From the Plaza Mayor, using the statue of Felipe II in the center, notice the apartments all around you. These are still occupied and some are even for rent as B and Bs. On Felipe’s left side you will see that the painting is much more elaborate. This was the side where royals would occupy during bull fights long ago when the Plaza was used for that purpose. Of course Felipe wasn’t there.
There are several portals or sally ports out of the Plaza. We have discussed the Arco de Cuchilleros down to the knife makers street to Felipe’s right rear. The exit to the Plaza de San Miguel is to his left rear. On his left there are exits to the Calle Mayor and there are three exits to his front. The one in the left front takes you diagonally to the Calle Mayor and the one on the right front is the Arco de Atocha. We will walk out of that one into Atocha.
This busy city street is wide and bustling and terminates about a mile ahead in a huge intersection with many things of interest. One block in to your right you will find the museum of Reina Sofia where many modern paintings are displayed including Picasso’s Guernica. To your right front is the Atocha train station which can take you anywhere you want to go. It is an impressive building which houses its own botanical gardens. Across the intersection is an imposing building with chariots atop which is the Ministry of Agricultural. And to your left is the Paseo del Prado.
This wide street and park extends north through the city. It was the vision of Charles III, the first Bourbon king who modernized and cleaned up Madrid. He was the urban planner that gave us the Prado Museum and many other features we enjoy today.
Turn left on the Paseo del Prado. As you walk north you will first come to the southern most portion of the Retiro Park. Notice the book sellers booths that line the street. Next in the right you will see the Royal Botanical Garden followed by the Prado Museum. As you continue north you will see the Neptune statue in the intersection. In your left across the intersection is the Thyssen-B. Museum. Another must see while in Madrid. I highly recommend the audio tour as it is an art history class in 90 minutes.
Continuing north on the Paseo the name of the road changes to Recoletos but it’s nature does not. Note the cafes along the center and many park benches to rest. The next major intersection you come to is the Plaza de Cibeles. This is the goddess of agriculture riding in a chariot pulled by lions (of course).
A major busy city intersection it has many iconic buildings that surround it. Facing north you have the Bank of Spain in one corner and the Army headquarters on your left from across from the bank. To your right the imposing building built by Charles III as the Post Office now serves as the City Hall. It is said that when constitution was under way, the public called it “Our Lady of the Mail” as it looked more like a cathedral than a public building.
The major cross street at Cibeles is Alcalá, turn right into Alcalá and head up hill to the Puerta de Alcalá. This road will take you to the town if Alcalá de Henares where another palace sits but we will not walk there. Walk to the top of the hill and you will find the impressive gate in a traffic circle and just to the south of it, the entrance to the Retiro Park.
More if Madrid in Part III