Tag Archives: Puerta del Sol

Great Attractions to Marvel at in Calle de Alcala of Madrid

2018_050219_5203_936Calle de Alcalá of Madrid is known as the longest street in Spain, and if only for this distinction, I had always been fascinated by it, what with all the shops, establishments, cafes and others dotting it, especially around the Goya area. In fact, I already walked a good portion of Alcala a number of times, from as far as Retiro down to my place in El Carmen. Every time, it was a thrill doing so.

Needless to say, this stretch of road, historically important as it is, is filled with some of the most fascinating and breathtaking sights and attractions you can find. You won’t just find shops, but a lot more. There are magnificent edifices, an imposing arch, a church, a huge park, a theater, and even a bull ring stadium.

1. Puerta de Alcala

imageThe Puerta de Alcalá is one of the most important Madrid monuments, and is  often compared to other major European arch structures such as the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, France. The city under the reign of Phillip IV was said to have been guarded and secured by this gate. The arch is so-called because it served as a gate to the road that extended all the way to Alcala de Henares. As in other Spanish puertas, the Puerta de Alcala exhibits strong Neo-classical design. Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find the Retiro Park.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia

2. Palacio de Cibeles

imageCibeles Palace, that grayish-white coated building standing in the corner of Calle de Alcalá and Paseo del Prado. It houses the Centro Centro, the Center for the Culture and the Arts of Madrid. It has a public observation deck that, after paying 2 euros for entry, affords you a breathtaking view of the city, especially the nearby neighborhoods like Sol, Colon, and Atocha.

Direccion: Plaza de Cibeles 1

3.Edificio Metropolis

2018_050219_5223_036A Spanish edifice of immense beauty, it is no wonder that the Metropolis building is a much photographed building in Madrid. And like the Grassy Building (one with the famous Rolex clock in its topmost portion), it is one of the most iconic edifices within the Alcala and Gran Via areas.

Direccion: Calle Alcala 39

4. Instituto de Cervantes

received_1312324972202869Another impressive building along Alcala is the headquarters of the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish-government cultural institution known for fostering the learning of the Spanish language and culture. The institute was named after Miguel Cervantes, one of the greatest literary minds of Spain.
Official Website

5. Nuevo Teatro Alcalá

2018_042921_4830_598Also known as the Alcala Palace and Pardiñas Coliseum, this performance center is a watering hole for avid theater goers in Madrid. The Nuevo Teatro Alcala is a huge favorite, attracting musical show and play lovers, night after night, in droves. Currently being shown is Billy Elliot. I wonder when the Los Miserables musicale will be featured here next.

Where to buy your theatre tickets

6. Casa Arabe

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If you want to learn anything about the Arab world, its culture, arts, and way of life, the place to visit is the Casa Arabe. The building was formerly used by the Aguirre schools of Don Lucas Aguirre y Juarez until it was turned over to the Arabic institution to be used as its headquarters. Open to the public since 2008, the center maintains its goal of strengthening friendship between Spain and the Arab countries.

Dirrection: Calle de Alcala 62
Website: Casa Arabe

7. Iglesia de San Manuel y San Benito

2018_042921_4902_204Churches abound in Madrid, and so, it isn’t surprising that you can also find them in Alcala Street, like the Church of San Manuel and San Benito, a work of art by Tremanti and Fernando Arbós.

8. Banco de España

2018_042921_4925_105Formerly called the Banco Nacional de San Carlos, it was constructed in 1782 under the reign of Carlos III as the latter’s solution of attaining 18th-century Spain’s financial stabilization. Today, it operates as the country’s Central Bank. This magnificent edifice is a veritable landmark, and together with the Palacio de Cibeles, is a crowd drawer not only because of its outstanding beauty in design but because of its rich history.

9. Plaza de Toros de las Ventas

2018_050214_0105_873The Alcala Street also has the distinction of being the site of the most famous Spanish bullring, the site where Spaniards enjoy their favorite traditional past-time. Las Ventas, for short, is famous for its Neo Mudejar or Moorish design meticulously done by Spanish architect Jose Espeliu. A gargantuan structure, it can accommodate thousands, and activities other than bullfights were held here. It was regularly used as a concert venue, where major artists such as the Beatles and Diana Ross performed. It was also used as a tennis game venue, with the bullfight arena transformed into a clay court so everyone could witness the games of Spain and the US in 2008. The Spanish team led by Rafael Nadal prevailed over their opponents.
Information about the ticket prices

10. Parque del Buen Retiro

2018_050122_3858_518The Park of the Good Retreat, in English, the Retiro Park sprawls in the heart of the city of Madrid, and the Street of Alcala happens to pass by it. It was actually a royal park in the beginning, being a property of the king. Eventually, it was converted into a park for use by Spanish commoners during the 19th century. Filled with varied attractions, a thousand varieties of flora and fauna, rose gardens, palaces, exhibit halls, jogging lanes, fountains, sculptures, and a man-made park lake — you’ll love to roam around and be lost, and stay awhile in Retiro as there is so much to see.

Location: 7 Plaza de la Independencia
Time Open: April to September: 6am to 12am; October to March: 6am to 10PM

11. Puerta del Sol

2018_050122_5841_790The Street of Alcala starts on this busy and boisterous square, one of the most visited in Madrid. Known to be the gate to the old city, the square is so-called because it faces the East, and hence, the rising sun. I intend to walk the length of the street starting at Sol square, at the store facing it which is the Apple store, up to the Plaza Norte at Ciudad Lineal. A mere 6.8 kilometers spans these two points,  and so, estimate I’d be able to do the task in under 1 and a half hours.

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 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’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

Restaurante Casa González — Iconic Cheese and Wine Restaurant in Madrid

2017_081517_3140_396I enjoy passing through Plaza Santa Ana because it is such a historic place, being the site of Teatro Espanol, the oldest theater house in Madrid. Within the plaza, you can find the statue of two of Spain´s foremost writers, and locals of Las Letras, Pedro Calderon de la Barca and Federico Garcia Lorca. I love that the area seems always animated and alive throughout the day. Obviously, such is brought about by the packed bars, cafes, and restaurants situated all over the place.

And just a few blocks from the plaza, along Calle del Leon, is yet another famous restaurant called Restaurante Casa Gonzalez. While online, the buzz is that its popularity is attributed to the fact that it has been the location for a few movies, many have turned to regular diners simply because because they are mesmerized by its picturesque façade.

I in fact, was attracted to it, having encountered a photo of its interior vividly seen through its clear glass walls from the outside. This, with an added romantic element that is a couple seated on a table set near the glass wall and obviously having an intimate conversation.

A bit of history

I learned that it began to serve as early as 1931; and right from the start, it established a reputation of being a cafe restaurant patronized by men of letters, and of the arts. Indeed, I did feel that Casa Gonzalez reeks in proud history — this is what you will immediately experience as you enter the place.

Even then, the restaurant is quite simple in its setting — antiquated enough to warrant some renovations in its designs, perhaps to give off some modern feel.

2017_081517_3252_588The tables are outdated pieces that are wanting of some fresh paint, or replacement altogether. Albeit, I am amused – even impressed – with its framed posters featuring ads of lesser known products

Obviously, the setting is not Casa Gonzalez main selling point, not even a bit. I’m sure it’s proud to offer some the best Spanish comida one could taste. Food blogs would not include the restaurant on their list of finest Madrid tapa bars if this isn’t true. A first timer myself, I am already confident to recommend to any one new in Madrid that they should try the restaurant’s sumptuous food offerings.

What we ordered at Restaurante Casa Gonzalez

We visited the restaurant with the plan to have a taste of its cheeses, which I heard it is famous for. But, then as we arrived, the tostas looked so delectable on the menu board that we ended up ordering them. Anyway, we still had cheese, melted ones atop a plate of tasty racion of lacon.

2017_081517_3421_335Jamon Braseado con Queso (Lacon with melted cheese), 10 euros
2017_081517_3408_336 Pate de Aceituna (Olives Pate), 4.50 euros 2017_081517_3355_804Morcillo de Cebolla (Pate de Aceituna), 4.50 euros 2017_081517_3331_280Arzua Gallego Fundido Con Membrillo (melted Galician Cheese), 4.50 euros Lacon with cheese, 10.50 euros 2017_081517_3229_276In the front part of the restaurant is a small area where to be found are two tables. At the back is a much larger space for dinners, with some 5 to six tables. Casa Gonzales is conspicuously small, and so, it isn’t surprising to learn that the place gets easily filled up even on week nights, like the evening that we visited. 2017_081517_3203_200Only a few could actually match this resto when it comes to cheese, wine, tosta among other things. As you enter, you will be greeted by its glass display filled with cheeses of all kinds and brands. Cheese is one of the products of Casa gonzales.

Location

12 Calle del León Madrid 28014

Opening Hours:

9:30AM to 12:00PM

Nearby landmarks:

Puerta del Sol, Cibeles, Plaza Sta Ana

Reservations:

No

Price:

20 to 30 euros for two diners

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

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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

Parque Europa – Little Europe of Madrid

Parque Europa might not be even a bit comparable to world-famous theme parks such as Euro-Disney of Paris or the Ocean World of California USA, but definitely it is well worth your time going there. For one thing, you can stay inside without having to spend a single dime. Entrance to the park is free. Found within Torrejón de Ardoz, one of the Community of Madrid, the parque is quite sizable and there is adequate space for any activity that you and family or friends might want to engage in. Likewise, you can bring your own food and drinks inside. In fact, there is a portion of the park filled with tables and benches for visitors to eat and rest.

You can stay inside the park, seat on a bench, and be in touch with nature all day long. Varieties of well-manicured plants, bushes, and trees abound, while roads and pathways are well-paved to allow easy access from one place to another.

But beautiful flora is not only what Parque Europe has to offer, but attractions and rides as well. The most popular rides are zip-line, pony riding, and boating along the lagoon. Food stands, restaurants, and vending machines are found in strategic places throughout the park.

But its best attractions are the replicas of the premier landmarks and monuments of major European countries. There are at least 17 of these impressive structures, with the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, and the Trevi Fountain as three of the most popular ones. Visit Parque Europa and experience all the fun things that it has to offer.

Have a taste of Europe via these Exciting Mini-European Landmarks

Torre de Belem of Lisboa, Portugal

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Puerta de Alcalá of Madrid, Spain

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Garden Pathway

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The Little Mermaid of Copenhagen

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Ayuntamiento de Madrid at Puerta del Sol

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Dutch Windmills of Holland

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London Bridge (As seen from C/ Antonio de Solis)2017_052918_1656_946

London Bridge (Side)

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Plaza de Europa

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El Atomium of Brussels

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Biblical King David by Michaelangelo

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Eiffel Tower of Paris, France

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Trevi Fountain of Rome

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Puerta de Brandeburgo of Berlín

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Activities to do inside

Boat ride at the Lagoon

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Biking

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Pony ride

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Picnic with family and friends

2017_052922_4909_399We enjoyed our lunch on one of the picnic tables found near the Puerta de Brandeburgo

Dine at Restaurante El Mirador de Europa

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How you can get to Parque Europa:

Parque Europa is a major attraction of Torrejón de Ardoz, a nearby Madrid town. You can reach this recreational park from Madrid proper by taking Cercanías train C-7. As soon as you reach Torrejon, you will have to take autobus C2 to arrive at Parque Europa. You will reach your destination in under 1 hour, or approximately 45 minutes. The cheapest way to get to the park from Torrejón De Ardoz is by autobus 224A

Gates/Entrances to the park:

2017_052918_1535_151Most visitors enter by the front of the Brandenburg Gate, along Paseo de los Cipreses. Another gate is by the Puerta de Alcala replica, found at Calle Hilados. Another means of access to the park is via Calle Compass, at the corner of Alamo Street.

Map

Palacio de las Cortes de Espana – Home to the Spanish Congress of Deputies

imageGreat things abound that make Madrid a place to marvel at, they include the beautiful and majestic public offices found all around the city. Tall, sprawling, and possess impressive architectural designs — these are the qualities that the country’s government buildings have in common.

A fine example is the headquarters of the Congreso de los Diputados or the lower chamber of Spain’s legislative beanch, located at the Carretera de San Jeronimo. The Congress of Deputies in English, this branch of the Spanish Parliament is housed at the Palacio de las Cortes de Espana, the single most important edifice at the Plaza de las Cortes,

imageIt boasts of a grand design highlighted by the six columns in its entrance that lends strength to its dacade. The building is touted as one of the best examples of the city’s neoclassical architecture.

It is relatively new compared to other buildings in Madrid, having only been constructed in 1843 under the helm the Spanish architect Narciso Pascual Colomer and during the reign of Reina Isabel II. Still, the palace boasts of interesting stories about it, like its location being the former site of a convent. Needless to say, the Congress headquarters is one of the reasons the Carretera de San Jerónimo enjoys an influx of tourists throughout the day.

imageRenowned architect Pascual y Colomer is responsible for the neoclassical style of the building, while the attractive relief found in the upper front is a creation of sculptor Ponciano Ponzano. The most popular portion of the relief is the depiction of a lady with a girl on her side. Ponzano is also responsible for sculpting the two bronze lions found by the building’s staircase. His other creations are figures that represent various aspects of the state, such as Justice and Peace, Agriculture, and Fine Arts.

It is easy to reach Palacio de las Cortes since it is connected to Puerta del Sol via San Jeronimo street. It is also near other important tourist spots of Madrid such as Prado Museum,Puerta del Sol, Atocha station, Reina Sofia Museum,Plaza de Espana, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Cibeles Palace.

Opening hours:

Lion in front of Palace of the CourtsIndividual visits: Congreso de los Diputados is open to the public during Saturdays. Visiting time is from 10:30AM to 12:30PM. Schedule may change during the month of August, depending on the official activities.

Group visits: Guided tours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00AM to 2:30PM and 4:00PM to 6:30PM. Time of visit may change during August, depending on scheduled official activities. Reservation is a must for guided tours.

Address:

Calle de Floridablanca, 28071 Madrid

How to Reach:

Long shot of Palacio de los CortesThe best way to get to the site is via Madrid Metro, with Sevilla, Banco de Espana, and Vodafone Sol as the nearest stations

Autobus: 3, 5, 9, 10, 15, 20, 34, 37, 45, 46, 52, 53, 203, 150

Admission

Enttance is Free, however visitors are required to present and ID or passport.

Map:

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La Iglesia de San Nicolas — The Oldest Church in Madrid

La Iglesia de San Nicolas, MadridBasilicas, cathedrals, parroquias — the Spaniards do love their places of worship, treating them as their go-to place after toiling the day at work, and their quiet sanctuary every weekend. They have such great respect for their churches that throughout the centuries, generations upon generations of Spanish builders put immense time and effort in the construction of these edifices, turning them into architectural and design masterpieces. It is typical for the churches’ interiors, such as the altarpiece and the nave, to be awed at, if only because of the fine, intricate details put into them.

Undoubtedly, Spanish churches, big and small, are not just creations of impeccable craftsmanship, but are great works of art.

Noticing how even the most recently built churches in the city possess the most breathtaking appearance, I always wondered how the oldest church of Madrid — Iglesia de San Nicolas de los Servitas — would look like. I always picture it to be a tall, imposing edifice sprawled on some major city plaza. Imagine how surprised I was when I finally got to visit it. The church was hidden in an inner street, obscured by surrounding edifices. Immediate streets are narrow, and the space in front is cramp, giving anyone a hard time taking a good photo of the church. Albeit still, it is located within the center of the capital.

Evidently, Saint Nicholas is a regular church, but considering its location, I deem it is still appropriately-sized to accommodate and serve the local parishioners of that particular area in Central Madrid.

Oldest Madrid Church

La Iglesia de Sn Nicholas dates back in the medieval 12th century, and so it is now listed to be the oldest parish church in Madrid, after the original Iglesia de la Santa Maria de la Almudena was torn down. Throughout the centuries, it had undergone a number of changes both in its facade and interior, particularly the small chapels found within.

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell tower and its Mudejar features

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell towerUpon closer look at its edifice, you would know that it exhibits a Mudejar or Moorish design, most especially in its bell tower. Not a few archaeologists have strongly suggested that it might have been originally a mosque. Another theory is that a Muslim place of worship was standing in its location.

The bell tower, in particular, is the oldest structure of the church. It is said to have been built in as early as the 12th century. This must be the reason it was the first to be recognized as a Spanish National Monument, way back in 1931. The rest of the edifice was built and finished about three centuries after, during the 15th century. Recognition of the church itself came in 1978, as a Bien de Interes Cultural.

Italian Iglesia de Madrid

The San Nicholas Church is often referred to as the city´s Italian church, since from time to time the mass is said in Italian. For a mass to be performed in the said language, a request must be done beforehand, together with an assurance that a large number of Italians will attend. They must have adopted the church as their own because of its proximity to the Institute of Culture of Italy, which is just nearby, also at Calle Mayor.

San Nicholas Church Bell Tower MadridThe bell tower, exhibiting rich Mudejar features, was constructed long before the rest of the church, way back in 1100’s.

Iglesia de San Nicolas Traviesa de BiomboAt the back of the church is the Plaza del Biombo, from which pedestrians can take the Traviesa del Biombo, a narrow and short passageway that traverses the side portion of the church and into its front

Iglesia de San Nicholas Baroque ReliefYou will find on top of the main entrance to the church a sculpted Baroque relief of San Nicolas, a work of art by Spanish sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona

How to find Iglesia de San Nicolas

Direccion: Plaza San Nicolas 6, Madrid 28013

Madrid Metro: Opera Station (Lineas 2 and 5), Vodafone Sol Station (Lineas 1, 2, 3).

From the Opera, you will have to walk down to the right direction of Calle de Vergara. Turn upon reaching the corner of Plaza Plaza Ramales and continue until you reach Plaza San Nicolas.

From the vodafone station, take the right side of Calle Mayor, passing by Plaza de San Miguel and Plaza de la Villa. Turn right at Calle San Nicolas and a short walk will bring you to the church.

What time to visit:

Mondays: 8:30AM to 1PM
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:00AM to 9:30AM; 6:3PM to 8:30PM Sundays: 10:00AM to 2:00PM; 6:30PM to 8:30PM

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Casa de la Villa, Ayuntamiento de Madrid [Old Town Hall]

imageWe all know that the Palacio de Cibeles is the City of Madrid´s current Ayuntamiento or town hall, where its administrative functions and duties are performed. However, not many might be aware that the original town hall of the city is found near the Puerta del Sol, along Calle Mayor. It’s name is Casa de la Villa — and it is often referred to as the Old Town Hall of Madrid.

It is easily the most visited building among those found within the Plaza de la Villa, and early in the morning, throngs of people would already flock to the square and appreciate this beautiful Juan Gomez de Mora-designed edifice. There’s no doubt that Casa dela Villa is very popular if only for its historical importance as the city’s former main headquarters and town hall.

The monument is easy to reach since it is in a stragetic location, being situated between two popular Madrid squares — the Plaza de Oriente and Puerta del Sol and just along a street tourists and locals must know. The square is full with rich history itself, acting as the site of various important events that occured during the ancient, Renaissance period of Madrid. Its former name is Plaza de San Salvador, after the Church that bears the same name.

imageStately facade of the Town hall impresses many visitors and tourists. Not only did it function as a town hall, but Casa de la Villa was once designated as a jailhouse for the city´s prisoners

Plaza de la Villa Madrid, SpainIn honor of the death of famous Captain General Alvaro de Bazan, a bronze monument was sculpted by Mariano Benlliure and erected in the middle of the square, right in front of the town hall. On its pedestal are words by Lope de Vega honoring him. Bazan was the Captain who commandeered the Spanish Armada. imageHouse of Cisneros used to  be a palace from the 16th century and was built under Jimenez de Cisneros, the nephew of Cardinal Cisneros. The latter was the founder and builder of the Universidad de Alcala, found in the Comunidad de Madrid town of Alcala de Henares. Various renovations were done in the property, which included connecting the building with the Old City Hall via a short enclosed walkway.
imageThe enclosed walkway between Casas de Cisneros and de la Villa, serving as a connection or bridge between the two edifices
imageThe bridge that connects the House of Cisneros to the Old Town Hall was built during the early part of the 1900’s. The narrow street that traverses between the two buildings and below the enclosed walkway is called the Calle Madrid. It is connected to other small streets; these are Calle del Rollo and Calle Duque de Najera

imageThe House and Tower of the Lujanes take pride in having two of the oldest Madrileno architectural designs — these are the Gothic and Mudejar styles. The tower is said to be the older of the two structures; it has been in existence since the start of the 15th century. Originally the home to Gonzalo Garcia, it was acquired by Pedro de Luján in 1450

imagePlaza de la Villa is considered to be of high historical value since it is the focal point of ancient Madrid, being the site of the seat of old city´s administrative power – Casa de la Villa. It was here where streets found in the city´s old and original layout are connected — Calles Madrid, Cordon, and El Codo

imageThe facade of the building that faces the Calle Mayor. On its immediate side is the Palacio Marques Canete, or the Centro Sefarad. Just nearby is the building of the Italian Cultural Institute.

Want to see Casa de la Villa?

If you want to know more about the monument and perhaps see its interior, the best time to visit is Mondays at 5 PM, when a tour is held for visitors, and conducted in Spanish and English.

How to find Casa de la villa

Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005

The historic edifice-monument is easy to reach: From Puerta del Sol or the Opera, walk the length of Calle Mayor until you reach Plaza de la Villa, at Number 5. The site is near two Madrid attractions, which incidentally are both Palaces, or at least named as such. These are the Palacio Marques de Canete, or the Centro Sefarad Israel (located immediately after the Casa) and Palacio de Abrantes or the Italian Cultural Institute (right in front of it).

Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)
Auto buses near the site: Numbers 3, 20, 33, 39, 50 to 53, and 150

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