top ten sights around old Madrid [Los Asturias, Sol, & Centro]

3:49 PM

Actually these are MY top ten sights around old Madrid – areas of Los Asturias, Sol, and Centro. If you only have a very limited time to see the Spanish capital (boo hoo!), do try to see these ten. They’re all so close to each other that you can go by foot and be done in two to three hours. 
 
      1. Plaza de Oriente
The plaza is really an arc of greenery between the Palacio Real and the Teatro Real. When the sun gets a bit too hot, go ahead and dip your toes into the fountain. Some of the tourists do. Not so sure about the locals, though. 

In the center stands the statue of  King Felipe IV on a horse and on his right is the Teatro Real, Madrid's Opera House
Some of the 20 marble statues of mostly ancient monarchs that stand in the periphery of the plaza.

2. Palacio Real
The Palacio has been the seat of the Spanish royal (not to mention, imperial) power for the last couple of centuries. When you purchase a ticket, you get to see 50 of its 2800 rooms. But don’t strain your neck hoping to get a glimpse of the present king. King Juan Carlos I doesn’t live there, he preferred to live in a more modest abode.

The facade of  Palacio Real drenched in afternoon sunlight.

3. Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena
In true Hispanic fashion, the church (in this case Madrid’s cathedral) stands right across the political seat of power. Some say that it lacks the grandiose of other European churches but the Almudena’s interesting pop art-ish ceiling should make up for that. 

The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena from across the Palacio Real
Look up. it's quite colorful!

The stellar ceiling of the cathedral is really pretty.

4. Plaza de Villa
A slight climb from the cathedral or a few steps beyond Plaza Mayor is Plaza de Villa [town square]. The three buildings - Torre de los Lujanes, Casa de Cisneros, and Casa de la Villa are some of the finest examples of Madrid baroque architecture. When I was there, all I could say to myself was Am I still in Madrid? Being at that plaza, it sure didn’t feel like it. 

(from left) A bit of Torre de los Lujanes, Casa de Cisneros, and Casa de la Villa

5. Plaza Mayor
Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is considered to be one of Spain’s grandest and most beautiful plazas. Well, why wouldn’t it be? In contrast to Plaza de Villa, there is a certain uniformity amongst the buildings that make up Plaza Mayor's four sides. While you’re there, enjoy a cup of coffee and admire the frescoes on the north side.  It's actually relatively new; painted by artist Carlos Franco in 1992.

On the horse is  King Felipe III, the one who ordered the construction of the plaza

The plaza features uniformly ochre apartments.

6. Plaza de la Puerta del Sol
The Gate of the Sun is the official center point (or point zero) of Spain. Stand right in the center and it would feel like the whole of Madrid is rushing past. The plaza radiates to several streets where shops like Zara, H&M , Mango and Department Store El Corte Inglés stand.

Casa de Correos at Sol. right outside is a plaque that marks the spot as Spain's kilometre zero. 

Sol's ultra-sleek modern metro station; stark contrast to the old surrounding architecture.

7. Iglesia de San Gines
This church along Calle del Arenal, one of the pedestrianized streets radiating from Puerta del Sol, is one of the longest-standing relics of Christian Madrid. But unlike its “younger” cousins, this church doesn’t have much windows taking advantage of the abundant sunlight. (or I just didn’t notice any.)

A mass being celebrated at the main altar of the church
8. Chocolateria San Gines
Just behind the church is this bar-café famous for its churros y chocolate. Sit down and enjoy some.

The churros y chocolate here are said to be the ideal Madrid hangover cure.

9. Gran Via
This “Great Road” features fine examples of early 20th century architecture, most of which houses stores that would get any shopaholic’s heart racing. By the way, I fell in love with Lefties (i.e. leftovers), a discount outlet for Zara and other shops belonging to the same group. 

Sunset along the grand via with Katsy.
A rare sight: a traffic-free gran via

The topmost part of Edificio Telefónica.

The apartment building right across mcdonald's. (sorry. i don't know it's name.)

10. Plaza de España
Located at the end of Grand Via, Plaza de España is one of Madrid’s largest and most popular squares. Look up and you’ll find yourself gazing at two of the city’s famous structures - the Edificio de España and the Torre de Madrid.

The Edificio de España (behind) lords over the monument to Miguel de Cervantes and his two creations - Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. photo from fotosdemadrid.es

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