Does anyone look up when walking? I mean, when you get lost walking in a city, do you usually look up? Do you usually see the top of the buildings? If so, congratulations. You don't know what you're missing if you don't.
It is the case of the Gran Vía of Madrid, the top of the buildings are incredibly beautiful. From the emblematic Capitol building (Schweppes), passing by the beautiful Telefonica building and the no less impressive Grassy building, etc.. You just have to be willing to see it and enjoy a simple walk.
We left Puerta Cerra and on the way to two emblematic squares, Plaza de los Carros and Plaza de la Paja, we enter a street that is without a doubt a fundamental part of the history of Madrid: the Cava Baja.
You cannot leave this great city without going to this street first, where more than 500 years ago you could see "knights with their horses", "young people of the black market", "whores" "go-getters and light-fingered"... They would go and get the water from the nearest fountains and streams, or see what else they could possibly get on the trip there and back.
Make sure to be careful of the "light-fingered" while on this street in modern times. It has the most typical taverns and restaurants of the city; renovated taverns where you can have old and excellent soups and very famous restaurants like Casa Lucio, honored with the presence of some member of the Royal family once in a while.
To me, this restaurant is without a doubt the best in the area and of almost the entire city of Madrid, with the best "huevos estrellados" (fried eggs) that I have ever eaten.
Among the dwellings of the street, some were renovated and others are more than a 100 years old. In one of them, exceptional case, on can see a plaque in remembrance of the origin of the building in 1624.
The main street of Alcala de Henares is one of the biggest attractions of the city. This street is picturesque because its bows and two-story medieval houses. A traveler will not be indifferent here. While strolling along, you are taken to another time and place. This is the longest street in Spain with arcades, which can give us an idea of how long it is, and it always keeps its style. In addition to the street which is nice and historic, there are tons of tapas bars, and it is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, you can visit his house for free. Right in front of the house you see statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, to remind you of the importance of this city. I recommend that you look at all the details in the street, like rain gutters, which are interestingly decorated and the shadows and lights which are lovely as the sun sets.
The time travel takes us to visit the door of the church of Calatravas, where the movie Salida de misa de 8 was filmed, one of the first movies made in Spain.
It is located in Alcalá Street, in front of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, whose terrace offers great views of Madrid. An important sequence from Beltenbros by Pilar Miró was also filmed here. From there you can see the Casa de América, or Palacio de Linares, where in 1990 people went crazy because of some cacophonies where you could hear the wailing of ghosts and, even though a movie was not filmed because of this, it did serve some years before as location for one of Luis García Berlanga’s most commercial works: National Heritage.
Today, the place has been reconstructed and it can be visited: it is worth it, not only because of the palace, but also it usually has interesting exhibits, especially if you visit it during PhotoEspaña, at the end of May.
From Cibeles you can go up until Gran Vía, crossing Chueca, where Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down or ´Bear Cub were filmed, followed by the neighborhood of the characters in Running out of Time, which established Javier Bardem, Candela Peña, Elvira Mínguez or Carmelo Gómez, streets such as Barco, Ballesta, Loreto and Chicote.
In this last one, at number 9, you can stop and see a piece of Microteatro por dinero, a peculiar scenic initiative with functions that last up to 15 minutes and then walk by the abandoned Cines Luna and out to Gran Vía again, where we started the route, and see there the same view that the main character in Open Your Eyes saw.
And if it’s sunrise, who knows, almost empty, and to have the feeling that we have a cinematographic Madrid in our hands. Let’s enjoy it…
Malasaña, you’re so beautiful and the street is what best represents you. From its beginning to its end, Espíritu Santa (Holy Spirit) street has a string of nice places to spend the day. Some stores, like El Templo de Susu (used clothing store), Up Beat Discos (reggae and soul) or Snapo (street wear), have been there as far back as I can remember; however, the majority have just opened up in the last few years. In addition to Aliño and Lolina Vintage, perfect for eating and having a coffee, there are crepe shops, bakeries, hot dog stands, a new store selling marijuana seeds, the famous Home Burger Bar and their gourmet hamburgers, the Café de la Luna (Moon Café), the Ójala and its floor covered in sand, etc.
There are good-looking people traveling on bike, book stores, florists, and a great atmosphere morning, noon and night, just like in all of malasaña. There’s just about everything!
It’s more than worth taking a quick stroll through the area and, to me, the best part is the STREET.
La Palma in Madrid is one of the most important streets in the neighborhood of Malasaña. It is a long and narrow street crossing Fuencarral street and going until Plaza de las Comendadoras (Noviciado or Tribunal subway stations). It is one of my favorite streets in Madrid since it houses some of my favorite shops.
Recycled Music Center is one example, a very original shop where you can sell and buy used CDs. There is also Zapada Jam, a guitar store that also fix them and creates custom-made instruments, with prices from 250€. There's also the Global Music Center for jazz music fans.
There are other shops like Espacio Son de Paz, fair-trade products, the Outlet Bossa Nova for clothes, Lola Loba Café, the clothes alteration shop Arreglos Buenos, the shop Confecciones Medias Carmencita, the one dedicated to all products related to "plants" Houseplant, the bookshop Graphicbook or the butcher's Casa Manolo.
From the Plaza de la Luna (Plaza of the Moon) stems the Corredera Baja de San Pablo, which runs to the Plaza of San Ildefonso, where it links up with its sister street, the Corredera Alta. I don’t know if these locations (a little bit north of downtown Madrid) appear on the normal travel guides, but if they don’t, they definitely should. This street is pure Madrid and reflects our more contemporary history. There are markets, bars and stores of all kinds, almost like it’s the new “Soho madrileño.”
Looking historically at the area’s origin, it seems like it was a constant party. The Dictionary Encyclopedia of Madrid recounts that both streets would fill up with fruit and flower stands during festivals with open-air dances. "The people came from mass (or corredera, the streets’ namesake)," it explains. So that you have a better idea of life in the old Corredera neighborhood, a 1928 article from the ABC newspaper (from a day when a bull and a cow got loose and “caused a panic in the city”) describes the area’s activity: “The numerous buyers and venders ran in all directions…”
Putting bull fighting anecdotes aside, there are three important sites to see on this street: the church of San Antonio de los Alemanes (for those interested in monuments), the Cine X theaters (demonstrates the Spanish liberalization of the 1980s and continues to be open), and the rebaptism of the area as TriBall (short for Triángulo Ballesta, or Crossbow Triangle, due to the shape made by Ballesta and Desengaño streets) by part of an association of business people, which has given the zone/area an alternative scene.
Today, I invite you to walk along one of Madrid’s most interesting streets. It is a curious place, typical, cliché, eclectic, modern, tacky…and so on. Sometimes, Atocha can be referred to as “The Street”, but to say Atocha is enough.
I love this street. I recommend to start walking from its lower part, Glorieta de Carlos V and to finish in Allende, by the Plaza Mayor, place where you can find the sanctuary that gives it its name. Walk slowly and don’t miss any of the things that you can find in one of the living arteries of the most typical and centric Madrid, where everything either starts or finishes.
There are hotels, tapas bars, areas like Anton Martín (mentioned in Joaquín Sabinas’ songs due to its large concentration of bars). Walk slowly and notice the place where the first edition of Don Quijote was printed, ancient hospitals from the 18th century converted into a public administration, discos, fashion, stale bars, a shabby touch characteristic of my dear Madrid, its cockiness, a street market, churches and more churches and a few convents. You can also find a mausoleum dedicated to distinguished men and a sculpture honoring a disturbing attack that implicated a group of lawyers.
A succession of sudden changes of architecture and characters parade this street and, meanwhile, one can still capture the essence of MADRID, like that, in capital letters.
It isn’t the most sumptuous street, or where you will find the best fashion stores or renovated shops. But, I repeat: Atocha Street is, by itself, a corner of corners. My beloved Atocha: with its noise and traffic and chaos and, sometimes surprising silence. No, this street doesn’t leave anyone indifferent.
It is one of my favorite places in Madrid, for its simplicity, tradition, the thousands of walks I’ve had while discovering its shops, bars and discos, some of them now beautiful hotels.
It is a perfect place to start a walk through Las Letras neighborhood. The Centro Cervantino welcomes you in Atocha. And to culminate the journey: San Sebastian’s Church, declared a National Monument, that houses distinguished characters such as the beloved Lope de Vega.
Atocha, more than a street, a universe.