’s a pity, however, that some portions had already crumbled.

No one is allowed inside — it is said that nothing is found in the interior. Empty and forsaken, still, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive facade and the mighty bridge of this otherwise haunting fortress.

From the square, you walk thru the length of Calle del Convento starting at the Plaza del Convento, until you turn right to Calle del Castillo. Walk time: Around 10 to 15 minutes

How I traveled to Chinchon, Madrid:

image

I recommend traveling to (and from) Chinchon by bus because it is convenient and easy on the pocket as well.

1. Take the Metro Linea 6 and get off at Conde de Casal Station.

2. From the station, proceed to Ave de Mediterraneo, where found are parked green buses en route to various locations.

3. Look for the La Veloz-owned buses, and take number 337 — it will bring you to the town in less than an hour.

A bus is scheduled to go to the town every 30 minutes to an hour (during weekends) with trips starting at 7am. Tickets sell at 4.20 euros.

Map

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

2018_041413_2309_161

Map

Gran Via – Madrid’s Premier Street [What to See]

2018_040114_0940_949Gran Via, or the Great Way in English, is one of the most popular thoroughfares in Madrid, and is even compared to Broadway of New York, which is why it is affectionately called the Madrid broadway. A bonafide tourist attraction, you will certainly enjoy a leisurely tread of ts sidewalks filled with people, from one end of the avenue to the other in under an hour, for it is quite a short stretch of highway. The street begins in the street of Alcala and ends at the Plaza de Espana. In between, you will be amazed at how the street is filled with impressive buildings serving various tenants in its ground and lower floors, such as shops, restaurants, hotels, casino, government agencies, and even a church, would you believe?

A major portion in the middle of the street is where you will find the Plaza del Callao, itself a major tourist spot and a point of entry to Puerta del Sol. The Callao portion teems with commercial establishments such as El Corte Ingles, FNAC, and the popular movie theatre, the Cine Callao. We can say that Gran Via is Madrid’s center of Cinemas as other major theater chains are found within the area, like the Cine Capitol, housed in the building of the same name, and the Cine Palacio de la Prensa, found at the opposite of the Callao Square. On the far end, near the Puerta de Independencia of Alcala, is the Grassy, the so-called Number 1 Buildng, the first tall structure to rise on this part of Gran Via.
2018_040114_0804_131This building serves as the headquarters of Fundacion Instituto Spiral. One of the monumental and imposing edifices that line up along the Gran Via
2018_041509_5550_660Hotel Realto is another cinema with the popular magical show El Mago Pop cuŕently being shown there2018_040114_0832_085Villa de la Reina hotel is the choice of tourist with discriminate taste, especially if he wants to own a temporary address in one of Spain’s most fascinating streets. The building itself is a beauty and always something for Gran Via passersby to marvel at.
received_1681762398558362La Adriatica Building, rendered glistening gold due to the setting sun, is one of the taller buildings that line up the Gran Via thoroughfare. It also covers a corner of Plaza Callao.
2018_040114_0912_410Most edifices are historic since they were built in the 1920’s and displays impressive style known as Art Deco — such design is evident in their facade.
2018_041509_5538_036Kiosks stand on many parts of the street selling just about everything — souvenir items, snacks and refrescos, posters, magazines, and hop-on-hop-off and day-trip tickets2018_041509_5621_159Located in the Edificio Carrion is the Capitol Cinema, another major theater chain in Spain
2018_041121_5018_410The lanes that are immediate both sidewalks have been pedestrianized. This has caused considerable traffic especially during peak hours, since the road has become narrower, but the move of pedestrianization, albeit partial, has become quite a boon to locals and tourists who now enjoy more space while walking along Gran Via.
2018_041121_4941_877Primark, known for its rock-bottom prices, is just one of the many popular department stores found along the famous avenue.
2018_040114_0856_732Home to the Telefónica Company — One of the pioneer edifices built during the construction of the road. Once recognized as Spain’s main communications hub, it stands 90 meters tall, making it one of the talkest buildings in those days. In fact, the Telefonica was patterns after the early skyscrapers of the US. And indeed, looking at it from down the opposite sidewalk, you could feel its imposing stance. Today, the building is home to the Telefonica Foundation, and the site to many cultural activities and exhibits.
2018_033100_1128_813The Carrión Edificio, a famous building frequented by tourists if only for the Scwheppes neon sign on its top, which when lit during the evening mesmerizes onlookers. The building is also famous for its theater of the same name.
2018_033100_1106_296Another prominent building is the Palacio de la Prensa, located within Plaza del Callao and was built by Pedro Muguruza architect in the 1920’s. Formerly the headquarters of the city’s Press Association, it is currently home to a popular multiplex cinema, enjoying brisk business because of the loyal patronage of movie lovers.
2018_040123_1310_351. Should you wish to stay and enjoy the comforts of a luxury hotel and be near the Gran Via at the same time, the perfect choice is the Hotel Tryp.  It boasts of being in striking distance to Madrid Centro’s other famous landmarks and attractions — like Plaza Mayor, Plaza de España, Puerta del Sol, Palacio de Cibeles, Museo del Prado, and Plaza Santa Ana
2018_040123_1322_126Hotel de las Letras, a masterpiece of renowned Spanish architect Cesáreo Iradier, was the former residence of the then Count of Artaza stands as building number 11. Today it is one of the city’s national treasures, and a protected building as designated by the City Council of Madrid.
2018_041509_5639_738Hotel Atlantico, being a century-old luxury hotel, is considered a major landmark and an easy choice of tourists who want only the best accommodation in this part of Madrid
2018_040123_1332_485The lanky Grassy building greets you upon entering the street, coming from the neighborhood of Calle de Alcala. It is right next to another famous building, the Metropolis, which is claimed to be one of the prestigious tenant buildings within Gran Via; actually, it stands along Alcala street. The building, with the neon sign Rolex in its facade, is named after a famous Spanish watch expert Alejandro Grassy.

Map:

Plaza Mayor of Salamanca – One of Spain’s Most Beautiful

2018_022523_3352_441Arguably, the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca is one of the most popular squares of Spain. I won’t hesitate to say that it must be the most beautiful plaza, even more than the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. If you’re Salamanca-bound, it is a must that you pass through this plaza – which is obviously humongous in area. During our visit last January, the square had our group in awe especially when we trooped to it during the evening, as it was a truly glowing spectacle.  Because of its beauty, grandeur and intricacy in decoration, the square was declared a major monument as early as 1936 — a beloved Spanish treasure.

Considered as the town’s major area where locals and tourists meet and gather, its most famous spot of the square is in the area of the building that features its clock. It is common for locals to refer to the spot underneath the clock as their meeting point if they get to meet inside the Plaza Mayor.

The porches on all four sides of the square is said to have been built as a means of protecting the sellers and owners of food stall during inclement weather, such as rain or snow. And like other major Spanish squares like that of Madrid, it was formerly used as a venue for bullfighting events up until the middle of the 1800’s.

2018_022523_3330_428The buildings surrounding the square glow like gold during the evening, brought about by the yellowish light coming from the numerous strong incandescent lamps trained on their facade. The bright hue is caused by the yellow silicon sandstone that makes up the materials of the wall. This glistening feature of Salamanca’s main square earns it the title of the Golden Square.

Direccion:

Plaza Mayor, 37002 Salamanca

Distance between Madrid and Salamanca: 212 kilometers

Travel time:

2 hours and 15 minutes

Map:

2018_022523_3404_813

Madrid Churches: Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés

imageThis year’s first ever mass saw me skipping Parroquia San Fernando at Calle Alcocer, where I regularly attend Sunday service, and instead heard mass in one of the oldest existing churches of Madrid — the Real Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés. While another famous church, the Catedral de la Almudena is just a few blocks away, I opted for the smaller and more personal San Gines, located just along Arenal, the street that connects Puerto del Sol to Plazas de Isabel II and Oriente.

It must be one of the most accessible churches in the city since both the Sol and Opera Metro stations are a mere hundred meters away. Hence, it is not surprising that Sn Gines is among the most attended churches this side of Madrid.

Actually, it was much older than the sprawling Almudena Church, having been built in the middle of the 17th century; and until the latter was constructed, San Gines was considered the main church where all the major religious activities in Madrid was held. And like the nearby Parroquia Sta Cruz of Calle Atocha, San Gines Church is known to cradle the venerated image of St. Jude Thaddeus.

Nearby Madrid Attractions

imageDisplaying a simple facade, it was built using the Baroque and neo-classical designs, one of the prevailing architectural styles for edifices during those days

Eats: Beside the church is a narrow passageway that leads to the Chocolatería San Ginés, a popular churros shop serving the thickest and sweetest chocolate syrup there is. Always, I finish a cup of its special saccharine concoction with gusto, together with four piping hot churros or porras. The chocolateria, which opened in 1894, boasts of serving the best churros con chocolate in town. Just a stone’s throw away is the Mercado de San Miguel, if you decide that you want tapas, wine, bocadillos, and more tapas. Along Calle Mayor is the touristy Museo del Jamon, which is the perfect place if you want to grab a quick bite from its bar, or experience dining in its spacious comedor at the second floor, savoring all sorts of popular Spanish cocido.

Plazas: Puerta del Sol is one shouldn’t miss if you’re a first-timer in Madrid. There is also the Plaza Mayor, which is nearer to San Gines. What was once a bull-ring and execution area for criminals is now a popular tourist spot, where the city’s tourism office is found, as well as a host of bocadillo and Spanish comida restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Shops: El Corte Ingles is found in many parts of Madrid, but the one located in Calle Preciado is probably the busiest. In nearby Calle de Carretas are found popular boutiques such as Zara and Celio, among others.

Location

Calle del Arenal 13 Madrid 28001

When Open

On Sundays, the church is open for mass service at 9AM, albeit I always go to hear mass scheduled at either 6PM or 8:30PM

imageA Nativity Scene, composing of the Holy Family and the Three Kings, is on display on the left front side of the Church

Map

Madrid Palaces: Palacio de Santa Cruz

imageThere must be tons of buildings in Madrid — and the whole of Spain even – that are called Palacios. One of the most famous of these magnificent structures is the Real Palacio de Madrid, the official residence of the King of Spain. There is yet another one also situated within the center of the city, at the Madrid de los Austrias; it was really built to serve as a palace but now it houses a government office.

Known as the Palacio de Santa Cruz, it stands along Calle de Atocha, near popular attractions like Iglesia Santa Cruz and Plaza Mayor. Construction was from 1629 to 1643 under the supervision of Italian baroque painter and architect Juan Bautista Crescendi. The latter partly worked on the Pantheon of El Escorial.

The palace is of a few levels high, enough to overlook with pride the plaza of the same name that’s within striking distance. Its facade were mainly of bricks that are painted copper red, while found on its two sides are pointed towers, features that are commonly found many stately Spanish edifices.

Needless to say, the Sta Cruz Palace is one of the major building achievements of the Habsburg dynasty. The latter, also known as the House of Austria, was considered the most influential and outstanding European royal house of its times. It was able to produces great kings and leaders for countries from all over Europe, including Spain.

Former prison

Did you know that the Santa Cruz Palace was once a prison? The “La Carcel de Madrid” acted as one until such time when it was converted as a palace during the reign of King Philip IV.  Finally, it became the headquarters of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

It is interesting to note how the palace incurred an infamous past since it was once the seat of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition. It was here where the verdicts of the dreaded justice institution of Spain were drawn and meted to supposed criminals. Those who were sent to their deaths were executed at the nearby Plaza Mayor.

A beautiful edifice

The Palacio de Sta Cruz is considered as one of the most beautiful palaces ever built in Madrid. It is very near the Plaza Mayor. In fact, one of the entrances to the famous square is just a short distance away from the palace. Two other rather small squares are also nearby — the Plaza de Sta Cruz and Plaza de la Provincia. Within the latter’s ground you can find the Fountain of Orfeo.

imageEntrances to the Plaza Mayor nearest the Palace de Sta Cruz, located in Calle de Gerona

imageThe famous Fountain Orfeo, also known as the Fountain de Santa Cruz and Fountain of the Carcel del Corte

imageEntrance of the Palacio de Sta Cruz. The palace is a perfect example of a Habsburg designed building during Madrid’s early days

imageA carousel has been put up just recently in Plaza de Sta Cruz in front of the Ministry building – a sign that Christmas nears

imageNew ambassadors of countries travel from the Santa Cruz Palace (specifically in front of the Palace’s main door) to the Palacio Real to receive their Letters of Credence from the Spanish government. In the photo above (courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Madrid Facebook page), the Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain, His Excellency Philippe Jones Lhuillier is brought by a royal carriage en route to the Royal Palace to present his credentials to His Majesty King Felipe VI

Direccion

Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012

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.

Autobuses: 3, 17, 18, 51, 50, 23, 26, 31, 32, M1

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

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

image
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

Map:

Museo Thyssen Bornemisza of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art

2017_072317_5139_496After Prado and Reina Sofia, what else is next? Of course, it’s the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum along Paseo del Prado, another famous art museum in Madrid, Spain. It’s definitely one museum that I mustn’t miss since it is considered as one of the major ones in the city. For one thing, it holds a gargantuan collection of valuable art pieces, with over 1600 paintings and similar items on display.

I was simply awed by its current artwork, many of which are available for viewing by the public. Thyssen affords art connoisseurs and lovers the chance to experience and revel at the variety of outstanding artwork that come from different periods of time — these include the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and up to the modern popular art.

The Thyssen Museum boasts of unique paintings from major worldwide artistic movements such as the Fauvism, German Expressionism, together with the experimental movements that sprouted in the twentieth century.

You will find on its top floor a number of religious art work, most of which are from the  17th and 18th centuries, while on the lower floor are found a variety of modern art pieces. Clearly, there is something for every visitor to enjoy.

Likewise, Thyssen is known for its great massive collection of 19th-century American paintings, many of which cannot be found in other European museums. Because of its rich collections of artwork, it is understandable that the museum is packed with visitors every day of the year, attracting close to a million visitors a year. The presence of Thyssen, plus other major museums, renders the city of Madrid as a major player in the art world.

Where is the museum located?

What I love about Thyssen is that you can find it right in the midst of the city, together with the two other major Madrid museums, such as The Reina Sofia and The Prado Museums. These three popular museums, found in the area of Paseo del Prado and Atocha, form the so-called Golden Triangle of Art of Spain.

When it comes to the other nearby tourist sites and attractions, you can troop to the Puerta del Sol, Cibeles Palace, and The Temple of Debod, places that are just a few minute walk from the museum. Such sites are must-visits by anyone who is in town for the first time.

Another recommended place to visit after seeing Thyssen and getting hungry from all that art viewing is the Plaza Mayor, the ideal spot in Madrid. It is the most famous square of Spain, and one that I go to if I want to have a bocadillo or paella.

It’s an ever busy square that offer local events, and even a perfect place if you enjoy watching people walking and bustling by. Of course, there’s the Terrazas de Thyssen right inside the museum’s premises to satisfy your hunger.

2017_072317_5046_898The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday starting at 10AM up until  6:30PM. On December 24 and 31,  the museum is open until 3PM.  It is closed on December 25 and January 1.

Individual access tickets are available to all visitors; such a ticket allows full access to the Thyssen for one day. Access includes all temporary exhibitions on viewing during that day.

How much are the tickets to the Museo Thyssen?

The cost of the regular ticket is around  €12.00, but if you are a student, a fine arts teacher, or a senior, that give you the chance to avail of discounts.  The ticket prize is also reduced to 10 euro if you belong to a group of seven. But, you want to take advantage of free entrances, Thyssen offers free entry to the museum’s permanent collection during Mondays, from 12PM to 4PM.

Las Terrazas del Thyssen and the gardens compliments the museum

2017_072317_5155_940
2017_072317_5115_526In front of the museum’s gardens is the Las Terrazas del Thyssen, a 3-floor food establishment that offers a variety of casual and easy-to-dine food. This makes the  restaurant one of the top dining choices this part of Madrid. In fact, the Las Terrazas is place to be by those who prefer to spend their night on an amazing u4ban dining club.

An exhilarating experience

2017_072317_5209_279I must say that my Thyssen visit is truly unforgettable. For one thing, I had the chance to view and experience immense amount of valuable artwork. Also, the place itself is inviting — it was easy for me to lose myself in the spacious rooms as I enjoy breathtaking art items on display.

The hours seem so short as I focused on immersing myself at the amazing collections; but still, I took time to also visit the gift shop and drink some bebida (refreshment) on the Terrazas. Needless to say, my visit to Thyssen is one to cherish forever, one that has enriched my life in a profound way.

How to go:

Autobus: Go for EMT 1, 5, 9, 14, 20, 34, 37, 41, 51, 53, 52, 146, 150

Metro: Take Line 2 and get off at Banco de España

Via RENFE, Atocha and Recoletos are the nearest stations to the museum

Map