Teatro Real, Puerta del Sol y Puerta de Alcalá
Our tour begins at the Teatro Real (17) built by Queen Isabel II and remodeled and inaugurated in 1997 as the opera house. Nearby is the Plaza de la Encarnación, which is linked to the Plaza de Oriente, where the 17th century Monasterio de la Encarnación (18) (Monastery of the Incarnation) is found. This admirable old convent houses a collection of relics. You can visit the former enclosure which now houses a museum with interesting works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Down the Calle de la Encarnación to the right of the church, we reach the Plaza de la Marina Española, where we find the Palacio del Senado (19) (Senate Palace), built at the end of the 16th century for a community of Agustinian friars and recently remodeled. It is now the seat of the Spanish Senate. To the left and adjoining the Senate building is the Palacio del Marqués de Grimaldi (20), (Palace of the Marquis Grimaldi), the work of Sabatini in 1776. On the Calle Torija, we find the Convento de las Reparadoras (21) (Covent of the Reparadoras), designed by Ventura Rodriguez in 1782 with the purpose of installing the Court of the Inquisition; the church dates from the 19th century.
From here we continue along the Calle Torija until the Plaza de Santo Domingo. Then take the Calle Veneras where the author Rubén Darío lived. Proceed on the Calle de Trujillos and turn left at the Travesía de Trujillos which runs into the Plaza de las Descalzas, where we find the 16th century Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (22) (Monastery of the Royal Barefoot Franciscans). It was the former home for women of Royal Families who upon entering the nunnery brought with them valuable dowries in works of art, which have formed the collection that we can now admire.
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The Puerta del Sol (23) (Sun Gateway) was once a 15th century defensive bulwark, part of a wall which enclosed the town of Madrid protecting it against the populated outkirts. The former Casa de Correos (24) (Post Office) was built in 1768 under the direction of French architect Marquet. It is crowned with a tower with a clock on its four sides; the most famous timepiece in Madrid. At the stroke of midnight on December 31st, the madrileños (the inhabitants of Madrid) usher in the New Year to the its chimes. On the ground in front of the building, there is a marker indicating Kilometer zero from which all the country's road distances are measured and all Spanish roads radiate from here as well as the numbers of the streets. Three historical statues adorn the plaza: Venus, a replica of an original in the Museo Municipal (Municipal Museum) called "La Mariblanca"; another called the Oso y el Madroño (bear and berry tree) made of stone and bronze in 1967 and which displays the badge of the city and the third one King Carlos III.
On the left at number 3 on the Calle Alcalá, we find the Ministerio de Hacienda (25) (Ministry of Finance), a former Customs House and good example of Baroque classicism, designed by Sabatini with a doorway by Pedro Ribera. At number 12 we find the head office of the Banco Español de Crédito (Spanish Credit Bank), built in 1882-1891 according to a project designed by José Grases. The Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (26) (Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) is located at number 13. This building was designed by José Benito de Churriguera in 1775, built as a palace for the Goyeneche family by Diego de Villanueva and remodeled by Chueca Goitia in 1974. Its priceless art gallery houses include 16th and 17th century works by the Spanish School.
The Iglesia de las Calatravas (27) (Church of the Calatravas) is found at number 25. It is a Baroque temple remodeled in the 19th century by Juan Madrozo, who incorporated some Neorenaissance elements. Its Baroque dome and high altarpiece warrant a visit. The Iglesia de San José (28) (St. Joseph's Church) at number 43 was built between 1730 and 1742 by Pedro Ribera. Before we reach the Plaza de Cibeles, we find the Círculo de Bellas Artes (29) (Fine Arts Circle) built in 1926 by Antonio Palacios and currently site of one of the most dynamic institutions in the cultural life of the city.
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