Tag Archives: Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol

Travels in Spain, A Walking Tour of Madrid

Madrid Bear

“To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time your friends will be a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.” – Ernest Hemingway

According to official statistics, after London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, Madrid is the fifth most visited city in Europe (in that order) but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Compared to London, Paris and Rome it only achieved capital status relatively recently, and there is no iconic building to define it, no Eiffel Tower, no Colosseum and no Westminster Abbey and no famous cathedral or castle either so I was curious about what we were likely to see.  Hemingway liked it so I was sure that I would too.

On the first day we could have taken the option of a city bus tour but I really do dislike them with most of the time spent in long lines of slow moving traffic or at red lights with nothing much to see and then flashing past places of interest with only a split second photo opportunity, so on our first day we decided to take a ‘free’ walking tour of the city.  I knew that it wouldn’t be ‘free’ of course but everyone else seemed to think that it was a good idea.

We joined the tour in the appropriately named Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol because the sun was blazing and in this wide open space the rays reflected off the buildings and the paving slabs and the temperature was rising steadily as we walked past the statues of King Charles III and the Bear and the Madroño tree, which we learned is the heraldic symbol of the city (top picture).

Madrid 04

Interesting I thought as only a month previously I had been in the city of Berlin which also has a bear as a city symbol and I was also reminded now that as a boy I grew up in Warwickshire which has a County symbol of a Bear and an Old Rugged Staff.  I expect lots of towns and cities adopt the bear as their symbol.  In the USA California has one on its flag and the bear is of course the symbol of the country of Russia.

This Berlin…

I Love Berlin Bear

This is my old Boy Scout badge Warwickshire Bear …

Warwickshire Bear

There have been no wild bears in England since William Shakespeare was a lad and none in Germany for nearly two hundred years but there are still some in Spain in Cantabria and Asturias in the north of the country.

The Plaza is the very centre of Madrid and the hub of the radial network of the city’s roads and from here we walked a few streets to the Plaza Mayor.

The Plaza Mayor is the original city square, impressive but not the largest in Spain because that honour belongs to Salamanca in Castilla y Leon.  In the centre stands a grand statue of King Philip III and this place has previously been a market, a bull ring and a place of gruesome public executions but now it is a large cobbled pedestrianised area, grand buildings, temporary exhibitions and pavement cafés all around the sides. We stayed for a while and then left to continue our tour.

The route weaved its way eastwards, stopping every so often to explain points of interest, a Flamenco Bar (where tickets were available for later) the oldest restaurant in the World (where tables were available for later) an expensive indoor market (where tables were available immediately) and a fast food place selling calamari sandwich which the guide explained is a popular lunch time snack in Madrid.

Madrid Calamari Sandwich

The tour took us as far as the Palacio Real de Madrid, which with an area of one hundred and thirty-five square metres and over three thousand rooms is the biggest Palace in Europe and more than twice as big as Buckingham Palace in London.  It is larger even than Versailles in France (sorry Versailles). It is the official residence of the King of Spain but he doesn’t live there, probably because it must be a bugger to heat in the winter and it is only used for official State Ceremonies.  King Felipe VI and the Royal Family choose to live instead in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.

We decided that we would come back to the Palace later when the tour was finished.

We walked around the outside of the white stone Palace and admired the views over the royal gardens and then visited the adjacent Plaza de Orient a spacious and well laid out pedestrian area with an extravagant fountain and equestrian statue of Philip IV surrounded by immaculate gardens and lines of ugly face statues of former Kings celebrating the period of the Reconquesta.

The walking tour finished close by with a selling pitch for more tours and a fee, I just knew that it wouldn’t be ‘free’ but to be fair it had been very good and we enjoyed it and we happily handed over a contribution to the guide.

It was time for lunch so we thought it might be a good idea to sit in the Plaza Mayor but when we arrived there the prices were higher than we generally like to pay so we abandoned this idea and returned to the Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol and looked for a tapas bar.  We selected one in a side street and instead of tapas all decided that we should try the calamari sandwich which I personally hoped might be similar to a nice fish-finger sandwich.  When it came it wasn’t and we wished we hadn’t so we washed it down with a beer and returned to the streets.  It was so bad that I can honestly say that I would have rather had a McDonalds Filet-O-Fish!

Filet O Fish

Or, even better, an English Fish Finger sandwich…

Fish finger sandwich

What would you choose, Calamari Baguette, McDonalds Filet-O-Fish or a Fish Finger Sandwich?

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

Some time ago I wrote a post about my favourite Plaza Mayors in Spain.  You can read that post here.

European Capital of Culture 1992 – Madrid

Philip IV and the Palacio Real

There was a definite autumn chill in the air when we went early to breakfast today, early because we were planning to visit the capital of Spain, Madrid.  Kim and I had previously planned to visit in March but due to a misunderstanding about train bookings on my part we didn’t make it.

This time there could be no such problem because there isn’t a train station in Chinchón so we were planning to go by bus.

It was still cool as we waited for the five to ten bus to arrive but we trusted the weather forecast and were in our shirt sleeves, which drew some looks of open-mouthed disbelief from the local people who were wrapped in woollies and big coats.  I must confess to having been a bit uncomfortable and I was glad when the banana yellow no. 337 bus arrived dead on time and we relieved to find that the driver had the heating on.

Alcalá de Henares Madrid Spain

It is only forty-five kilometres to Madrid but that is by the direct route and the bus didn’t take the direct route as it meandered around the back roads and made several stops on the way.  For the first part of the journey the journey was through fields of brown earth scorched into submission by the long Castilian summer and now waiting expectantly for winter respite and some rain.

Later it did speed up as it reached the outskirts of the third largest city in western Europe (after London and Berlin) and joined a motorway that took us to the final stop just on the edge of the central part of the city.

It had taken just over an hour and by the time we arrived it had thankfully begun to warm up.  We could have walked to the centre but we weren’t completely sure just how far that was so instead we elected for the metro.  Kim was nervous about this because the last time on a metro was in Athens when she had her camera stolen by a pickpocket.

This time she kept a vice like grip on her belongings but she needn’t have worried because it was way past rush hour and we didn’t share the carriage with that many passengers, which meant that it was easy to keep clear of those on board that she distrusted – and that was everyone by the way!

City Symbol of Madrid

It was only a short journey underground and we emerged quickly into the sunshine in the Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol right in the centre of the city.  After Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona, Madrid is the fifth most visited city in Europe and there were a hundred and one things to do and see but all of the interesting stuff had to wait for a few minutes because the first thing Kim, Sue and Christine wanted to do was to go to a cake shop for a snack and a coffee.

This confused Mickey and I but we really had to concede mostly on account of this being Kim’s birthday and she was most determined to have a birthday cake before lunch.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in Madrid, compared to London, Paris and Rome it only achieved capital status relatively recently, and there is no iconic building to define it, no Eiffel Tower, no Colosseum and no Westminster Abbey or famous cathedral or castle either so I was curious about what we were likely to see.

Madrid Cathedral

After we had had quite enough cakes we returned to the street and walked first in a westerly direction towards the Old City and the Palacio Real.  On the way we detoured via the Plaza Major the original city square with a large cobbled pedestrianised area, perfect for people to meet and chat and with grand buildings, a central statue and pavement cafés all around the sides.  We stayed for a while and then continued with our sightseeing.

It was an unusual day, it was approaching midday and there was a clear blue sky but it was cool in the shadows of the buildings and it was already obvious that we wouldn’t be enjoying the same high temperatures of just a couple of days ago.  We passed through the Mercado de San Miguel, which was no doubt once a proper indoor market but has now been converted to a rather trendy bijou sort of place with specialist food stalls offering small samples and a good range of vibrant tapas bars.  We might have stayed for a snack but we were still full of cake so we just wandered through and left.

Following the Calle Mayor we arrived at the city cathedral which seemed unusually modern and the reason for this is that when the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo so the new one had no cathedral. There obviously wasn’t a great deal of urgency about the matter however and construction of a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena did not begin until 1879 and due to the volatility of Spanish politics in the twentieth century was not completed until 1993.

Catalonia Spain

Next door to the Cathedral is the Palacio Real de Madrid, which with an area of one hundred and thirty-five square metres and nearly three thousand rooms is the biggest Palace in Europe and more than twice as big as Buckingham Palace in London.  It is the official residence of the King of Spain but he doesn’t live there, probably because it must be a bugger to heat in the winter and it is only used for official State Ceremonies.

King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family choose to live instead in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.

We walked around the outside of the white stone palace and admired the views over the royal gardens and then visited the adjacent Plaza de Orient a spacious and well laid out pedestrian area with an extravagant fountain and equestrian statue of Philip IV surrounded by immaculate gardens with lines of statues of former Kings celebrating the period of the Reconquesta.

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More posts about Royal Palaces:

Spain 2009 – Arunjuez

Palace Real Alcázar, Seville

San Ildefonso o La Granja

Palace of Versailles

Peterhof Palace, Saint-Petersburg

Buckingham Palace, London

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Travels in Spain – Old Madrid

Philip IV and the Palacio Real

There was a definite autumn chill in the air when we went early to breakfast today, early because we were planning to visit the capital of Spain, Madrid.  Kim and I had previously planned to visit in March but due to a misunderstanding about train bookings on my part we didn’t make it.  This time there could be no such problem because there isn’t a train station in Chinchón so this time we were planning to go by bus.

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