Monuments in Madrid
Plaza Mayor (Madrid´s Main Square)
How can I get from Plaza del Sol to Plaza Mayor? This is a question many times heard in Sol, Spainñs 0 kilometer point. Well, here goes an easy answer: to get from Plaza del Sol to Plaza Mayor, you have to take Calle Mayor until you reach Calle Postas, which is the street that is filled with souvenir shops and ends in the Plaza Mayor.
In the XV century, the Plaza Mayor was called Plaza del Arrabal, it was situated outside of the medieval city and was where the local market was held. Plaza Mayor has gone by previous names such as: Plaza de la Constitución, Plaza Real and Plaza de la República. Its current name has been maintained since the end of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1580, Felipe II assigned Juan de Herrera with the remodeling of Plaza Mayor. It was completed in 1619 under the reign of Felipe III.
This arcaded plaza of 129 meters long has suffered three major fires and has been restored on multiple occasions, a jewel that should not be lost in Madrid’s center. Restaurants and tapas bars have multiplied, but there are still some shops that have persisted over decades and still have that traditional feel.
In the past Plaza Mayor was a place of gathering for the city, this meant that everything from fairs, to bull fights to executions were held there.
The terraces of this plaza are very popular places to have a drink but if you want something a bit more traditional, you should definitely head to one of the local bars whose specialty is the calamari sandwich. You can enjoy it whilst looking at the Felipe III statue or “La Casa de la Panadería”, previously the city’s largest bakery.
In the Plaza Mayor you can find three areas of particular interest:
- The statue of Felipe III: Built in 1616 by Juan de Bolonia y Pietro Tacca, it was a gift from the Duque of Florence to the king of Spain. Until the mid-nineteenth century it was kept in Casa de Campo.
- Casa de la Panadería: It’s the most important building and was the first to have its construction started in 1590. Initially, it was the most important bakery of Madrid. The façade was decorated by Carlos Franco.
- El Arco de Cuchilleros: This arc is the most famous of the nine entry doors to the Plaza Mayor. Its name comes from the street with which it communicates, the Calle Cuchilleros.
For almost 150 years, during Christmas, the Plaza Mayor is filled with stands selling Christmas decorations and costumes of all sorts.
To get to know the surroundings you can exit the plaza by the Arco de Cuchilleros. You can stroll to Calle Bailen by taking Calle de la Cava de San Miguel and going up slightly Calle Conde de Miranda entering its little plaza. You can then go down Calle del Codo where you will find the Nunciatura in Madrid. Continue following Calle Sacramento until you hit Calle Mayor that leads to Calle Bailen where you will find the cathedral of the Almudena and the Royal Palace.
The route is full of plaques commemorating historic events or historic characters like in Plaza de la Villa, in which stands the statue of the admiral Alvaro de Bazán and has on its pedestal the verses that Lope de Vega dedicated to him.
Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol is one of the most emblematic place that you can visit in Madrid. It is part of the historic center of the city, and of the country, seeing as the Sol square is the “kilometer 0” of Spain’s national highways. It is also a monument that contains much of Spain’s history.
The Puerta Del Sol is one of Spain’s historic landmarks. Today, it is found in the Madrid city center, but previously, it was part of the circumference of its medieval city. The Sol square has gained importance since the XV century when Madrid started too grown beyond its Christian walls built back in the XII century. The “Puerta” is adorned with a sun, giving it the name of Puerta Del Sol. Apart from the city hall building, you can find the “Casa de Correos”, that was later the Ministry of Interior, and the Presidency of the community of Madrid.
The Puerta Del Sol is one of Madrid’s top ten attractions. It is a place that you must visit, and on top of it, since traffic has been stopped around the Sol square, it is much easier to walk around the capital’s old city center and to shop around. To head north, you can go up Preciados y Carmen towards Gran Via or going south, you’ll get to Plaza Santa Ana and the “Barrio de las Letras”, if you choose Calle Carretas, until you get to Plaza de las Cortes. If you prefer to head West through Plaza Mayor and Calle Arenal you’ll get to Palacio de Oriente. If you go East down Alcalá, you’ll reach the Castellana.
A part from “Kilometer 0”, the two other most important monuments of the Sol square are:
The statue of the Bear and the Madroño: under the ad for Tío Pepe, at the entry of Calle Alcalá, is one of the most emblematic symbols of Madrid: El Oso y el Madroño. It was built in 1967
The Clock of the “Casa de Correos”: known throughout Spain as the place from where the twelve strokes of midnight announcing the New Year are emitted from. Every year, at Puerta Del Sol, thousands of people gather to celebrate the New Year and to eat the twelve grapes at each stroke of the clock.
Plaza de Oriente, Palacio Real and "La Almudena"
La Plaza de Oriente is one of the most emblematic places to visit in Madrid situated in the historic center. Its principal promoter was Jose Bonaparte, (his reign in Spain was from 1808 to 1813). He was the one who ordered the demolition of the neighboring blocks of houses situated next to the Madrid Royal Palace. The Plaza de Oriente is situated on the eastern side of the Royal Palace, hence its name Plaza de Oriente.
The plaza’s final design was done by Narciso Pascual y Colomer in 1844. It has a rectangular shape and is full of statues of the Spanish monarchs all of which is presided by the Royal Palace. In the center of this plaza is the statue of Felipe VI, a piece created by Pietro Tacca in the XVII century.
The Palacio Real is another one of the top 10 places to visit in Madrid’s city center. Currently, and despite being the official residence of the monarch, it is only used for official ceremonies. Its construction dates back to 1738-1892, of Baroque style and with a surface of more than 135.000 square feet; being the largest of Western Europe.
The Royal Palace was built after a fire that occurred on the 24th of December 1734 in the Real Alcazar.
The first Wednesday of every month (except in summer) at 11 am, you can watch the change of guards. You can visit the interior of the Royal Palace and the different rooms such as the armory and also some of the paintings of the royal collection, although, the majority of them where transferred to the Prado museum in the XIX century.
Jardines de Sabatini: They are situated on the north façade of the Palace. These gardens are an oasis in the middle of Madrid’s city. Of neoclassic style, they were designed by Sabatini and today, there is a beautiful fountain right in the center of the garden’s extension.
Catedral de la Almudena: The Almuneda Cathedral was built a part of the Royal Palace with a north-south orientation, differentiating from the rest of the cathedrals, who are usually have an east-west orientation.
The Marques de Cubas designed and started building the cathedral in 1868 but his poject was modified by the architects Fernando Chueca and Carlos Sidro in 1944 to accommodate to the dimensions of the Royal Palace. The citizens of Madrid contributed for more than 50 years to its constriction that was finalized in 1999.
It is the image of Santa Maria de la Almuneda, Patronesse of Madrid that is worshiped in this cathedral. This temple was blessed as a Cathedral in 1933 by the Pope Juan Pablo III.
Its visit is very enriching for its architecture and it is, the cathedral or the Royal weddings due to its close proximity to the Royal Palace. The Almudena Cathedral contains tall columns and colored strained glass, painted ceilings and domes built by Kico Argüello that let of light into the celling’s, domes of the temple.