Puerta de Alcalá (Alcala Gate in English) is located on a busy road intersection at Plaza de la Independencia between Calle de Alcalá to the east and west, Calle de Serrano to the north and Calle de Alfonso XII to the south. It is a very important landmark in the city of Madrid. The Alcala Gate was designed by architect Francesco Sabatini during the reign of King Charles III in the second half of the 18th century. The neo-classical style gate was constructed of granite to replace a smaller gate and was fully completed in 1778.
Puerta de Alcalá has five archways, i.e. three larger archways in the middle plus two smaller rectangular passageways on each side. Each archways has a sculpture of the head of a lion. It is very dificult to capture a really good image during peak hours due to the constant heavy vehicular traffic. It is still worth a visit and have some photographs taken before entering the scenic Retiro Park.
Plaza de Cibeles is located at the intersection of several streets, i.e. Paseo de Recoletos to the north, Paseo del Prado to the south and Calle de Alcalá to the east and to the west. In our opinion Plaza de Cibeles is the most beautiful square in the city of Madrid. Several prominent buildings were erected surrounding the square. They are Palacio de Comunicaciones (Palace of Communication), Banco de España (Bank of Spain) and the Palacio de Linares.
The Palace of Communication as depicted on our main photograph was constructed in 1909 and was designed by Antonio Palacios. It is the most prominent of all the buildings surrounding the square. It was once the main Post Office headquater building and now is occupied by the City Hall of Madrid. The Bank of Spain Building (depicted on our third photograph) was constructed in the late 19th century and is the oldest of all the buildings located around the square. The third imposing building the Palacio de Linares (depicted on our second photograph - in the background of the Cibeles Fountain) was also constructed in the late 19th century.
The Cibeles Fountain (Fuente de la Cibeles in Spanish) as depicted on our second photograph is located in the middle of the busy road intersection. It is one of the most photographed monuments in the city of Madrid but it is absolutely impossible to walk to the side of Cibeles Fountain during peak hours and have your photographs taken. You need to zoom your cameras unfortunately from a distance to get good and clear pictures. Sometimes it is difficult to capture a good photograph due to the constant moving vehicles. You are also able to see the elegant Metrópolis Building from the square especially from Banco de España.
Cibeles Fountain is a well-known symbol of monument in the city of Madrid. It is named after Cibele, the Roman goddess of fertility or nature. The Roman goddess is seen leaning or sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. Plaza de Cibeles has been used by fans of Real Madrid football team to celebrate victory in football matches.
Plaza de Oriente (Square of the Orient in English) is the most scenic of all the squares in the city of Madrid. It is located right in front of the Royal Palace between the Royal Palace and Teatro Real which is the National Theatre of Spain. The square was constructed during the reign of King Joseph I (1808 - 1814) in the early 19th century. Joseph Bonaparte was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. However King Jospeh died before the square was fully completed. It was fully completed during the reign of Queen Isabella II (1833 - 1870).
In the center of the square lies a fountain with a striking bronze statue of King Philip IV on a horse based on an art masterpiece by Veláquez. On the southern end of the square stand several sculptures of ancient Spanish Gothic kings carved from limestone. The square is surrounded on the north and southern ends by several cafes, bars and restaurants for visitors to chill out. This square is also a favourite meeting place for the locals as well as foreign tourists. Make it a point to visit this scenic Plaza de Oriente before visiting the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral nearby.
Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod in Spanish) is probably the only Egyptian temple outside Egypt. This temple was actually donated to Spain by Egypt as a sign of gratitute for the help that Spain provided to Egypt due to construction of Aswan Dam in 1960. The area where the temple was located was prone to flood due to the dam 's construction. The temple was donated to Spain in 1968.
The Temple of Debod is at least 2,200 years old and is certainly rich in history. It was dedicated to Isis. This temple was actually removed stone by stone and rebuilt in Madrid. The temple is opened to the public for visit but the opening hours are limited. Entry to the Temple of Debod is free. However due to technical work conducted now in Madrid, the tmeple is now closed unfortunately. Nevertheless it is still worth a visit to admire the buildings. From our main photograph above the temple seems to be floating in the air!
Plaza de España at the west end of Gran Via is certainly one of the major tourist attractions in the city of Madrid. It opens to the public round the clock every day and it is free. The Cervantes Monument is certainly the main attraction at Plaza de España. The bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (as depicted on our main photograph and our fifth photograph) are really impressive. They were designed by Rafael Martinez Zapatero and sculptured by Lorenzo Coullaut Valera in 1928. The stone sculpture of the author Miguel de Cervantes (depicted on our second photograph) is seen overlooking the bronze scultptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Surrounding Plaza de España are two really tall towers, i.e. Torre de Madrid or Madrid Tower (depicted on the left on our fourth photograph) and Edificio España or Spain Building (depicted on the right on our fourth photograph behind Cervantes Monument). Torre de Madrid is 142 meter high and was constructed in 1957. It was at one time the tallest building in the city of Madrid until Picasso Tower was built. Edificio España is 117 meter high and was constructed in 1953.
Gran Via (literally means "great way" in English) is the most famous street in the city of Madrid. It stretches from Calle de Alcalá near Plaza Cibeles in the east until Plaza Espana in the west, a distance of approximately two kilometers. It is the busiest street in Madrid and is often over-crowded, sometimes too over-crowded especially in the evenings and weekends during the summer months. It is certainly a great commercial street of the city as the whole length of the street is dotted with lots of businesses like shops, hotels, cinemas, theatres, banks, cafes, bars and restaurants. There are at least 40 hotels operating along the street. Many businesses open until early in the morning. This street that never sleeps is also known as Spanish broadway. It is great to just take a stroll along this street in the evening and admire some of the great architectural buildings.
Gran Via was completely rebuilt from the year 1910 from old streets and buildings which were demolished to make way for new. A landmark at the eastern end of the street between the junction of Calle de Alcalá and Gran Via is an elegant architectural building known as Edificio Metrópolis (depicted on our main photograph). It was designed by French architects Jules & Raymond Février in 1905. A statue can be seen on the top of the building. It was actually added to the building only in 1975. Just behind Edificio Metrópolis is another landmark building known as Edificio Grassy built in 1916.
Further up the street from Metrópolis Building, visitors are able to see a tall building known as Edeficio Telefonica (depicted on our fourth photograph) which was at one time the tallest building in the city of Madrid. Torre de Madrid (Madrid Tower) and Edificio España (Spain Building) dominate the skyline at the western end of Gran Via at Plaza Espana. Gran Via is the street that you simply do not want to miss when you visit the city of Madrid on your vacation!
This 11M Memorial was erected to dedicate to the 191 victims of 11th March 2004 terrorist attack on four commuter trains in and around Madrid almost simultaneously. The 11 meter high cylindrical glass monument was constructed of glass bricks. Inside the cylindrical glass monument are glass panels depicting the names of all the victims with messages of condolences and solidarity from Spanish citizens and tourists in several languages. Well worth a visit when you visit Atocha Railway Station on your vacation!
Plaza Mayor is another popular tourist attraction located right in the heart of the city of Madrid, just east of the popular market place known as Mercado San Miguel. Plaza Mayor is a huge rectangular shaped square measuring approximately 130 meters by 90 meters. Roughly in the center of the square lies a bronze statue of King Philip III which was designed by Jean Boulogne in the early 17th century although Plaza Mayor has history that dates back to the middle of the 16th century. The statue of King Philip III is the most photographed object in the square.
Plaza Mayor was once used for public executions, bullfights, soccer games as well as a market place. Today it is surrounded by shops especially souvenir shops and eateries. Casa Rua, a popular restaurant dealing in the famous squid sandwich (Bocadillos de Calamares) is located near the northwest entrance of the square. Gimmicks can be seen busy attracting onlookers and visitors even under the very hot sun! Local artists sit under the shade on one side of the square trying to sell their masterpieces or showing off their drawing skills to local and foreign tourists. Of course you can have your pictures drawn by these artists on the spot for a small fee!
The four storey buildings surrounding Plaza Mayor are identical architectural buildings. There are a total of 237 balconies on the buildings with nine entrances at the ground level. Plaza Mayor is also a favourite meeting place for the locals as well as tourists. Don't miss this wonderful and elegant Plaza Mayor whenever you visit Madrid on your vacation!
The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid in Spanish) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of Madrid. It was constructed between the 18th and the 19th centuries. The total area of the Royal Palace is approximately 135,000 square meters which makes it the largest palace in Europe. It was designed by architect Filippo Juvarro and was constructed of white granite and marble.
The Royal Palace has baroque and classicism styles of architecture. The facade is approximately 140 meters long. This Royal Palace has more than 3,000 rooms but only approximately 50 are opened to the public. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Royal family of Spain. Nevertheless they do not reside at the Royal Palace. They only use it for state functions and ceremonies. The view of the Royal Palace from Plaza de Oriente is certainly amazing. Entrance fee to the Royal Palace is 10.00 euros per adult.
Almudena Cathedral is one of the newest cathedrals in Europe. It is very new by European standard! Construction of Almudena Cathedral actually began in the late 19th century but was completed and consecrated only in 1993 by Pope John Paul II. The Cathedral cetainly has contrasting styles with neo-classical exterior, neo-Gothic interior and neo-Romanesque crypt inside the Cathedral. It is approximately 100 meter long and 70 meter wide with a 20 meter in diameter dome on top of the building. The Cathedral was made of granite and marble. There are quite a number of beautiful stain-glassed windows in the Cathedral. In our opinion the interior of the Cathedral is one of the most beautiful we have seen in Europe!
Entrance to the Cathedral is free from the back entrance (at Calle Mayor) of the Cathedral. However donations are welcome for maintenance of the Cathedral. The Cathedral is opened to the public between 10.00 a.m. and 7.30 p.m. daily except when there are religious services. Photography and video recording are allowed inside the Cathedral.
Walking the Camino de Santiago in the footsteps of Jacob has become a very popular thing to do in recent years.
It has for many many years been a very popular pilgrimage for catholic people but these days thousadns of people walk the train even if they are not catholic and mabye not religious at all.
The camino has become a very popular walking trail and there are many caminos to Santiago.
The most popular one is the one called "the french camino" which is a 900 kilometer walk from France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
But you have many other trails to Santiago and i myself walked the portuguese camino in june 2013.
I walked roughly 250 kilometers from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela and that took me 11 days.
All the caminos to Santiago are marked with yellow arrws so if you see yellow arrows along the roads in Spain then you know that one of the caminos are part of that road.
I can only recommend you to take this walk if you have the time and stamina.
Even if i am not a religious person myself i enjoyed the walk immensly and loved the social life you have with the other pilgrim walkers along the trail.
The Retiro Park is the central park of the city of Madrid. The huge rectangular shaped park is located on the eastern side of the city. It is a great place to stroll, to chill out and to escape the chaos of the city. Every weekend and during the public holidays lots of locals and tourists pack every inch of the park. Visitors can also row the boats on the artificial lake with a small charge of course. The park was originally built by King Philip IV and later opened to the public. The park was built in 1887 to hold Philippine exhibition. There are free concerts held in the park during the warm summer months. The park has six entrances, the most commonly used entrances are the north entrance and the west entrance.
An imposing landmark in the park is undoubtedly the colonnade with the equestrian statue of King Alfonso XII on top. We especially like the Crystal Palace (el Palacio de Cristal in Spanish) made of glass located at the south end of the park. The Crystal Palace has its own scenic lake. Free exhibitions are occasionally held at Crystal Palace if and when you visit Retiro Park at the right time.
Prado Museum is a top tourist attraction in the city of Madrid. It is the largest art museum in the world with more than 8,000 high quality paintings. Due to the shortage of museum space, only 2,000 paintings are exhibited in the museum. Lots of collections are exhibited especially Spanish and Italian collections. Work of art on display in the museum by famous Spanish artists include masterpiece by Goya and Velázquez.
Opening hours to the museum are between 9.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. The museum is closed on Monday. Entrance fee to the museum is 12.00 euros per adult. Entrance to the museum is free between 6.00 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. between Tuesday and Sunday. However the queue to the museum is long. You need to queue before 5.30 p.m. to make sure that you are able to get free tickets to the museum. Unfortunately photography and video recording are not permitted inside the museum. In our opinion this art museum is one of the best art museums we have seen in Europe and to our surprise it is free between 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m. So take the opportunity to visit this great Prado Museum when you visit Madrid on your vacation!
Puerta del Sol (literally means the gateway of the sun in English) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the heart of Madrid. It is located in the city center just northeast of Plaza Mayor and south of Gran Via. Several attractions at Puerta del Sol can be visited and explored such as the statue of King Carlos (King Charles in English) as depicted on our main photograph, the Real Casa de Correos, also known as the Clock Tower (as depicted on our second photograph) and the plate of kilometer zero (where the road network begins) located on the floor just in front of the Clock Tower before crossing the road to the square (depicted on our third photograph).
Our last photograph above depicts the statue of a female bear and the strawberry tree. This is a symbol of Madrid. It is a very popular statue for souvenir snapshots. Unfortunately the beautiful Tio Pepe sign (which was illuminated at night) has been removed from a building despite protest by the locals. It is a shame! Not sure whether they are going to put it back as the building seems to be undergoing renovation at the moment.
If you are in Andalucia you will probably have much to do. Ronda is closest to Malaga,in the northeast of the Province. Because of its location at the edge of the two sides of a gorge, Ronda was pretty much impregnable.
The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) is one of the most commonly photographed sights in Spain, I heard some saying it was 3rd overall. It is a stunning engineering achievement for sure. Ronda is great to enjoy for its stunning scenery and many like to go to Ronda just to get away from the hustle of the Costa del Sol.
Another good reason to go to Ronda is if you want to see the old cave art. Cueva de la Pileta is in easy driving distance of Ronda.
Please visit my Ronda pages here
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