Puerta del Sol is one of the most emblematic places in Madrid. It is also the Kilometer 0 of the city, from this point all the distances with the other cities in the peninsula are calculated. It is a place always lively, from there Preciados street starts, which is one of the most commercial in the city, but it is also a meeting point for many people before going out to bars and restaurants of the neighborhood.
The first time I went to Madrid I saw Puerta del Sol at 2 am, going out to a club nearby, and what a surprise to see there was a lot of traffic and many people everywhere, because I thought it would be dead at that time of the night! In particular, people come to celebrate New Year's and eat 12 grapes in front of the town hall clock.
It is quite hard to choose which of the small streets you should take to get to Plaza Mayor, emblem of the so-called Madrid de los Austrias. I loved the passage of San Ginés, where you can find the wonderful Chocolatería founded in 1890. The Postas street is also something: it has the Posada del Peine, the oldest accommodation in Madrid, closed after four centuries and now turned into a high-tech hotel.
The craftsmen used to work around the square, in Bordadores, Esparteros and Cuchilleros streets. Plaza Mayor was the main market since the 15th century. Enclosed on all four sides, the square housed two of the most important professions: the butchers and the bakers.
Now this territory belongs to street painters and tourists, which, according to their budget, either sit down at tables or take their kebab and vegetarian meals and sit down on the sunny pavement to eat.
Plaza de España in Madrid is, already with the name, one of the most important squares in the country. Real symbol of Madrid, it is located at one end of Gran Vía and Princesa street, near the Temple of Debod.
Surrounded by historical buildings, like the tower of Madrid, the Edificio España and Casa Gallardo, it represents a green space in the center of the city.
The first building dates back to 1911. A highlight is definitely the monument to Miguel de Cervantes. At the feet of the great obelisc, with the earth globe on the top, we can see the bronze statues of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, mounted on their respective steed. Their creator, Cervantes, observes them from his granite armchair. Behind everything there is also another fountain.
There are more and more concerts and festivals on the square. Sometimes there is also a flea-market with clothes and accessories.
"Callao", as the Madrileños call it, is one of the classic places in the city. Located right in the middle of Gran Vía, very close to Sol, it is one of the places where people usually meet before having drinks, going to the cinema, the theater, shopping, etc.. The square itself does not have much charm. Actually, you can almost say it is not a square. But the place is worth it.
Las Ventas is the bullring of Madrid. It was built in 1929 and it is the biggest bullring in the world! The bullfights season takes place from March to October.
But the bullring puts its best clothes on for the Feria de San Isidro in May and the Feria de Otoño in September. It is a place visited by tourists but also local fans. You can buy tickets for the bullfights anywhere in Madrid.
When there is no bullfight, this bullring becomes the place for concerts of famous international and national bands.
Rest assured: if you come to Madrid, you have to visit this place. No matter if you come to taste the beers found in Naturbier, for the great atmosphere of its terraces, if you love the theater or because it’s practically the nerve center of Las Letras neighborhood, your destiny is found in this emblematic square of Madrid.
I love it, and I always come here to enjoy the transformations that take place along the day. On weekends it doesn’t even sleep. The big concentration of bars, pubs and discos that surround it fill it with people and their coming and going sounds like never ending human drip.
It represents the essence of this neighborhood, with its terraces, tapas and animation. But, overall, because in one of its sides can be found the Teatro Español (Spanish Theater), which exists since the 17th Century. To remind us of the importance of literature, two statues share the same space: on one side is Federico García Lorca and, on the other side, the great Calderón: modernity and Golden Age.
The ME Reina Victoria Hotel stands out for its architectural beauty. I think it’s one the most beautiful in Madrid. On another side you will find the ever changing Villa Rosa, which has been everything: from a grocery shop to the current flamenco bar. One of Almodóvar’s films was shot around here.
I repeat: if you come to Madrid, you must visit this place, to eat some tapas, drink some good beers, take a walk, stay in one of the hotels or see a good play in the theater. It is most definitely the essence of the neighborhood.
Plaza de Oriente is one of the most emblematic places in Madrid. I love walking in the city and the surroundings. The visit is of course essential for any visitor.
It is located in the historical center, its main driving force came from José Bonaparte (who reigned in Spain between 1808 and 1813), who ordered that the buildings around the Royal Palace would be torn down, as part of a new urban planning including the opening of streets in the capital. This is why the monarch is known as Pepe Plazuelas (in Spanish Pepe is the usual nickname for José and Plazuelas means small squares). The final design was established in 1844 by Narciso Pascual y Colomer and is squared, flanked with statues of the Spanish monarchs and dominated by the Royal Palace.
Being located on the Eastern side of the Palace, it was called "Oriental Square". In the center of the square, you can find the statue of Felipe IV, Pietro Tacca's work of the 17th century.
Alcalá de Henares is a city that needs little introduction, but this square offers a new perspective, mixing the new with the old. I advise you to look upwards where you can see the beauty of the old buildings.
The main square is a square Chinchón is classic middle ages, the first houses date from the fifteenth century, and is of great beauty. The houses have three floors, and there are 234 green wooden balconies. The square holds bullfights, has had a comedy theater and is still used for various town events.
Plaza del Dos de Mayo, or del "Dosde" in the slang of Madrid, is, or used to be the center of the nights in Malasaña: massive "botellones" (see explanation above) until the riot police came during the fiestas of the neighborhood in 2007. There were fights and from then on, it became a concentration of policemen watching the area so that no one would not have even a sad beer in the street...
It is now better and the square is back to what it was. If the terraces are full (they usually are), you just have to sit and wait for a Chinese peddler to come with their 1€ cans of beer. There are children, dogs, young people, former punks, mods, modern couples and above all, a good atmosphere at any time.
Still with the smells of "pinchitos" from the San Miguel Market, we get to Plaza de la Villa.
In the beginning, it was known as "Plazuela de San Salvador", where the city council would be held during the reign of Alfonso VIII at the beginning of the 13th century, long before Madrid became the capital and some time before Felipe IV (17th century) authorized the building to have official meetings and the Casa de la Villa was born.
There, up until 2008, there was Calle Mayor, built according to the design of the architect Juan Gómez de Mora. It was modified in 1789 by the eminent Juan de Villanueva, the architect who added the famous gallery of columns to allow the kings to see the procession of the "Corpus Christi".
Turning its back on us, its main facade facing Sacramento street, we can also see the Casa de la Villa. There we can still hear the, according to some, Antonio Pérez' complaints. He was Felipe II's secretary and was imprisoned there. Of plateresque style, it was built in 1537 by Benite Jiménez de Cisneros, Cardinal Cisneros' nephew.
The most interesting thing of the simple building is the facade on Sacramento street. In 1909, the architect Luis Bellido y González designed the facade on plaza de la villa. He was awarded a great number of prizes for the project. The passage connecting to Casa de la Villa is also the work of Luis Bellido and was just as successful.
In front of this square and in Mayor Street, there is the very old "Casa Ciriaco" restaurant, where it is typical to have a dish of eel for a good price.
Finally, after spending a day walking through this Madrid of the Habsburgs and learning about its history, we arrive on one of the most relevant squares of the city: the square dedicated to the traditional queen of the 19th century, daughter of Fernando VII and mother of Alfonso XII, great grandfather of the current king of Spain.
This square was created thanks to King Felipe III of the Habsburg dynasty. The fountain Caños del Peral, a granite pond providing water to the people of Madrid through seven spouts. The square has the honor to have two dynasties: the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, who finished the configuration it currently has.
Of rectangular shape, it has many shops and bars around, with in particular the one called Casa del Pulpo, where you can enjoy this delicious food, I recommend it.
I must say that you can find two of the best restaurants in Madrid around it: the Taberna del Alabardero, where they will serve you a glass of wine with a square-shaped wine bottle as they would do at the beginning of the century, the Café de Oriente, with an outside terrace to the Royal Palace, the Paella Real, with a sampler of rice dishes cooked in all possible ways.
The most emblematic of the square is the Royal Theatre or Opera Theatre, built in the 19th century and entirely renovated more than ten years ago. It is one of the most attractive opera theaters in Europe. It has five floors in the subsoil and four on the surface, with stages moved thanks to big devices which make it possible to represent all types of musical shows. The shape is of an uneven hexagon and on the sides you can see the Royal Palace, built on the order of the Bourbon king Carlos III, very Frenchified and getting away from this route through the Habsburg Madrid.
We have finally arrived. After lunch in one of the the restaurants we found on the path since we left Plaza Mayor, in one of the most traditional areas in Madrid.
The original construction dates back to the 13th century and it now has a peaceful charm to it. There you will be able to relax, have your afternoon tea or coffee in order to recharge energy after this route on the paved streets of the area.
The name of "carros" (cars, chariot, etc.) comes from the stop these used to make after entering Madrid through the so-called Puerta de Moros (Middle-Ages). They could come with their merchandises and would leave them there.
Nowadays you have to go walking to see the facade of some of the buildings, some made of bricks where you can also find the Aroca restaurant. In the past, Doña María would make the best Spanish omelet you could eat in Madrid.
On Plaza de la Paja, adjacent to this square, there is the San Isidro museum, the saint patron of Madrid, with the remains of the well where San Isidro would take water.