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Madrid of the last 2 centuries


In this itinerary, we are going to visit some of the building and places that pertain to the 'recent' history of the city. We will see buildings that represent a revolution in the architecture of its time, for example Atocha Railway Station, or the great structures of this century such as the AZCA skyscrapers. They are more modern structures, but not for that reason do they lose their interest. We simply offer an option to visit something off the beaten path, though in our opinion, this would be more interesting to visit before seeing something like the Madrid of the Austrias, or the Paseo del Arte, for example.

The visit is concentrated in the places associated with the 19th and 20th C., but we will use this opportunity to also mention fountains, sculptures or works that, though from other periods, are interesting, and those that do not require a detour from the proposed route. Such is the case of the Cibeles and Neptuno fountains.

Places of interest  

19th Century:

Banco de España/ Bank of Spain.
Biblioteca Nacional/ National Library.
Bolsa de Madrid/ Madrid Stock Exchange.
Casón del Buen Retiro/ House of Retreat.
Congreso de los Diputados/ House of Representatives.
Estación de Trenes de Atocha/ Atocha Railway Station.
Palacio de Cristal/ Crystal Palace.
Palacio Linares/ Linares Palace.

20th Century:

Complejo AZCA/ AZCA Complex:
Torre Europa/ Europe Tower.
Edificio BBV/ BBV Bank Building.
Torre Picasso/ Picasso Tower.
Casino de Madrid.
Círculo de Bellas Artes/ Circle of Fine Arts.
Palacio de Telecomunicaciones (Correos)/ Telecommunications Palace (Post office).
Puerta de Europa/ Gateway of Europe.


Torres Kio

We are going to organize the path in a way that can be completed by walking. There are only two points that are located a bit far from the rest of the route--AZCA and the Puerta de Europa (KIO Towers)-but they seem interesting enough to include, as they are examples of the city's skyscrapers.

Estación de Trenes de Atocha

The start of this route can be placed in the Atocha Railway Station, since it can be accessed from any mode of transport (train, metro, or bus). One of the great novelties among 19th C. architecture was the construction of the majestic train stations, employing new materials like glass and steel. Atocha was inaugurated in 1851 in the presence of Isabel II and was the first railway station in Madrid. A fire destroyed the original station and it was rebuilt and reopened in 1892. It is a great hall of steel, with a curved cover, and a crystal façade. Not long ago, Moneo undertook its rebuilding, which was considered an example of aesthetic and functional rehabilitation of the historic building. In the main hall sits a tropical garden with its own microclimate.

Fuente de
Hotel Ritz

Leaving the station, we shall take the Paseo del Prado, where on its first stretch we can see the Apollo Fountain, adjacent to the Prado Museum. The fountain was completed by Ventura Rodriguez in the 18th C. and represents the god Apollo together with four groups of sculptures representing the four seasons. A bit ahead, we arrive to the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, where we find the Neptuno Fountain, from the 19th C., in its center, also made by Ventura Rodriguez. In this plaza, two well-known hotels, the Ritz and the Palace, are located. What many do not know is that one of the rooms of the Palace was recently declared a symbol of national heritage.

From this point we will take the Carrera de San Jeronimo, where we find the Congreso de los Diputados (House of Representatives), which followed the model of a Renaissance palace, and later incorporated a grand Neoclassical colonnade. Keep going until you get to the Plaza de Canalejas, so that later you can cross Sevilla Street and down to Alcala Street. Going down this street, we find three buildings worth mentioning. The first of these is the Casino de Madrid, a private club of great beauty. A bit further on is the Circulo de Bellas Artes, built by Antonio Palacios in 1910, following the rules of design of monuments. Finishing off the building is the outstanding sculpture of Minerva, today a cultural center. Lastly, we find the Banco de España, a building in the style of a Venetian Renaissance palace. It contains an important collection of art which you can visit during opening hours.

Plaza Cibeles

Now we have arrived at the Plaza de Cibeles, which acquires its name from the fountain in the middle and dates back to the 18th C. It is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the city. The Palacio de Telecomunicaciones, currently the post office, is also located in this plaza. It is a magnificent example of eclectic architecture.

Continuing down Recoletos, we find the Palacio de Linares. This beautiful structure, of clearly French influence, is the current quarters of the Casa de America. This palace became infamous not long ago for alleged psychophonic manifestations (voices were heard and shadows were seen at certain times).

Puerta de Alcalá

We will take the opportunity now to go up Alcala from Cibeles to see the Puerta de Alcalá, another of the symbols of Madrid, which dates to the era of Carlos III. From here take Alfonso XII, where we find number 28, the Cason del Buen Retiro, built in the 19th C. Originally it was conceived as a Dance Hall for the Palacio del Buen Retiro, but throughout time, it has experienced various improvements and different uses. In the 80s, it was the home of Picasso's Guernica and other of his sketches. Currently, it shelters a 19th C. Spanish painting collection belonging to the museum, although it is temporarily closed for improvements. Opposite the Cason del Buen Retiro, we find a gate to the Parque del Retiro, where we find two relevant works of art: first, the Estatua al Angel Caida (Statue of the Fallen Angel), presumed the only one in the world dedicated exclusively to the devil; there is also an important example of a 19th. Classical structure, the Palacio de Cristal. It was made to house the 1887 Philippines Exposition. Currently, after its renovation, it is home to artistic and cultural displays.

Bolsa de Madrid

Leaving el Retiro once again and going down Antonio Maura Street, we get to the Plaza de la Lealtad. In this square we find the Bolsa de Madrid (Madrid Stock Exchange), built toward the end of the 19th C. by Enrique Maria Repulles.

In this way, we see that we have made a full circle and are back where we started. The order of the route, naturally can be suited to the taste of each person. To see Madrid's most modern examples, the best thing to do would be to take a bus, which also would serve to see other buildings of this time. Number 27 serves us perfectly for this route.

On our trip, we arrive to Cibeles and continue down Recoletos. Past the Palacio de Linares and before arriving to Plaza de Colon, we see the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) on the right hand side, a great example of Neoclassical architecture. Further on, we will see the outdoor museum of sculpture, located below the Eduardo Dato Bridge. Afterwards, we will pass in front of the Museum of Natural Sciences, just before arriving at our destination, which would be the next plaza down. We will stop in the Plaza de Lima, where the Santiago Bernabeu Football Stadium is located. You can't miss it. On the other side of the street, we find the Exposition Palace, whose façade was decorated by Miro. In front of this, you see the AZCA complex. Here we can find the city's skyscrapers: Torre Europa, Torre Picasso, and the BBV building.

The famous Puerta de Europa is in the Plaza de Castilla. If we do not want to have to go all the way there, we can go up the AZCA in the Castellana. From this spot, and even from quite a bit farther, you can see the inclined KIO towers that make up the Puerta de Europa.

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