AREAS OF MADRID MADRID CITY CENTER
Puerta del Sol - Opera
Madrid Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol is the heart of the
city. This plaza, which is the junction of 8 streets, is officially the centre of the nation: a stone slab in the pavement outside the Casa de Correos on the south side marks kilometre zero, from where Spain's six national roads begin. The Casa de Correos, a building of 1766, which is now the head office of Madrid's Region government, also houses on its tower the clock which gives the 12 midnight chimes on New Year's Eve for all of Spain.
Travellers should be made aware that Sol and its surrounding metros are particularly popular spots for pickpockets, and are advised to keep their wallets and other valuables in a safe place. Please, see our recommendations for travelling safe in Madrid.
You'll be surrounded by shoppers and tourists, making it difficult to discern what the fuss is all about.
Around Puerta del Sol, there are a large number of shops and interesting places to visit. An statue of a bear pawing a madroño bush lies on the north side; this is both the emblem of the city and a favourite meeting place. Immediately north of Sol, calle Preciados and calle del Carmen head towards the Gran Vía; both are pedestrianized and constitute the most popular shopping area in Madrid.
From Puerta del Sol, towards the east runs the Calle de Alcalá. Just a few meters from Sol, on Alcalá 13, is the Real Academia de Bellas Artes, and next to it is the Casino de Madrid, in Alcalá 15, a club with more than 170 years and where you can go at the restaurant and enjoy the experiencial food of the Bulli Catering by the well known Ferrán Adriá. Further down, Alcalá 42, houses one of Madrid's oldest cultural centers, the Círculo de Bellas Artes, where you can stop for an art expo, film, or a café. Alcalá continues to the roundabout Plaza de Cibeles, with the statue of the goddess Cibeles on her chariot ridden by lions, a symbol of the city of Madrid. Here, is Alcalá's intersection with Madrid's grand north-south axis called Paseo de Recoletos & Paseo de la Castellana to the north and Paseo del Prado to the south.
Towards the west run calle Mayor and calle Arenal. Calle Mayor takes you to the Plaza Mayor and to the Plaza de la Villa -Madrid's City Hall-. The plaza Mayor, an elegant porticoed 17th century plaza is to the left as you walk along Mayor. In and around the plaza, you'll also find lots
of bars and restaurants where you can try traditional
dishes, though one must be careful, as
the area is very tourist-oriented and some of them are quite expensive.
Be sure to confirm the price of everything
in advance if you don't want an unpleasant
surprise when paying!
Calle del Arenal, is a pedestrians walkway that ends at Plaza de Isabel II, right in front of the Teatro Real (Madrid Opera House) -map with location-. Along the street, you'll find Calle de Bordadores on your left, and behind it, the Plazuela de San Ginés and the famous Chocolatería de San Ginés, open 'til the wee hours of the night for hot chocolate & churros, a Madrid tradition. Calle de Bordadores is called Calle de San Martín on the other side of Arenal. Head up San Martín and you'll arrive at a pretty plaza holding the 16th century Real Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, founded by Pricess Juana, daughter of emperor Charles V (Carlos I of Spain), who is buried there. The interior holds 17th century Belgian tapestries.
Continue north from Descalzas and you'll hit Plaza de Callao & Gran Vía.
Madrid Royal Palace - Palacio Real
calle Bailén - Plaza de Oriente
Metro: Plaza de España, Opera
Google location map
www: Patrimonio Nacional
More information in our page in culture section: Other Museums in Madrid
The Teatro Real is Madrid's Opera House. Since its total refurbishment in 1997, it has become one of the unavoidable venues in the international opera circuit. Madrid is also the main centre for a genre as genuine and "castizo", that is to say, local to Madrid, as the zarzuela musical operetta. This type of musical includes popular plots and is characterised by its direct connection to simple country folk. Iit is well worth enjoying one of these shows, and so much the better if it's summer, when you can do so in an open-air theatre. Behind the Teatro Real is the elegant Plaza de Oriente, an esplanade which gives access to the Palacio Real, the Spanish Monarch's Royal
Palace, Google location map.
The Royal Palace, -Palacio Real- (also known as Palacio de Oriente) is no longer used as the royal residence, but has been kept intact since it last functioned as home to the king Alfonso XIII in 1931. Today it primarily serves as a tourist attraction. The entire palace is not open to the public, but most of the more important rooms can be visited. The palace is interesting in its own right, in particular its architecture and gardens: the Jardines del Moro and the Jardines de Sabattini. Inside the Palace there are excellent paintings and frescos by Velázquez, Tiépolo, Goya, Rubens, El Greco, Juan de Flandes and Caravaggio, among others.
Every Wednesday at 12.00 the Royal Guards riding horses and in their ceremony uniforms perform the Guards change at the stunning courtyard of the Puerta del Principe in the Royal Palace. On the first Wednesday of every month there is a solemn Guards change with 400 men and 100 horses that lasts 40 minutes. More information @ Patrimonio Nacional
Sabatini Gardens, Facing the northern facade of the Royal Palace, the gardens owe their name to the old royal stable buildings built by Francisco Sabatini and which once occupied this area. Designed as geometrical French-style garden, its exceptional location makes it one of the most pleasant gardens in Habsburg-era Madrid.
After entering the gardens, one of the best places from which to see the sunset is in the large rectangular pool in the middle of the gardens, surrounded by geometrically laid out shrubs hiding the occasional fountain, and surrounded by trees and white marble sculptures. Whether stretched out in the grass or sitting on a bench, the visitor can watch the changing yellow and rose-coloured tones light up the greyish walls of the Palace.
On this section
Madrid the Bear and Madroño tree at Puerta del Sol
classical Tio Pepe at Puerta del Sol
Km 0 in Puerta del Sol
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