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Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid of the Austrias

We start our tour at the Plaza Mayor (1) (Main Square), which takes its name at the start of the 16th century. Juan de Herrera was commissioned to remodel the old square of Arrabal, but its construction didn't begin until 1617 under the instruction of Juan Gómez de Mora by order of Felipe III.

Inaugurated in 1620, this large rectagular, stonepaved plaza with its ground floor arcades, underwent its last remodelling in 1853 by Juan de Villanueva. Until the last century, the Plaza Mayor was used as a marketplace on weekdays and was the scene of popular events from bullfights to public announcement of sentences during the Inquisition, religious processions, public executions and dance and theater festivals. Beneath the arcades, you can find an assortment of shops that sell fabrics, costume jewelry and souvenirs, along with outdoor cafés, taverns and bakeries. On Sunday mornings a stamp market is held beneath the arches, and during the Christmas holidays numerous stalls offer all types of Christmas decorations for sale.

The most striking building in the Plaza Mayor is the Casa de la Panadería (2) (Bakery house), with its colorful fresco-adorned façade. On the opposite side of the square is the Casa de la Carnicería (3); this former butcher shop now houses Municipal offices. In the center of the Plaza is the equestrian statue of Felipe III by the Italian Juan de Bolonia.

Madrid de los Austrias
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Leaving through the eastern exit of the Plaza Mayor, in the Plaza de la Provincia, we find the Palacio de Santa Cruz (4), current site of the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), an admirable building constructed as seat of the Courts, according to the project by juan Gómez de Mora between 1629-1643.

Returning to the Plaza Mayor, cross the Plaza diagonally and take Calle Ciudad Rodrigo to the Plaza de San Miguel, where the market known as the Mercado de San Miguel (5) can be seen holding its roof with airy iron columns. Now proceed to Calle Mayor until reaching the Plaza de la Villa (6) (Town Square). Here we find the Casa de la Villa designed by juan Gómez de Mora in 1640 to place the Town Council and jail. Entering the calle Sacramento you will find the Casa de Cisneros (7) (Cisnero's house), a reconstruction of the 16th Century Plateresque palace, undertaken at the beginning of the 20th Century. Returning to the Plaza, wee see the mudejar-style (a mixture of Moorish and Christian) Palacio & Torre de Lujanes (8) (Lujan Palace and Tower), built in the 15th Century.

The narrow Calle del Codo takes us to the Plaza del Conde de Miranda where we come upon the Convento de las Carboneras (9) (convent of the Carboneras), built in 1607, which houses a series of interesting paintings. The adjoining back streets make up the framework of what was once a Medieval town sprinkled with convents and palaces. On emerging from the convent, continue down the street to the CAlle San Justo. Here we find the Basilica de San Miguel (10), (St. Michael's Basilica) a Baroque 18th century building designed with an interesting curved façade. To the right of the Basilica is a tiny gated passageway called Pasadizo del Panecillo where we can glimpse the Baroque façade of the Palacio Arzobispal (11) (Archbishop's Palace). Now follow the Calle del Doctor Letamendi to the Calle Segovia, cross over and take Travesía del Nuncio up to Calle Nuncio to the Iglesia de San Pedro el Viejo (12) (Church of the Old St. Peter), built in the 15th century containing a 14th century mudejar tower erected over the minaret of a former mosque. The Calle Principe Anglona will take us to the medieval Plaza de la Paja where we find the Capilla del Obispo (13) (Bishop's Chapel), the only Gothic temple in Madrid. The altarpiece and Plateresque doors are of great artistic value. Go around the right side to the Plaza de Los Carros where we find the Baroque Capilla de San Isidro (14) (Chapel of St. Isidro), and also the Plaza de San Andrés, where is also located the Baroque Iglesia de San Andrés (15) (St. Andrew's Church). The Chapel of St. Isidro is now accessible through the Church. From the Plaza del Humilladero, we take the Calle Cava Bajo, a street where old shops and restaurants evoke all the flavor of Old Madrid. After several minutes, we come to the Plaza de Puerta Cerrada, then walk a long the bustling Calle de Cuchilleros full of tascas (pubs) and mesones (old-style taverns). Soon we see the steps leading up to the archway of Arco de Cuchilleros (16) which take us back to the Plaza Mayor or we can proceed on the Cava de San Miguel, accompained by an array of Mesones, on up to the Calle Ciudad Rodrigo, returning to the Plaza Mayor at our departure point.

Metro: Sol

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