Madrid: Overview

Here is an overview of the different neighborhoods of Madrid, with a bit of architecture info.Click on the highlighted words for a link to their website.madrid feature

CASTELLANA:

  • Locate the big boulevard going North to South highlighted in different shades of red. This tree lined boulevard, changes name in certain areas. On the southern end, from Atocha Train Station to the Cibeles fountain it is called Paseo del Prado. From Cibeles to Colón, it is called Paseo de Recoletos, and from Colón north to Plaza de Castilla it remains Paseo de la Castellana.
  • This tree lined boulevard, roughly 7km long, serves as the Seine for Paris, helping with orientation as it cuts through the city. It has many  significant buildings along it.  The #27 bus goes up and down this entire blvd.
  • The Paseo del Prado is also known as el Paseo de las Artes or the “Golden Mile”, for its remarkable concentration of amazing paintings anywhere in the world. The three big museums are all in historic buildings that have undergone major new additions. Tip: Both the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia are usually free daily from 6-8. Reina Sofia is free on Saturdays after 1 and Sundays until noon.
  • On the south end is the Atocha station featuring Moneo’s addition in the late 80s.
  • The Reina Sofia, across from Atocha, was once a hospital and it houses the modern art collection. It’s newest wing was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
  • The Caixa Forum, designed by Herzog and de Meuron can’t be missed thanks to Patrick Blanc’s stunning Vertical Garden.
  • Heading north, you will find the fantastic Ministry of Health, designed by Cabrero in the 1940s.
  • The Botanical Gardens, are across the street and next to the Prado Museum. The Prado’s newest addition was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.
  • Neptune Fountain and rotunda, is a great marker for orientation. This is also the place where fans of the Atletico de Madrid soccer club congragate to celebrate the team’s victory.  On the east, next to the Prado is the Ritz Hotel, on the southwest is the Palace Westin Hotel and on the northwest is the Thyssen Museum, whose newest addition was designed by Manuel Baquero y Francesc Pla (equipo BOPBAA).
  • Carrera San Jeronimo and Calle del Prado can take you to Sol and Barrio de las Letras, respectively.
  • Continuing north on the Paseo del Prado you will find Plaza de Cibeles with the white Palacio de Comunicaciones which is now the City Hall and hosts many great exhibits. There is a restaurant on the roof and a bar with spectacular views. Cibeles is where the fans of Real Madrid soccer club come to celebrated their victories. Circulating the plaza counterclockwise is the Palacio de Linares, the Army headquarters at Palacio Buenavista and the Banco de España. Cibeles is also another axis which takes you to the Puerta de Alcalá to the east and to the Gran Vía to the west.
  • Plaza Colón is further ahead on the now, Paseo de Recoletos, with the National Library to the right. There is a plan in place to renovate this whole stretch by Alvaro Siza.
  • Up from the Plaza Colón, you have too many buildings to specify, a combination of new and old palaces that have been converted. Watch for Moneo’s brick Bankinter, behind one old small palace and also Bankunion with red panels.
  • Under the bridge of Eduardo Dato is an outdoor sculpture garden with some Chillidas and other wonderful sculptures.
  • If you keep going up, you get to Nuevos Ministerios, built by Franco after the civil war, in the arcades along the street there is a great gallery for architectural exhibitions. Right at that intersection is an iconic high rise for Madrid’s architectural community, the BBV Tower designed by Saenz de Oíza, a beautiful tower, rounded corners, all made with corten steel.  Not far from it is the tallest building in Madrid, Torre Picasso designed by Yamasaki.
  • A little further up is the Real Madrid soccer stadium. According to the New York Times Real Madrid is the biggest sport club in the world (yes bigger than the Yankees) and the most well known brand in the world that doesn’t sell something.  According to that study its brand impact worldwide is equivalent to the Catholic Church (no clue how they measured this).  The 100,000 people stadium is in the middle of the city and doesn’t have a single parking space associated with it (kind of like the Madison square garden in Manhattan).
  • If you keep going north, the Castellana ends (or begins) with two leaning twin towers designed by John Burgee, fresh from his split with Philip Johnson.

 

CENTRO:

  • This area, which I have highlighted in green, is the center of Madrid and is where most of the points of interests lie.  To orient yourself, locate the parks, Casa del Campo on the West (left) and the Retiro Park on the East end. West of the Paseo del Prado and south of Alcalá, the streets are narrow, windy and characteristic of Old Madrid. Here you will find the neighborhoods of Barrio de las Letras, Austrias and La Latina.

 

BARRIO SALAMANCA:

  • This areas is north of el Retiro Park and East of the Castellana.  For standard boutiques and big couture you will need to head to the Barrio Salamanca. This is the equivalent to the Upper East Side of NYC. It has boulevards, and a grid and you can do good shopping and eating. If you want to walk through this neighborhood, I would start in the Castellana,under the Eduardo Dato Bridge, the open sculpture area. Go up the western steps and you will be in Serrano St., from where you can go south, following the natural slope down. In Serrano and the streets parallel to Serrano you will find Prada, Loewe (Spanish Prada or Louis Vuitton), Camper, and other high-ends shops as well as regular pret a porter.  I would go up and down the connecting streets like Hermosilla, Jorge Juan, Goya, and of course those parallel to Serrano like Lagasca and Velazquez. There are various designer boutiques as well as various foundations and gallery spaces.
  • Serrano ends on Alcalá, which is in front of the Retiro You should definitely go here and to the museums there. If you go down the Puerta de Acalá you will see again Castellana.
  • High-end and Fancy: La Trainera– probably the best fish in town, El Pimiento Verde for the best artichokes, Paraguas. and Pan de Lujo on Jorge Juan for its ambiance. For more affordable lunches you can eat at any casual bars For drinks, and trendy cocktails and nightlife Ramses (at the end of Serrano in front of the Puerta de Alcalá.)

 



BARRIO DE LAS LETRAS:

  • On the intersection of the Thyssen and Prado (Castellana and Carrera de San Jeronimo), take the side of the Thyssen, and go up on Calle Prado (my street in the summers). On Prado 6, on the corner with León street there is a casual restaurant with very good for cocktails.
  • This neighborhood is called the Barrio de las Letras, because it is the place where great writers like Cervantes and Lope de Vega lived, hence the names of the Street. You can actually visit free the Lope de Vega house on calle Cervantes.  Calle Huertas is a pedestrian, bar hopping street. Go for dinner at the very affordable but super fun Maceiras, it’s a Galician restaurant. At around midnight or a little bit earlier they do a “Quemaida” which is they burn this liquor on a cauldron and they play a Galician text that is a anti-bad spells,and luck chant. Its super fun.
  • Very affordable and good tapas, and menu places for both lunch and dinner are found parallel to Calle Prado, in calle Manuel Fernández Y González 8 between Nuñez de Arce and Echegaray St. (where my favorite wine merchant Maria, has her shop),  There Toscana (a must, have tomato salad with the morcillo –beef roast that is too die for) and Lacón great free tapas at the bar with a drink.  Another one is La Trucha a favorite of our clan, on that same street. Stay in this neighborhood for good food and night life. Have a drink and croquetas in the Plaza de Sta Ana and watch people come out of the Teatro Español, if you have a good show, watch it, is pretty, affordable and you can run into Almodovar and Penelope Cruz, as I have twice.
  • At Calle Atocha is the Antón Martin Market, where I shop on the bottom level. This market has the freshest fruit and produce and is for locals. On the third floor of the market is the best flamenco academy in the world, Amor de Dios, go sneak into the classrooms for a real “underground” gypsy atmosphere. Next to the market on Calle Santa Isabel and Pasaje Doré, there is the film library/and old movie theater, with a bar called Cine Doré.

 

PUERTA DEL SOL: 


  • Watch your wallet but still go to the Plaza Mayor, have some Cava at Mercado San Miguel and have dinner at the oldest Restaurant in the world called: El Botin. Have churros at Chocolateria San Gines.

 

CHUECA:

  • The gay quarter, Chueca has great restaurants and good up and coming designer stores. That begins at Alcala St. heading north.  There is a great restaurant “cool” called Bazaar with international cuisine. Other bars in that area are fun too.  Calle Almirante and Barquillo have great shops and restaurants too. There is a shoe street called Augusto Figueroa.

 

AUSTRIAS AND LA LATINA:


  • Another neighborhood that I love is more East Village or Dunbo type. It is La Latina. This is the oldest part of the city. There are great taverns in this area. Off the Plaza Mayor by the Arcos de Cuchilleros is the oldest restaurant in the world, called El Botin, you have to eat the suckling pig (to die for) and for dessert the “biscuit de higos”  you will remember this meal. Have a drink in front of the palace at the plaza de oriente in the Café de Oriente, go to the other side of the opera and you will find a great art deco furniture store called Tiempos Modernos in Calle Arrieta.  Casa Ciriaco has great tapas out in the bar and sit down dinner in the dining room. For fun bar/ tapas hopping walk down the street Cava Baja and down the Plaza de la Paja.
DRINKS:
  • Remember Apperitifs begin at 1:00, lunch at 2:30-3:00, dinner at 9:30 the earliest, tapas anytime.  Most good dancing clubs do not open until 12:00 am. After dinner drinks, Bar Cock (known for its cocktails and more grown up crowd, I saw Clive Owens here the last time I was here.) Late hour night clubs are Joy Eslava at Calle Arenal and Capital on Atocha st.A good people, collagen lip, “trendy” watching is at the terrace on the Hotel Urban,  at the Carrera de San Jerónimo and the terrace of Hotel ME on the Plaza Santa Ana.  Depending on the night, there is a club in the middle of the Atocha station, downstairs that is good.There are no good margaritas, but lots of whisky, and “clara con limon” which is beer with lemon soda!  Have a fino “sherry” and a cortado is a machiatto.  For good flamenco: Café Chinitas and ones that serve dinner before the show Casa Patas and Corral de la Moreria. For good ox that you cook it yourself in a hot clay dish, go to El Buey.

 

MORE ARCHITECTURE:


  • The 60s was a Golden age in Madrid for architecture. Torres Blancas (you can see the building coming in the city from the airport) by Oíza is a great example of this neo_organic architecture.  Another easy one to visit in the city is a huge apartment building designed by Antonio Miró and Fernando Higueras in the Glorieta de Ruiz Jimenez, make sure you go to the courtyard in the back.From the 90s and by Navarro Baldeweg (one of the most significant architects in Madrid) is the Library in the Plaza of the Puerta de Toledo.