MADRID - THE TOWN

Madrid - Introduction

Madrid is located to the south of the mountains of "Guadarrams" at 2.100 metres above sea level,
and along the sides of the "Manzanares" river. The population of the City is in the region of five million. The climate is relatively cooled by cool mountain breezes during its hot summers . Its palaces, many museums and art galleries provide a feast for modern culture lovers. The city also prides itself on its vibrant range of nightlife.

During recent decades there has been much reconstruction and many of the older parts of the city have inevitably changed their face. The old centre can be assumed to have been the square Puerto del Sol ( Map B ) area which is hard to judge today with its modern buildings. Originally created as a centre by the orders of King Philip III around 1620, this square until the beginning of the 20th Century the Royal Court held many events to entertain the public. From the macabre "autos de fe", the accession to the throne by the Kings, Philip V, Fernand VI, Charles IV, an many other feasts and spectacular bullfights. There are two buildings in the "Plaza de la Villa" dating back to the Middle Ages. One is the "Casa de los Lujanes" and the other is the "Torre de los Lujanes" where it is reputed that King Francis the I of France was held prisoner following the Battle of Pavia. It is recommended that the visitor acquires a guide book for detailed descriptions of the City of which there are many excellent versions available and published in several different languages.

The financial centre is in the western end of the Calle de Alcala ( Map B ). More than 100 banks have their offices in these very costly and pretentious buildings. The Calle Gran Via ( Map B ) is a fine mixture of hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, theatres and nightclubs.

Madrid is a city with a relatively short history in comparison to other capitals in Europe but in it has acquired artistic possessions that justify its place in culture. There are many fine museums amongst which should be especially noted are those devoted to exceptional good art collections, both by Spanish artists and works from Holland and Italy.

Madrid - Description

As there is a section in our site covering Museums the building housing the Prado Museum ( Map F ) is the obvious starting point of a quick tour of the major points of interests to be found in Madrid. Close by is the church of "Los Jerónimos Reales" ( Map F ) originating from the 15th Century but now visually altered by its restoration in the 19th Century. Inside in the Gothic nave the heirs to the Spanish throne have traditionally received their titles of Prince of Asturias. The "Casón del Buen Retiro" and the War Museum, originally parts of the old "Palacio de Buen Retiro"are virtually attached. The building next to this the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. Inside the statue decorated Parque del Retiro is the Madrid Observatory that was built by Juan de Villanueva in 1790.

The Royal Palace fronting gardens named Campo del Moro ( Map A ) is one of Madrid's proudest buildings. It has been rebuilt on the foundations of the old "Alcázar de las Austrias" that was destroyed in 1734 by fire. It is a mixture of an Italian facade and a French architectural style interior. It is built from Guadarrama granite and Colmenar limestone according to the wishes of the then King, Philip V. In 1764 King Carlos III was the first King to occupy the new palace which remains today still decorated in its grandiose royal style. Attached to the palace are Museums housing impressive collection of armour, coaches, and superb tapestries.

By passing down the Calle de Bailén ( Map A ) we encounter the church of "San Francisco el Grande" ( Map D ) that has a dome of architectural note as it is 105 feet in diameter. The church was decorated by Goya, his brother-in-law Bayeu, Maella, and other other popular 18th Century painters of the time and was used as a Royal Pantheon. In the Calle de Princesa ( Map A ) there are two fine buildings designed by Ventura Rodríguez. The first is the "Palacio de Liria" that was built as a residence for the Duke of Alba in 1770, and the second feature is the church of "San Marcos".

The City of Madrid has undergone many alterations in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each decade or historic passing of time has left its mark which is reflected in a mixture of architectural styles. It can be said that for some 100 years prior to the Spanish Civil War the citizens of Madrid tended to live in their reserved accustomed style not effected too much by outside influences. However, since this period and especially during the last fifty years the face of Madrid has changed and it now is very much part of the 21st century. The architecture has changed in its outward appearance and new customs and style have brought much more of an international feel to this proud City.

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