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Madrid Travel Guide

Gran Vía

Gran Vía (56), one of the main arteries in Madrid, was conceived at the turn of the century and finished in 1952 when the last building site was occupied. An assortment of structures with ornate façades, large cornices, colonnades and balconies dominate the Eastern end. Rising imposingly at the interjection of the Gran Vía and Calle Alcalá, where we begin our tour, we find the Metrópolis Building. Farther down on the right side of the street, we see the Museo Chicote (Chicote Museum), a charming little bar-museum; meeting place of artists and bullfighters of yesteryear. On parallel street of Caballero de Gracia (accessed through Calle Clavel or the Plaza Red de San Luis), we find the Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia (57), (Oratory of Caballero de Gracia), built at the end of the 18th century, a living example of the elegant Neoclassical style by Juan de Villanueva. In the lovely interior, the paintings on the vault need a special mention.

Gothic Quarter
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On the Gran Vía, near the Plaza Red de San Luis, we find the headquarters of the Telefónica (58) (Spain's National Telephone Co.), the first skyscraper in Madrid built in 1929 by the North American architect Weeks. A little farther along, we come to the Plaza de Callao, usually bustling with pedestrians and cars and surrounded by cinemas and department stores and shops. Opposite the Plaza, we see the Palacio de la Prensa, which was built in 1928 under the architectural influence of the Chicago School. A little farther on the left, we find the Carrión Building, site of the Capitol cinema, built between 1931 and 1934 following the German School of Mendelsohn. It is a good example of 1930's architecture. Our walk continues downhill between structures which blend both European and American trends with traditional architecture.

Separating the Gran Vía from the Calle Princesa is the huge Plaza de España, noted for two exceptional buildings of the 1950's: the Edificio España and the Torre de Madrid, both from projects designed by the Otamendi brothers.

On the side street of Calle San Leonardo by the Edificio España, we find the Iglesia de San Marcos (59) (Church of St. Mark's), the work of Ventura Rodríguez, finished in 1753 and declared a national monument in 1944. It is one of the most beautiful structures of the Madrid Baroque. Taking a short detour from the Calle Princesa at Calle Ventura Rodríguez number 17, is the Museo Cerralbo (60) (Cerralbo Museum), a stately 19th century mansion which contains noteworthy furniture and art treasures. Retracing our steps to the Calle Princesa, we find at number 20 the Palacio de Liria (61) (Palace of Liria), palace residence of the Duchess of Alba. It was completed by Ventura Rodríguez in 1780. Backing up to the rear part of the palace on the Calle Conde Duque, we find the Cuartel de Conde Duque(62) built with the design of Pedro Ribera in 1720. This Baroque structure now houses municipal offices, including exhibition halls, and libraries. During the summer, the courtyard is the site of concerts and evening events.

Metro: Banco de España and Gran Vía

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