Busy, Busy Madrid, Spain (Part 1)
After visiting the serene and peaceful Segovia, we’re back to the busy and hustle and happening Madrid. Madrid is the capital of Spain and it’s a beautiful place full of modern and spectacular buildings and numerous fine cuisine (how I wish I can stay there longer and gorge myself silly!)
The tourist attraction that was not far from where we stayed was the Plaza Mayor, a central plaza in the city of Madrid. Rectangular in shape and measuring 129 by 94 metres, the plaza is surrounded by three-story residential buildings with 237 breathtaking balconies facing the Plaza, and a total of nine entrance ways.
Statue of King Philip III
A bronze statue of King Philip III was erected at the center of the square, it was constructed in 1616 by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca. but not placed in the square until 1848.
One of the 9 entrance ways
With many traditional and old shops and cafes (as well as many touristy ones), Plaza Mayor is definitely the place to visit if you want to sit down with a cup of coffee, a book to read and to people watch.
Puerta del Sol
But as tourists, we didn’t have the luxury to spend a good half day at just one place, so we headed to the next best known and busiest places in Madrid – Puerta del Sol. We passed by this place both in the day and in the evening – this place is always packed with people! There are locals, tourists, street artists/performers, shoppers (there’s ZARA, H&M, MANGO – all on sale during the month of July, and I was there this time last year a I went mad, like almost literally!) There are also people on strike (like, with tents pitched and booths set up and all!), the old, the young – it’s so packed with people that it can be hard to navigate our way through. It is the centre (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads.
Puerta del Sol was one of the gates was erected as part of the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century. is known as the “Gate of the Sun” as the gate was oriented to the east.
The building in the background is the Post Office which was built by French Architect Jacques Marquet between 1766 and 1768 – it is currently seat of the Presidency of the Madrid Community.
The heraldic symbol of Madrid
One of my favourite statues throughout my whole trip (because it’s so cute!) is definitely this statue of a bear and a madrone tree (madroño)! No one really knows why this bear is chosen as the symbol, but it seems that there used to be many bears in the fields around Madrid. Te original symbol was supposed to be a female bear (osa), and the strawberry tree seems to be have actually been a hackberry tree (almez), which was once in abundance around Madrid. This bronze statue is the work of the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santa Fe and weighs almost 20 tons!
After squeezing our way theough Puerta del Sol, we walked along the longest street in Madrid – Calle de Alcalá. It starts from Puerta del Sol and stretches for 10.5 km, to the northeastern outskirts of the city (it’s so crazily long! But of course we didn’t walk the whole length…) Calle de Alcalá is also one of the oldest streets in the city. Along this street there are many beautiful landmarks to see.
The first would be the BBVA Bank – we were drawn to the majestic quadriga (Four Horse Chariot Sculpture) on top of the building.
Metropolis Building is situated at the corner of the Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía. A beautiful French style building, the ground level is topped by ornate colonnaded upper floors. The columns support 4 statues representing Mining, Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, made by Saint Marceaux and L. Lambert. At the foot of the dome you’ll find a statue sculpted by D. Mariano Benlliure. And one will definitely not miss the extravagant golden round tower – it is covered with 30,000 leaves of 24 carat gold!
Cervantes Institute Headquarters
Cervantes Institute Headquarters is a worldwide non-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. It is named after Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), the author of Don Quixote.
Plaza de Cibeles
A square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains, Plaza de Cibeles is one of the iconic symbols of Madrid. It sits at a huge round about – intersection of Calle de Alcalá (running from east to west), Paseo de Recoletos (to the North) and Paseo del Prado (to the south).
The most prominent of the buildings at the Plaza de Cibeles is the Cibeles Palace (formerly named Communications Palace). At first we thought that it was a church (because of the many spires on top), but it turned out to be the headquarters of the postal service built in 1909 by Antonio Palacios. This impressive building was home to the Postal and Telegraphic Museum until 2007 when the landmark building became the Madrid City Hall (Ayuntamiento de Madrid).
The fountain of Cibeles is commonly called the Paseo de Recoletos. This fountain, named after Cybele (or Ceres), Roman goddess of fertility, is seen as one of Madrid’s most important symbols. The Cibeles fountain depicts the goddess, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built between 1777 and 1782. The fountain of Cibeles has been adopted by the football club Real Madrid, whose fans use the area to celebrate its triumphs in competitions such as La Liga, the Champions League or the Copa del Rey. A flag of Real Madrid is usually wrapped around the Cibeles statue.
Banco de España (Bank of Spain)
Banco de España is the national central bank of Spain. Established in Madrid in 1782 by Charles III, today the bank is a member of the European System of Central Banks. The main building has a privileged location within the city – its façades give onto Plaza de Cibeles Square, Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá Street. It was built between 1882 and 1891. The exterior was indeed extravagant – it has an eclectic style, combining a range of different elements.
A look back down the road we’ve walked passed.
Puerta de Alcalá
Puerta de Alcalá is a Neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia (“Independence Square”) in Madrid. Its name originates from the old path from Madrid to the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares. It was inaugurated in 1778.
And this is the end of Part 1 – I’m keeping the post shorter so it’s easier to read… will try to update Part 2 soon!