At the conclusion of Madrid – Let’s Run, I left off with an image of Puerta de Alcalá. This makes for a great place to start today’s visual stroll through Madrid which focuses on Calle Gran Via (an awesome street for shopping and architecture) and Plaza de Cibeles.
Puerta de Alcala was commissioned by King Charles III and completed in 1778. It was the first triumphal arch erected in Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. Puerta de Alcala served as one of five gates providing access to what was once a walled city. This particular gate with five passages was built on the location of an original gate dating back to the 1500s that had three passages. Each throughway once contained iron gates that were lowered at night to prevent outsiders from entering the walled city.
The gate has two unique facades. One side (shown above) is the view visitors would have seen entering the walled city of Madrid. It is adorned with sculptures representing the four virtues – prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. The other side (below) has a more militaristic feel with sculptures of weapons, breastplates, helmets, and flags. The three rounded arches are topped off with the head of a lion.
Continuing from the park, we work our way up Calle (street) de Alcala towards the iconic Fuente de Cibeles (Fountain of Cybele) which was completed in the early 1700s.
In ancient mythology, Cybele was a goddess of nature, fertility, mountains, and wild animals. Her myth originated in what is now Turkey and was later adopted by the Greeks and then the Romans. Worth noting the Iberian peninsula, which includes what is now Spain, was once controlled by the Roman Empire.
Standing at Plaza de Cibeles, each corner offers buildings of historic and architectural interest. Perhaps none is more visually compelling than Madrid’s City Hall. Despite a design suggesting it might be 300+ years old, it was completed in the early 1900’s and served as Madrid’s postal headquarters and main telegraph station. It became the City Hall in 2007. The building is still known as “Casa de Comunicaciones”.
You can tell from the different sky features in the images above and below, I came by this area several times. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the building is open to the public and offers a sky view of the city. The area around this building is loaded with magnificent sights so the elevated view and photos should be well worth the time.
Looking to the left and across the street from City Hall, we see Linares Palace (below) which was built in 1876.
The palace was the residence of José de Murga, the Marquis of Linares, and his wife. Jose would later discover that his wife was actually his sister (same father, different mother). It seems Jose’s father had an affair. The father made the revelation just before he died. Jose’s wife had just given berth and, because of the situation, the child was sent to an orphanage where she died. It is said the little girl still haunts the house as a ghost crying, “I have no Mommy.” Linares Palace is now called Casa de America and host cultural events focused on improving relations between Spain and South America.
Anchoring the corner across the street from Madrid City Hall is Banco de Espana. I only captured the corner view of the building, but it is a massive structure and covers an entire block. The building was opened in 1891.
Leaving Plaza de Cibeles, we stay on Calle de Alcala for a short walk up to Calle Gran Via – Madrid’s most famous street. Along the way, we pass the Cervantes Institute. The organization is devoted to the study and promotion of Spanish language and culture. It is named after Miguel Cervantes (1547–1616), author of Don Quixote.
The approach to Calle Gran Via is offers one of Madrid’s most famous views.
Calle Gran Via is packed with retail stores, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, and theaters. The entire street is lined is one stunning and historic building after another and is a must-see location in Madrid.
I visited Calle Gran Via several times while in Madrid. The street was closed one day to cars for a professional cycling event call Madrid Challenge.
A few more closing photos give you a sense of the architecture lining Calle Gran Via.
If you are in Madrid, block off 4 hours or so to visit the areas covered in this visual stroll through Madrid. Visit the city gate, checkout Madrid City Hall (visit the top for a sky view), and then take a stroll up Calle Gran Via. You’ll find plenty of shopping and dining options to end this part of your excursion. If you begin your day this way and take in a lunch, you’ll be ready for more in the afternoon. And, believe me, there is plenty more to see and do in Madrid. I will be sharing more in the near future.