2022/23 UPDATE: Adding some places that we’ve seen at more recent travels in the bottom
My MIL (Mother-in-Law) is from Madrid so she was super happy to take us sightseeing all over the city! How lucky are we to have a Madrileña take us around. These were the highlights for me:
Translates to “Great Way” this street is an urban promenade in the center of Madrid. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Spanish Broadway” because it is one of the city’s most important shopping areas, with a large number of shopping centers and hotels.
The Gran Vía is a showcase of early 20th-century revival architecture, with architectural styles ranging from Vienna Secession style, Plateresque, Neo-Mudéjar, Art Deco, etc.
PUERTA DEL SOL
The Puerta del Sol or “Gate of the Sun” is a public square and one of the best known and busiest places in the city. This is the centre (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads. The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year.
This is the Bear and the Madroño (strawberry) Tree, heraldic symbol of Madrid.
There are a lot of Street artist in the square and it’s so interesting to watch them! I still don’t understand how they can keep their startling positions for such a long time!
Lots of people just hang out here! Always be wary of pickpockets of course!
A few blocks away from Puerta del Sol is the stunning Plaza Mayor or Main Square. Another major public space in the heart of Madrid, it was once the centre of Old Madrid. It was first built (1580–1619) during the reign of Philip III. The Plaza Mayor is for the people of Madrid and tourists to shop, walk around, eat, and enjoy the outdoors.
The Plaza Mayor dates back to the 15th century where it was originally called the “Plaza del Arrabal” and was used as the main market of the town.
Today, the Plaza Mayor is rectangula and highlights the uniformity of the architecture. The Plaza measures 129 m x 94 m. 237 balconies are present on the three-story residential buildings that face inward towards the Plaza.
To enter or exit The Plaza Mayor, there are ten entrances to choose from, however, there are nine gates. The entrances are named: 7 de Julio, Arco de Triunfo and Felipe III to the North; Sal, Zaragoza and Gerona to the East; Botoneras, Toledo and Cuchilleros to the South; Ciudad Rodrigo to the West.
In the center of the square stands the statue of Philip III on a horse, which was placed in 1848. The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events. It has hosted executions in history. Today, it is the location of the annual Christmas market. It has also hosted bullfights and soccer games. Every Sunday and holidays it hosts stamp collecting and coin collecting market in the mornings.
PLAZA DE CASTILLA
The Plaza de Castilla or Castile Square is a roundabout in the north of Madrid and is bisected by Paseo de la Castellana, one of the main thoroughfares of the capital, almost at its end. It lies between the districts of Chamartín and Tetuán.
The Puerta de Europa Towers are situated at the north end of the Plaza. Erected directly in the center of the roundabout, the maligned Caja Madrid Obelisk (best known as the Calatrava’s Obelisk) was inaugurated in 2009. A monument to José Calvo Sotelo lies on the southern end of the Plaza de Castilla.
CATEDRAL DE LA ALMUDENA
The Almudena Cathedral (Santa María la Real de La Almudena) is a Catholic church and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
Open from Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Entrance to the Cathedral is free. A donation of € 1 per person is requested, which can be deposited at the entrance of the cathedral for its maintenance.
The cathedral seems to have been built on the site of a medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid. The Marquis of Cubas, Francisco de Cubas, designed and directed the construction in a Gothic revival style. The project was abandoned during the Spanish Civil War
In 1950 Fernando Chueca Goitia adapted the plans of de Cubas to a baroque exterior to match the grey and white façade of the Palacio Real, which stands directly opposite. It was completed in 1993 and consecrated by Pope John Paul II.
The interior of the square cupola is breathtaking!
The Royal Palace of Madrid used to be the official residence of the Spanish royal family in Madrid. It is now used only for state ceremonies. The palace has 135,000 square metres of floor space, contains 3,418 rooms and is the largest functioning royal palace and the largest by floor area in Europe.
The royal family has chosen to live in the more modest Palace of Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. The palace is now open to the public, except during state functions, although it is so large that only a selection of the best rooms are on the visitor route at any one time, the route being changed every few months. An admission fee of €13 is charged; however, at some times it is free.
The Sabatini Gardens or Jardines de Sabatini) are part of Palacio Real and were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978. They honor the name of Francesco Sabatini (1722–1797), an Italian architect of the 18th century who designed the royal stables of the palace, previously located at this site.
In 1933, clearing of the stables begun to start the construction of the gardens, which were only completed in the late 1970s. The gardens have a formal Neoclassic style, consisting of well-sheared hedges, in symmetric geometrical patterns, adorned with a pool, statues and fountains, with trees also disposed in a symmetrical geometric shape.
The statues are those of Spanish kings, not intended originally to even grace a garden, but originally crowding the adjacent palace. The tranquil array is a peaceful corner from which to view the palace.
How luck are we to have my MIL who was born & grew up in Madrid to take us around. She’s the best tour guide!
We did a lot of walking in madrid, but it was nice because there was also a lot of eating in between! It felt like we were perpetually enjoying the delicious food the city had to offer, but because they were in small bites and there was so much exercise in between we actually lost weight during our visit!
WALKING AROUND MADRID 2022
When we came back to Madrid in April 2022 we walked around a bit too. Even if our main goal – EL RETIRO – was closed – just a leisurely walk around it with no aim in mind can show you a lot of beauty too.
PARQUE DE EL RETIRO
We were actually going to the EL RETIRO PARK, but it was closed. I think it was too windy to be open at that time. It wasn’t our luck, but we ended up walking around the area & seeing some pretty cool things. If you love nature & if you have kids EL RETIRO is definitely a must.
MONUMENTO A LOS CAÍDOS POR ESPAÑA
We walked nearby to see the MONUMENT TO THE FALLEN FOR SPAIN which is a memorial obelisk honoring those slain in the rebellion against French troops on May 2, 1808.
BOLSA DE MADRID
Right across from the obelisk is the BOLSA DE MADRID which is an 1800s neoclassical edifice housing the Spanish stock market. Weekday viewings are possible by appointment.
One of the things I love the most when walking in the old historical parts of Madrid are the beautiful old doors that usually have solid brass hardware.
In the past, these huge openings are actually for horse carriages. That’s why you can see the wheels grinding deeper into the stone. Isn’t that cool?
I love taking pics in front of beautiful old doors.
Even just crossing the street on a roundabout can be a cultural experience when you see fountains as beautiful as the NEPTUNE FOUNTAIN. This fountain is neoclassical in style in the middle of a roundabout depicting Neptune on a shell-shaped chariot.
If you are near this fountain it’s already very near the PRADO MUSEUM & farther along is the REINA SOFIA. Going the opposite direction brought us to the PUERTA DE ALCALA.
PUERTA DE ALCALA
One of the five old royal gates that gave access to the city, built by order of Carlos III to replace an earlier one that dated from the 16th century was naugurated in 1778. Designed by Francesco Sabatini, it is a neoclassical-style granite triumphal arch, the first built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, precursor of others known as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Unlike the Puerta de Toledo or the Puerta de San Vicente , it has five openings instead of the usual three.– ESMADRID.COM
The PUERTA DE ALCALA is an iconic landmark of Madrid and there were a lot of people taking pictures of it. We waited our turn but it’s important to be very aware of your surrounding while taking pics in this very busy roundabout so you don’t have an accident.
Madrid is a beautiful place to explore. Even something as simple as a bench or a lampost can be beautiful in the touristic areas. It’s important to note that not all parts of Madrid are like this. This area is really stunning and that’s why people love to visit it.
READ: ALL ABOUT OUR TRIP TO MADRID
Text and information attributed to Wikipedia and may change without notice anytime.
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