The Puerta del Sol square is Madrid's centre of the centre and therefore the symbolic omphalos of the whole kingdom. Here is milestone zero of Spain's road network from which all distances are measured. At least once a year, the whole nation looks here, when national TV stations broadcast the New Year's celebrations on Puerta del Sol and Spaniards swallow their twelve grapes to the chimes of the post office's belfry. North of Puerta del Sol, around Calle de Preciados and Calle del Carmen, is the main shopping district of central Madrid.
The northern limit of this district, Gran Vía, is the Spanish capital's most splendid avenue. It is lined by tall, lavishly ornated banking, insurance and shopping palaces from the early 1900s.
The neighbourhood around the Spanish parliament (Cortes) and calle de las Huertas is commonly known as the barrio de las Letras, literally the "quarter of letters", given that the most important writers of classical Spanish literature—Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Francisco de Quevedo, Luis de Góngora—lived here. Around the Plaza Santa Ana is one of Madrid's favourite areas for casual dining and drinking with friends at night.
Lavapiés is Madrid's most multicultural and multiethnic neighbourhood. About half of its population have their roots in Latin America, Africa or Asia. This is the place to go to encounter folk and dance music from around the world, unconventional cafés and individual shops.
The "museum strip" or Paseo del Arte, to the east of Letras and Lavapiés, including the world-famous Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, Caixaforum and the National Museum of Modern Art "Reina Sofía", is covered in a separate article.
Madrid's main station, 1 Estación de Atocha, is near the southeastern corner of Lavapiés.
Suburban trains (Cercanías lines C3 and C4) stop at an underground station directly below Puerta del Sol.
Most metro lines pass through this district. Apart from the central 2 , there are , , , , , along Gran Vía, near Letras, and in the eponymous neighbourhood.
Landmarks and architecture
- 1 Puerta del Sol ( ). This plaza is the heart of Madrid and one of the busiest places in the city - a hub for the local transit system, a favorite meeting spot for locals, a visible area for festivals or political demonstrations, and an opportune location for tour guides, street performers, pickpockets and anyone else looking to take advantage of all the tourists on-hand. In the center of the plaza sits the Statue of King Charles III on horseback, facing the Royal Post Office (Real Casa de Correos), the red-and-white building adorned with a clock tower on the plaza's south side. The building served as Madrid's first post office, then the police headquarters under Franco before being transformed into its current use as the office of the President of Madrid, the head of the regional government. The clock tower is noteworthy for being the center focus of New Year's celebrations every year, which are broadcast across Spain and mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes (one for each ring of the bell) and the beginning of a new year. In front of the building is Kilometer Zero (Kilómetro Cero), a plaque showing the point where the measuring of national highway system begins. On the east side of the plaza is the famous Bear and the Madroño Tree Statue, a bear climbing a madroño tree, which is the symbol of Madrid, and on the west side of the plaza is the Mariblanca statue, a white marble goddess of at least the 17th century. Nearby the giant neon Tío Pepe sign sits above the plaza and is a famous fixture of this area.
- 2 Gran Vía ( , , , , or ). Literally 'Great Way' (better translated as 'Broadway'), Gran Vía is one of the busiest avenues in Madrid. Running from Plaza de España to Plaza de Cibeles, it is the location of the cinema district and a number of shopping malls and is lined with large billboards and lights. There's a constant buzz of traffic and life – 03:00-04:00 early morning traffic jams are not unusual.
- 3 Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (RABASF / Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), C/ Alcalá, 13 (Sevilla or ), ☎ . Tu-Su 10:00-15:00; open holidays; closed for the month of Aug. Highly impressive art collection with paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Several Goya masterpieces. €8 (adults), €4 (seniors/students over 25), free (students/children under 18); free on W and national holidays.
- 4 La Tabacalera, C/ Embajadores, 53 ( ). Daily until 23:00. An abandoned tobacco factory turned into a huge Berlin-like alternative art space driven by the diverse locals of Lavapies district. Also Tens of free workshops daily. Nice big cheap outdoors terrace. Free.
- 1 Auditorio 400, C/ Santa Isabel, 52 (Nouvel Building of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The main venue for contemporary music, dance, and theatre performance.
- 2 Círculo de Bellas Artes, C/ Marqués de Casa Riera, 2 (Metro: Banco de España), ☎ . Exhibits: Tu-Su 11:00-14:00 17:00-21:00; Azotea: M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa Su and holidays 11:00-21:00. A non-profit cultural center located a short walk from Sol, the CBA offers up a wide variety of events and shows including film, music, art displays, dance, theater and more. See the website (in Spanish) for a list of activities. Great panoramic views of the city can be had from the Azotea, located at the top of the building. €4 (exhibits), €4 (Azotea).
- 3 Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco (Cardamomo Flamenco Show), C/ Echegaray, 15, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Shows daily at 18:00, 20:00, 22:00. Authentic Flamenco show in the center of Madrid, one of the greatest tablaos flamencos all over Spain, typical Spanish food during the performance. €32-39 (without drinks/dinner).
- 4 Teatro de la Zarzuela, C/ Jovellanos, 4, ☎ (box office), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com (box office). Tickets: M-Sa 12:00-20:00, Su 12:00-18:00. The Spanish version of the operetta (zarzuela) is performed here. This is also the main concert venue for the Community of Madrid Orchestra.
- 5 Teatro Monumental (Monumental Cinema), C/ de Atoche, 65, ☎ (box office).
- 6 Yelmo Cineplex Ideal (Cine Ideal), C/ Doctor Cortezo, 6 (metro: Sol), ☎ . Probably the best known V.O. (versión original, or original language) theater in Madrid, it offers the largest selection of movies and is only a short walk from Sol.
- 7 Cine Doré, C/ Santa Isabel, 3 (metro: Anton Martín), ☎ . This is a wonderful old Spanish theater dating from the 1920s. It has three screens and shows mainly art-house and critically acclaimed films in the original language. In the summertime, they screen movies on the roof. From €2.50.
- 1 El Corte Inglés Preciados, C/ Preciados 1-9, ☎ . Occupying the full first few blocks of the pedestrian boulevard Calle Preciados, El Corte Inglés serves as a gateway to the shopping paradise from Puerta de Sol.
- 2 El Corte Inglés Plaza de Callao, Plaza de Callao, 2, ☎ . M-Sa 10:00-22:00, Su 11:00-21:00. A much smaller store is to be found at the other end of Calle Preciados. Not quite a looker from the outside, it holds a top-floor restaurant with brilliant views over the Gran Vía.
- 3 Loewe Gran Vía.
Many of the restaurants and cervecerías in the Sol area have generic poster board advertisements on the sidewalks with pictures advertising various paella dishes. These paellas are usually of bad quality and should be avoided. If you are looking for good, authentic Spanish paella, it is usually best to find a more expensive, 'sit-down' type of restaurant that offers a variety of paella dishes. There are also a number of deli-like shops along Calle Arenal that offer food para llevar (for take away).
- 1 Cervecería 100 Montaditos, Calle del Príncipe, 18. Daily 10AM-2AM. Branch of the popular nationwide chain that offers 100 different types of montaditos (small sandwiches). Great place to go for a cheap drink and bite to eat. Further branches are at Calle de la Montera, 34 (near metro Gran Vía) and Plaza de las Cortes, 3.
- 2 Museo del Jamón, Carrera de San Jerónimo, 6 (100 m east of Puerta del Sol). M-Th 9AM-12.30AM, F Sa 9AM-1PM, Su 10AM-12.30AM. One of several branches of this chain. Offers deli takeout service as well as tapas and raciónes at reasonable prices. They offer €1 ham sandwiches and a 'picnic' lunch consisting of a said ham sandwich, fresh fruit and a drink for €2. Another branch is at Calle de Atocha, 54 (metro Antón Martín).
- 3 Alhambra, C/ Victoria, 9 (Metro: Sevilla), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Su-Th 12:00-01:00, F Sa 12:00-02:00. This is a good place to drop by on a hot afternoon to enjoy a cold beer and some Andalusian tapas. Sample the sausages and cheeses.
- 4 La Casa del Abuelo, C/ Victoria, 12 (Metro: Sevilla), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 12:00-24:00, F Sa 12:00-01:00. A Madrid landmark in operation for over 100 years, this bar attracts a standing room only crowd on the weekends. They mainly serve shrimp-based tapas dishes so if you're not into shellfish it may be advisable to steer clear. Order a plate of their garlic shrimp and accompany with their house wine.
- 6 El Inti de Oro, C/ Ventura de la Vega, 12 (Metro: Sevilla), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 13:30-16:00 20:30-24:00. For something different, try this great Peruvian restaurant a short walk from Sol. Be sure to order some of their ceviche and try the Pisco Sour cocktail.
- 7 The Roof (formerly The Penthouse), Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, ☎ . M-Th 21:00-01:30, F Sa 21:00-03:00, Su 21:00-01:30. Located on the roof of the ME Madrid hotel, this terrace-style restaurant serves tapas and traditional cuisine. At night they serve great mojitos in a youthful, club-like atmosphere.
- 8 La Zapatería, C/ Victoria, 8 (Metro: Sevilla), ☎ . Daily 13:00-15:30 19:00-01:00. Great potato dishes that come mixed with chorizo or other ingredients. Also try the pincho moruno (pork skewers) or something else displayed on ice in the front window. The Ribeiro on tap (sparkling white wine from Galicia) is not to be missed.
- 1 Café Central, Plaza del Ángel 10 (Metro: Sol), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 12:30-02:30, F 12:30-03:30, Sa 11:30-03:30, Su 11:30-02:30. Café by day, live jazz music at night.
- 2 La Mallorquina, Puerta del Sol 8, Mayor, 2 (Metro: Sol). Famous for its pastries. Peaceful upstairs room where you can linger undisturbed over your café con leche and napolitana de chocolate (chocolate croissant).
- 3 Nuevo Café Barbieri, C/ Ave María, 45 (Metro: Lavapies), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 08:00-01:00, F 08:00-02:00, Sa 09:00-02:00, Su 09:00-01:00. Slightly scruffy cafe draws an avante garde crowd at night.
- 4 La Pecera del Círculo de Bellas Artes (Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes), C/ Alcalá, 42 (Metro: Banco de Espana), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 09:00-01:00, F Sa 09:00-03:00, Su 09:00-24:00. A soaring hall on the ground floor of Madrid's art center combines atmosphere, excellent food and good coffee at reasonable prices. A wonderful place for lunch not far from Madrid's shopping or museums.
- 5 Museo Chicote, Gran Vía, 12 (Metro: Gran Vía), ☎ . M-Th 19-03:00, F Sa 19:00-04:00, Su 16:00-01:00. Voted the Best European Bar 2004 by MTV-Campari. Extensive cocktail list. Claims to have served drinks to many famous celebrities, including, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner, Gary Cooper, Orson Wells, Yul Brynner and Ernest Hemingway, Catherine Zeta Jones, Hugh Grant and Tim Robbins. They only serve drinks.
- 6 [dead link] Dubliners, C/ Espoz y Mina, 7 (Metro: Sol), ☎ . Daily 11:00-03:00. An Irish bar in the centre of Madrid near Puerta del Sol. The bar has televisions and is one of the places where sport can be seen.
- 7 Xaloc Bar de Copas, C/ Huertas, 41, Las Letras (Metro: Antón Martín, Sevilla), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. T Th-Sa 21:00-03:30. Discopub in the core of Barrio de las Letras. Great place with excellent prices but a good quality. The bar includes nice music, a DJ, and a moderately large dance floor.
- 8 El Sol, Calle Jardines, 3 (Metro: Gran Via). Tuesday - Saturday: 24:00-05:30. Popular with the 20-30 age group. Plays a mix of 70s, funk, and bossanova sounds. No dress code, but people do tend to look cool. Entry including 1 drink: €9.
- 9 Ohm, Plaza de Callao, 1 (in Gran Via street) (Metro: Callao (L3)). From 00:00 to 07:00AM. Popular Commercial House club with a mixed young straight/gay crowd. €10-20 with mixed drink.
- 10 Stardust, C/ Isabel la Católica, 6 (Metro: Santo Domingo). F 23:45-06:00. Powerful Techno/House club popular within the younger crowd. €10-20 with mixed drink.
- 1 Mad Hostel, C/ De la Cabeza, 24 (metro: Antón Martín), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 05:00-11:00. Nice, clean, quiet weekend hostel. 5 minutes from metro, tapas and services. 10-minute walk to Puerto del Sol, museums and Gran Via. Close to southern 'ethnic' areas = good food. Big common room with 4 computer stations, unreliable Wi-Fi and good free breakfast. Secure locker with every bed. €16+ (dorm), €48+ (double room).
- 2 Cat's Hostel, Calle Cañizares 6 (metro: Antón Martín), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in a 17th-century palace, but has a modern interior and is clean and secure. Breakfast and internet is included in the price and there is also a bar. It attracts a young backpackers clientele, but the crowd here is such that you're more likely to find partiers than hitchhikers. Shared dormitories for 4 to 14 people. Dorm bed: €13-20, breakfast included.
- 3 Way Hostel Residence, Calle Relatores 17 (metro: Tirso de Molina), ☎ . Small hostel, nice ambiance and is catered to young traveleres. Nice kitchen, friendly staff, and free internet. Dorm bed: €18-19.
- 4 Hostal San Martin, Calle Concepción Arenal 4 (Metro: Callao), ☎ . Small, clean guest-house on the 4th floor. Ideally located just meters from Gran Via, with great staff and free wi-fi. All rooms have sink & shower, but most share bathrooms. Singles: €30-36; Doubles: €42-48.
- 5 Hotel ibis Styles Madrid Prado, Calle del Prado, 11 (metro: Antón Martín). The small and inconspicious ibis Styles gets great reviews thanks to a combination of nice rooms, good staff and ideal location, all that at a reasonable price including breakfast.
- 6 Hostal Plaza d'Ort, Plaza del Ángel, 13 (metro: Sol), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:30. Cheap hotel with a good location near Plaza de Santa Ana. All rooms feature bathrooms, TV and air conditioning. Singles €55-68, doubles €60+.
- 7 Artistic Bed & Breakfast, Calle Lope de Vega, 11, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Conveniently located in the center of Madrid, a quiet bed and breakfast with a unique style and decoration. €60/night.
- 8 Asturias, C/ Sevilla 2, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A 2 star hotel. The Asturias is only 200 meters from the central Puerta del Sol.
- 9 Hotel Madrid Preciados, C/Preciados nº37, ☎ . 4-star hotel in excellent location. €96-150/night.
- 10 Hotel Senator Gran Via Madrid, Gran Via 52 (a few minutes from Puerta del sol), ☎ . 4-star hotel. Restaurant, bar, and meeting space.
- 11 ME Madrid Reina Victoria, Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Located in Plaza de Santa Ana.
- 12 Hotel De Las Letras, Gran Vía, 11, ☎ . Old building with tasteful modern interior. Well sound-proofed against the busy Gran Via outside. Very comfortable beds. Rooms with TV, hi-fi, mini bar, bath/shower. Optional breakfast buffet with wide choice of good quality food and drinks. Pleasant, comfortable bar.
- 13 Maria Elena Palace, C/ Aduana 19, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The Hotel María Elena Palace is located just 200 metres away from the Puerta del Sol. Renowned for its magnificent glass dome in the lobby.
- 14 Hotel Quatro Puerta del Sol, C/ Sevilla 4, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The turn-of-the-century grandeur with modern conveniences and amenities. Hotel Quo Puerta del Sol is housed in a emblematic building from the beginning of the 20th century with unique views of the city. It was totally restored in 2003.
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