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Madrid Introduction Walk II (Self Guided), Madrid

Madrid is the economical, political and cultural center of Spain. Founded in the 9th century, it remains one of the country's most important historic destinations and a vibrant metropolis full of taste, vigor, and wealth. There's no better way to acquaint yourself with Madrid than in the heart of the capital – the area called Gran Vía ("Great Way") – a high-end thoroughfare, epicenter of social life and a popular meeting place, nicknamed Spanish Broadway for its world-class shopping and nightlife. Passing down this elegant boulevard, our walk ends in one of the largest parks of Madrid, commonly known as El Retiro, the former property of the Spanish monarchs, now made public and replete with entertainment!
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Madrid Introduction Walk II Map

Guide Name: Madrid Introduction Walk II
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Puerta del Sol
  • Gran Via
  • Edificio Metropolis
  • Plaza de Cibeles
  • Puerta de Alcala
  • Parque del Buen Retiro
1
Puerta del Sol

1) Puerta del Sol (must see)

Puerta del Sol ("The Gate of the Sun") is a bustling plaza in the eponymous neighborhood of Madrid, and is one of the best known and busiest places in the capital. This square marks the center (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads, and is located in the very heart of the city, not far from Plaza Mayor. The square is dominated by the monument to King Carlos III and the famous bronze sculpture of "the bear and the strawberry tree". Another key attraction here is the clock whose bells chime the start of the traditional Twelve Grapes eating at a New Year celebration which is broadcast live on the Spanish TV since 1962.

Why You Should Visit:
Indispensable for first-time visitors; the essence of Madrid and Spain – lively, boisterous, cheerful.
Many local restaurants serve food till well after midnight, and the pubs stay open till 3am on weeknights and 4am on weekends.
Unlike other areas in Madrid, most retailers here don't close for the afternoon siesta.

Tip:
Keep an eye on your valuables at all times.

****Food Walk****
While in Puerta del Sol, you can have a chance to eat like a true madrileño in the number of family-run restaurants, authentic taverns and tapas bars abounding the area. Known to the locals for decades, these eateries are quite close by yet remarkably away from the trodden tourist paths. One such hidden gem is called La Mallorquina, renowned for its pastries, particularly the “roscón de reyes” (special ring-shaped cake for King's Day).
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Gran Via

2) Gran Via (must see)

Few things in life can beat afternoon shopping and, when it comes to shopping, there is no place quite like Gran Via, the most popular and up-market thoroughfare in Madrid. Running from Calle de Alcala to Plaza de Espana, the Via is lined with an array of interesting buildings including theaters, hotels and, of course, a plethora of shops selling everything you can possibly imagine, from leather goods to shoes to clothing to souvenirs and so much more, and with prices to match.

On its way, Gran Via crosses several squares, including Plaza Callao, home to a number of cinemas, ending in Plaza de Espana which is presided over by two of Madrid’s most famous skyscrapers, Edificio Espana (Spain Building) and Torre de Madrid (Madrid Tower). There are several other equally splendid high-risers to be found immediately on Gran Via either, including Edificio Metropolis, built in the early 20th century, topped with a winged statue of Victoria upon its dome, Edificio Telefonica, a 90-meter high, American-style skyscraper, and Edificio Grassy, built in 1917. The latter, located just off Calle Alcala at the outset of Gran Via, boasts a grand facade decoration featuring a remarkable mix of Medieval, Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Modernism and Classical French styles. At the top of the building you can see a rotunda of two superimposed belvederes. On the ground floor, the building houses the famous Grassy watch shop, and in the basement – the marvelous Museum of Antique Clocks.

Why You Should Visit:
A great place to stroll and take in the sights, particularly the skyline and the frontage of many old buildings lining the street.

Tip:
Early evening is probably the best time to walk this walk, particularly on hot summer days.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Edificio Metropolis

3) Edificio Metropolis (must see)

On the corner of Calle de Alcala and Gran Via sits another of Madrid’s famous landmarks, the Metropolis. One of the most photographed in the city, this graceful edifice was erected in 1911 by the French architects, Jules and Raymond Fevrier, who won the contract via competition launched by the Union y el Fenix insurance company, owner of the land the building stands on. The brothers created the facade in a lovely Beaux Arts style, featuring the first floor balconies separated by four pairs of Corinthian colonnades, with the statues of Mining, Industry, Agriculture and Commerce, sculpted by St Marceaux and Lambert, set above them.

The central dome is black with elaborate decorations in 24-carat gold-leaf. At the foot of the dome there is a statue by Benlliure. Topping the dome once was the statue of Phoenix with Ganymede on one of its wings – the Fenix symbol, which was removed in 1972 when Metropolis Seguros bought the building. Today, another winged statue – of goddess Victoria – graces the top of the dome.

The extensive damage caused to the building, and particularly its statues, over the years, by pollution and pigeon excrement, prompted the need of restoration. The works started in 1988 and gave the building a new roof; the facade was thoroughly cleaned up. The work took over seven years and, since then, the cleaning has been done annually so as to keep this popular landmark as beautiful as it was on the day of its inauguration.

Why You Should Visit:
Certainly one of the most eye-catching buildings in the heart of Madrid, albeit closed to the public.

Tip:
You can get a great view of the Metropolis (from a different angle) from the top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes building (across the street), if willing to pay a few euros.
At night, the pinnacle of the Metropolis' tower is illuminated, creating a terrific view.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Plaza de Cibeles

4) Plaza de Cibeles (must see)

Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures and fountains that has become an iconic symbol of Madrid. The fountain of Cibeles found in Paseo de Recoletos, a wide boulevard leading from Plaza de Cibeles to Plaza de Colón, depicts Cibeles (Cybele), the Phrygian goddess of fertility, sitting in a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built during the reign of Charles III, and designed by Ventura Rodríguez between 1777 and 1782.

Up until the 19th century, both the fountain of Neptune and Cibeles looked directly at each other, until the city council decided to turn them around to face towards the city center. The fountain of Cibeles has been adopted by the football club Real Madrid as the place for celebrating their triumphs in major tournaments, such as the Champions League, La Liga or Spanish Copa del Rey.

Why You Should Visit:
Located in the center of Madrid, at the crossing of the city's main arteries, the fountain (Fuente de Cibeles) and the 'CentroCentro' building are unrivaled in beauty, especially when the plaza is lit at night.

Tip:
Busy intersection – not really the best place for pedestrians.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Puerta de Alcala

5) Puerta de Alcala (must see)

Puerta de Alcala (The Alcala Gate) is a Neo-classical monument in Plaza de la Independencia in Madrid. It stands just several meters away from the main entrance to Parque del Buen Retiro. The square is bisected by Alcala street, although the street itself doesn't cross through the monument which gives start to the streets of Alfonso XII, Serrano and Olozaga. The name “Alcala” originates from the old path that once existed from Madrid to the nearby town of Alcala de Henares.

Back in the late 19th century, Madrid was still somewhat a drab villa in appearance, surrounded by medieval walls. Around the year 1774, King Charles III commissioned Francesco Sabatini to construct a monumental gate in the city wall, through which an expanded road to the city of Alcala was to pass, replacing an older, smaller gate which stood nearby. The new gate was inaugurated in 1778.

Why You Should Visit:
To see what is considered to be the first modern post-Roman triumphal arch built in Europe – even older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Parque del Buen Retiro

6) Parque del Buen Retiro (must see)

If you would like to mix history with greenery and entertainment, you should really take your picnic lunch and spend a day in Buen Retiro Park, not far from the Museo del Prado, because here you will find something to keep everyone happy.

The park's main attraction, undoubtedly, are the lovely gardens, including the Rosaleda Rose Garden, where you can see the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the only statue in Madrid depicting Satan. The gardens were once part of the Buen Retiro Palace and were opened to the public in the 19th century.

In the northern part of the park, in front of an equestrian monument to King Alfonso XII, is a huge artificial pond, called Estanque del Retiro. A special place within the park is dedicated to the Bosque del Recuerdo, a memorial garden commemorating the 191 civilian victims and one special force agent who died in the terrorist attack of 11 March 2004. This Forest of Remembrance, formerly known as the Forest of the Departed, was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in March 2005.

Among other interesting features of the park are the buildings for temporary exhibitions, such as the Velazquez Palace, the Crystal Palace, and the Cason del Buen Retiro which is the Study Centre of the Museo del Prado and has a wonderful 17th-century ceiling fresco depicting the Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy by Luca Giordano.

Aside from that, the Retiro park is a favorite haunt of street musicians, fortune tellers, puppet shows and plays host to the Annual Book Fair. If you are feeling muscular, you can hire a rowing boat, and if not, you can go for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

Why You Should Visit:
This park is a work of art; a dedication to getting outside and enjoying the beauty of nature.
With more than 15,000 trees and a lake on 1,4 km2, it is a definite must-see in the capital of Spain.

Tip:
Pack a picnic & drinks. The food is on the high end, but there are plenty of spaces for you to sit and eat peacefully.
Note that food vendors have toilets for the public to use free of charge (bring toilet paper).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-12am
Sight description based on wikipedia

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