It’s a very stylish contemporary 4-star hotel in the center of Madrid, next to the tranquil Retiro Gardens. Some of the best museums (Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza) are a short walk away, and the area is very fascinating and lively. It is very moderately priced for the quality and location.
c/Antonio Maura, 5
An arch marking one of the main points of entry into Madrid from the western parts of Spain decorated with motifs and topped with regal statues. It is just as impressive as the Puerta de Toledo.
Nearest metro station: Príncipe Pío
Exit the metro station onto Cuesta San Vicente and the arch is on the roundabout in front of Príncipe Pío train station.
Google map: bit.ly/SPctPX
This street really reveals the hidden cafes and restaurants favoured by Madrileños such as La Brocense which is on this street.
Do not miss the 16th century pharmacy on the corner of calle Lope de Vega and calle León. On the outside of the pharmacy there are azulejo tiles and inside at the back of the shop as you go into it is an old till from when the pharmacy originally opened. On calle Lope de Vega itself there is also the convento San Ildefonso (which can be easily missed as it does not stand out from the buildings around it) where Miguel Cervantes is buried (the convent is not open to the public but a plaque on the outside of the building telling us that Cervantes is buried here is what you need to look for). Do not be fooled into thinking that this street is where Lope de Vega lived. The house where he actually lived is preserved as a museum and can be found on the next street on the right called calle Cervantes. Calle Lope de Vega is also a short cut to the Prado museum from Antón Martín metro station. If you follow calle Lope de Vega to is end it will bring you onto the paseo de Prado and the Prado museum is in front of you across the boulevard.
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Exit Antón Martín metro station and turn left onto calle Atocha. Cross calle Atocha and take the next street on your right. This is calle León. Go up calle León
and take the third street on the right which is calle Lope de Vega (you will see the pharmacy on your right hand side on the corner of calle Lope de Vega)
Calle de Lope de Vega, 30, 28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 914 29 00 99
Google map: bit.ly/UCdgcY
This atmospheric town house is the former home of Spain's foremost "Golden Age" playwright - Lope de Vega who lived here for 25 years. A 17th-century gem with delightful gardens at the back, it's well worth the visit. Entry is free.
Calle de Cervantes 11, 28014, Madrid
+34 914 29 92 16
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Google map: bit.ly/SjC5bB
A quieter and more peaceful version of the nearby Puerta del Sol. The cafes and restaurants around the square can get busy during the evening with locals popping in and having meals after seeing a play at the Teatro Español which is on the square. However the cafes and restaurants here are much cheaper than in the pricier Plaza Mayor. Just keep your wits about you at night and an eye on your wallet/purse as thieves do operate in this square and the surrounding streets as police do not patrol this area.
Nearest metro station: Sol
Plaza de Santa Ana is a 15 min walk from the Puerta del Sol and is best approached from calle Principe off Carrera de San Jerónimo
Google map: bit.ly/VBwr4A
This park is in my opinion better than the
El Retiro park in central Madrid. It is more geared towards children and families. Children will love it as there is lots to discover such as ... I am not going to tell you. Go to the park, ignore the plan of the park, lose yourself and discover the many buildings within it for yourself.
I assure you that around every corner you will discover something new. It will feel like you are nowhere near Madrid at all (El Capricho park is in fact right on the very edge of the Madrid) as it is small and showy with colourful roses and sunflowers all year round. The sun brings out the autumnal colours. Take food and drink with you though as unlike El Retiro park there are no food or drink shops within the park itself. Although there is a free tap providing free drinking water within the grounds near El Capricho palace. My favourite spot to stop and sit was on the seat by the artificial lake opposite the waterfall on the manmade island in the middle of the lake. Sadly this park which was previously unknown to many tourists and Madrileños has been discovered and is now very popular and can be busy which is why they have a daily limit of 1,000 people in the park at any one time. This has spoiled the serenity of the park somewhat but there are still some secluded spots left within the park to escape the crowds which is good. If you are lucky like I was you will be treated to some free dancing and acting outside the dance hall in the park (usually between 12.00am and 13.00pm). Entry is free but the park is only open Saturday and Sundays from 9.00am to 21.00pm.
Calle de la Galera, 0, 28042 Madrid, Spain
+34 917 42 97 87
Nearest metro station: El Capricho
The long 45 - 60 min metro journey from central Madrid is worth it I promise you!
Exit El Capricho metro station (there is only one exit) and follow the brown signs which say Parque El Capricho which will lead you across scrubland and past some flats to the park entrance on the opposite side of the zebra crossing.
Google map: bit.ly/TpdqoR
If money is tight and you cannot afford to eat out than Lidl on the Plaza Tirso de Molina is cheap and not much different to Lidl in the UK or anywhere else in Europe as the produce offered is cheap, similar to what you get at a Lidl in the UK and you know what you are getting for your euros. If you have a rucksack ensure that you have a one euro coin with you so you can put your rucksack in the lockers beside the store entrance. But the security guards did not stop me for having a small backpack on my back when I went in on three separate occasions but it is better not to take the chance.
Plaza Tirso de Molina 16, Madrid
Google map: bit.ly/UsEQFh
This street is quiet compared to the bustling Gran Vía barely a block behind it and it has some pretty coloured houses with flowered balconies. Close to the end of the street you will find a calm and shady plaza next to the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The fact that it now houses council and government offices belies the ghost story associated with this building.
It is said that every night the ghost of Elena shows herself on the roof between the seven chimneys. Her sad and extremely tragic plight is this: the mansion was built by a huntsman in the court of king Carlos V for his daughter Elena. More importantly, rumour had it that Elena was actually the mistress of the son of Carlos V - Felipe (who went on to become King Felipe II) and that it was on Felipe's orders that the mansion was built. In any case soon after the completion of the mansion Elena married an army captain. Sadly not long after their marriage Elena's husband died in the line of duty and Elena herself died of a broken heart. Yet just before she died Elena gave birth to a girl. Nobody knows what happened to the baby. The house servants firmly believed that Elena had been murdered because of her illicit and compromising relationship with Felipe. Unfortunately it could not be proved if Elena was murdered or not as her body disappeared from the house shortly after her death. Elena's father was detained and questioned by the police but he was released only to hang himself from one of the rafters of the house where Elena and her husband had lived. Then a few months later a farmer returning home saw a ghostly pale figure shuffling to and fro between the chimneys on the roof of the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The figure pointed towards the royal palace where king Felipe II resided thus condemning the king for having had her murdered and her body hidden thus denying her a proper burial. Some believe this ghostly figure to be Elena herself or the girl she gave birth to wandering alone on the roof with no parents to take care of her. Years later workmen did find a human skeleton under the basement of the house. To add more mystery the skeleton was proven to be that of a female and was buried with 16th century coins with the image of Felipe II on them!
Nearest metro station: Gran Vía
Exit Gran Via metro station onto Gran Vía
itself. Using the zebra crossing cross
Gran Vía and go up calle Fuencarral (immediately opposite Gran Vía metro station). Take the first right onto calle Infantas and on the left hand side of the street just before you just get to the plaza at the end of the street you will see the casa de las siete chímineas.
Plaza del Rey, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/NOlOL8
Everybody notices the statue of Felipe III on his horse in the centre of the Plaza Mayor. But take a closer look at the horse and you will notice that it's mouth has been soldered closed. There is a sad story behind the reason for this. In 1931 a bomb was thrown into the horse's mouth thus busting open its belly. To surprise of everybody tiny bird bones filled the air. Before this happened nobody realised that sparrows had flown into the horses mouth and down its neck in search of food or shelter. Because their wings are too big to enable them to fly back up out of the statue they panicked and were unable to fly out of the horse; and so it was that they became trapped inside it and they slowly died inside the statue. To avoid any more birds being trapped inside the statue and facing a slow and painful death the horse's mouth was soldered shut shortly after this discovery. Another story of the hidden Madrid which tourists do not see.
Nearest metro station: Sol
This street is rarely visited by tourists and the dark bloody history behind this street's name would probably deter them from wandering down this street anyway as in English it is translated as Head Street. Look up and you will notice the street's name written on a plaque showing the heads of a man and a ram together with a dagger - this gives a clue to the history behind the street name. The story behind the street's name goes like this: on this street there was a house in which a wealthy priest lived. His Portuguese servant was very jealous of his wealth so one night he murdered the priest and cut off his head. Leaving the priest's body and head in the house he seized the priest's gold and fled to Lisbon. Years after the murder the servant returned to Madrid in the guise of a prosperous gentleman. One morning he was walking through Madrid's El Rastro market and he decided to buy a rams head for dinner. Putting the ram's head under his cape he made for home. However during his journey home a watchman noticed blood dripping onto the pavement from the beneath his cape. The suspicious watchman approached him demanding to know what was under the cape. The former servant replied that it was only a ram's head, despite this though the watchman was not satisfied so he demanded that the former servant open his cape which he did. To the complete astonishment of the former servant what was revealed was the severed head of the priest who he had murdered many years ago. The watchman promptly led the former servant to jail. At his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Once the execution had taken place the head reverted to being that of a ram. This story is part of the hidden Madrid which tourists do not see. Please avoid this street at night though as it is a dangerous part of Madrid due to drug dealers and thieves which use this street and nearby calle Lavapiés as their hunting ground and police do not patrol this area.
Nearest metro stop: Tirso de Molina
Exit Tirso de Molina metro station onto plaza Tirso de Molina and cross it until you see calle Magdalena (the first street leading off the east side of the square), then turn right onto calle Lavapiés and calle de la cabeza is at the crossroads in front of you.
Google map: bit.ly/VBC9Ud
The square of the Irish - named after the Irish pub in the square and St Patricks college (or Irish College) which backs on the square. During the afternoon it is completely quiet and practically deserted.
Google map: bit.ly/Tusf9y
This is just one of many of the departments of the university of Alcalá. It has its own tower and baroque façade which is quite impressive and worthy of a photo. It is similar in style to the faculty on plaza San Diego.
On the south side of Plaza Cervantes opposite the Santa María tower.
Google map: bit.ly/UCkmyh
The town hall of Alcalá de Henares is almost eclipsed by the tower of the former Santa María church and the statue of Miguel Cervantes in the square named after him but it is worth a look over. It is topped by a clock which is never wrong.
Plaza de Cervantes
Like me you will almost go past this building as you head from the train station in Alcalá de Henares to the city centre and not give it a second thought. But just walk slowly from the train station (on the left hand side of paseo de la estación) and the Moorish towers and windows will catch your attention (as they did mine) and beg to be photographed. Inside the building there is a Cistercian museum.
Paseo de la Estación, nº 10, 28801 Alcalá de Henares (Madrid)
Google map: bit.ly/NOoisJ
The archbishop's palace is a wonderful blend of Gothic, Baroque and Moorish building styles and reflects the Christan/Jewish/Arab communities to which Alcalá was (and still is) home to. You wouldn't know the famous event which happened here just to look at it from the outside.
Plaza del Palacio, 28802 Alcalá de Henares, Spain
+34 918 88 25 00
Google map: bit.ly/TuwlP8
The old city walls of the city of Alcalá and the space within it provides a wonderful setting and glimpse into what medieval Alcalá was like and children will love its feel. The Puerta de Madrid and the Puerta de Burgos are the best preserved gates into this walled enclosure.
Alcalá is lucky enough to have the only Gothic cathedral within the province of Madrid (Toledo does not count as it is in Castilla La Mancha). It really is a stunning cathedral with high columns and quaint side chapels. You can climb up to the top of the tower with a guide for two euros 50 cents. I don't know what the view from the top of the tower is like as I did not go up the tower. Entry is free.
This square has the glorious backdrop of the world renowned façade of the famous university of Alcalá. The square is spacious and is a good place to get your bearings before you head into the centre of Alcalá from here.
Google map: bit.ly/OZWCNG
This house is where Miguel Cervantes was born. The rooms are beautifully preserved in their original condition with some information given about their use. Entry is free but remember not to take photos in any of the rooms of the house. Photos can only be taken in the open courtyard of the house.
Calle Mayor 48, 28801, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid Spain
+34 918 89 96 54
Google map: bit.ly/PCSEgl
Plaza Cervantes is the beating heart of
Alcalá. The statue of Miguel Cervantes looks on as concerts sometimes occur in the bandstand in the square. Neatly tended flowers provide a lovely background to sit under the shady trees and people watch.
Google map: bit.ly/S0XD92
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