The building which houses the Sociedad General de Autores Y Editores ...the Palacia Longoria...is a mass of melting white twiddliness. Apparently it was inspired by Gaudi's work in Barcelona and is of the school of 'Modernist' architecture.
The Palacia Longoria was built between 1902 and 1904, for the financier Javier Gonzalez Longoria. Its exterior is wonderful. It seems that inside there is a lovely stained-glass dome but as the interior is only accessible (unless you have business there) on the first Monday in October, chances are that you (like me) won't be able to see it.
But even if you can't see inside, I think the walk to find this bit of unique eccentricity is worth it. I certainly wasn't the only person taking photos!
The Palacia Longoria is number 4 Calle de Fernando Vl, in the Malasana district. Nearest Metro is Alonso Martinez.
'The Arab Walls.'
By the mid-800s Madrid belonged to the Moors, and they built a fortress there to protect Toledo and other settlements. You can see nothing of this time now except a small section of the original protective wall around that fortress ('alcazar'), and an equally small section of 12th-century (1100s) rebuilding when the city was under Christian rule.
The wall was discovered in the early 1950s, when an apartment block was demolished. It has been fully-excavated and incorporated into a rather nice small park. There are information boards at the upper levels (in English too) which will help you to date the exposed sections of wall.
It is easily missed and, although not terribly impressive, does give you a sense of the history which underlies the existing (mostly post-1600) city. Madrid is in no way a new settlement.
To find the wall (and a few exposed foundations on its top) on Cuesta de la Vega, turn right after you have passed both the Palacio Real and the cathedral. You can see it perfectly well even if the little park (Parque de Emir Mohammed l ) is closed.
Take a sightseeing tour on local transport, bus number 27. The bus serves a route along the Paseo del Prado and the Paseo de la Castellana between Estacion de Atocha and Plaza de Castilla.
On this route you can see many well known sights like the Museo del Prado, Plaza del Cibeles, Torres de Colon and the Estadio Bernabeu.
Last but not least you can do some people watching on the bus.
Please also check my transportation tip for more information about the local transport in Madrid.
This tip is not from San Francisco El Grande church; that's something that your guide book has already recommend you, therefore it will not lay exactly under the "off the beaten path" category, isn't it? No, the tip is actually about the little, absolutely gorgeous and completely overlooked chapel that is placed to the right of the big church. Access to the chapel is only allowed from 11AM to 1PM during Saturdays mornings, and pictures of the interior are not allowed, though I personally consider that none of this restrictions deprive the chapel from its considerable charm. :-)
...you are likely to see in Madrid is to be found in the rather lovely El Retiro park.
The Ermito de San Pelayo y San Isidoro stands at one corner of the lovely El Retiro park. Although my guidebook suggests that this is its original spot, Spanish Wiki states that the church actually stood in Avila and its remains were moved to the park during the 1800s.
I thin Wiki is quite probably right. It states that in 1884 the ruins were sold to the Spanish government by one Emilio Rotondo Nicolau. They were first placed outside the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid and then removed to El Retiro in 1897.
The fact that the apse faces south, rather than east, is confirmation that the ruins are not in their original position.
Whether from Avila or not, it is certain that the original church dates from the early 1100s. Just one carved capital remains, along with part of the apse and an arch.
El Retiro is a lovely park indeed, and it is worth wandering through to find this set of ruins..if only because they are quite probably the oldest bit of architecture you'll see in Madrid (apart from the Murella Arabe).
You'll find the ruins in the north-east corner of the park, near the entrance at the junction of Calle de O'Donnell and Avenida de Menendez Pelayo.
It's almost impossible for me to keep my eyes away of this church while walking along Alcala Street. It's simply so out of place, its Byzantine style is so different to the surrounding Salamanca district...
And its luminous interior has a fabulous decoration made of mosaics. It seems unfair that this beautiful church doesn't receive the promotion that it deserves...
One more thing: If you feel curious and want to check the church's web site, you better shut down your computer speaker... you'd been adviced! :-p
Sunday evenings would not be the same without Ideal Cinemas. They have a great selection of international cinema, and they play the movies in the original soundtrack with subtitles... a kindness not often seen in many other Spanish theaters. Besides, the building itself is quite beautiful AND it's near some interesting nightclubs and pubs of Sol area. Many reasons for visiting the place, isn't it? ;-)
Quite dull in the outside, and surprisingly elegant in the inside, the church of San Jose (early XIX century) has two remarkable qualities that probably make it worthy a visit. First, the church placement could not be more convenient (from the tourist point of view), as the church is right in the Gran Via street. Besides, the church acoustic is truly remarkable, and the church hosts many interesting concerts of camera music and chorus.
Wandering through Lavapies district I was struck by a large and obviously old ex-church, now used (in part) as the Biblioteca Escuelas Pias.
From further research it seems the church (and associated school) only dates from the 1700s, which surprises me as it looked older. It was originally the 'Chapel of the Pillar' built between 1763 and 1791.
The church and school were bombed and looted during the Civil War and stood abandoned for many decades. The conversion of the ruins into a the library for UNED (a distance-learning university) took place in the mid 1990s.
Worth having a look as you wander past, especially at the bits of original stonework which have been incorporated into the new brick walls.
You'll find the church off Calle Meson de Paredes, at its junction with Calle Sombrerete.
Opposite the church/library is one of the few remaining traditional tenement blocks once typical of this area. It is built around a large central courtyard where, nowadays, outdoor performances sometimes take place.
'Azulejos' comes form the Arabic word 'zellige' and means a sort of painted and tin-glazed ceramic tilework.
I saw quite a lot in Portugal, and Spain has it too: in fact the Moors introduced it to Spain first, and then it travelled to Portugal. Azulejos tiling has been around since the 1400s.
I did not see a huge amount of azulejos in Madrid but I did come across a few good examples.
The Farmacia Leon, on Calle de Leon in the Huertas/Las Lettres district) has several lovely blue-and-white panels showing the eponymous lion and various 'Medieval' pharmacy-related scenes.
I liked the small tilework details on the frontages of some buildings. Usually very subtle, but they added greatly to the exterior appearance.
The site where the Real Madrid Sports city were based is now occupied by the Four Towers Business Area, formed by four skyscrapers standing in a row which set a new record for building heights in Madrid and probably in Spain.
The four towers are: The Repsol tower (236 meters), the Sacyr Vallehermoso tower (236 meters), the Glass tower (250 meters) and the Space tower (223 meters).
All are spectacular to photo specially when the light offers the beauty of reflections.
The 'mudejares' were the Muslims who remained in Spain after it was re-conquered in and became a Christian country. Many were hugely skilled in architectural techniques, and the term 'mudejar' refers to buildings in that style, most prevalent during the 12th-16th centuries (1100s to 1500s).
Mudejar buildings have brick as their main material and have a geometric character, with ornamental brickwork and/or tilework, carved wood and carved plaster.
There are many ancient examples of this type of architecture across Spain but Madrid has only two remaining ancient mudejar buildings (or partial buildings). They are the bell towers of Iglesia San Pedro El Viejo and Iglesia San Nicholas de los Servitas.
I only managed to visit San Pedro. Although the church itself was closed, the bell-tower (mid 1300s) is worth a look (especially if you have a decent zoom lens or binoculars to hand). The present church building largely dates from the 1400s, although there was a church on the site in at least 1202. The interior was restored and changed in the 1600s.
You'll find San Pedro to the south of Plaza de la Villa, on Calle de Nuncio.
If you have time I urge you to visit this place. It is about 30 min by bus from Madrid's Cuatro Caminos bus station, and buses leave every 30 min.
The castle is simply fantastic and looks like it belong in a fairy tale. Yet it is real and historic XV century stronghold. If you are in Spain you have to see at least one castle, and this one is among the best preserved and most beautiful. Also it is the closest castle to Madrid I believe.
The mountains behind it are awesome and add to the scenery.
Kio towers, or Port of Europe. Interesting architecture. Both towers are 15 degraes leaning. Madrid impressed me with old architecture, and wonderful buildings, but this one modern is something I have to mention.
A couple of lovely examples of azulejos tilework can be found in the equally lovely El Retiro park.
The Palacio de Velazquez was built in 1883 for a mining exhibition: its exterior has beautiful, mainly blue-and-white geometric tilework.
The Palacio de Cristal was built in 1887 as a winter garden full of exotic flowers. Look above and below its windows, and you'll see detailed tilework of foliage, flowers, birds and beasts.
It's well worth seeking out both buildings as you wander through El Retiro.