Last year this landmark street celebrated its 100th birthday. It is the main commercial artery of the city centers busy shopping district. With its wide boulevards and impressive variety of 20th century architecture, this great street allows you to experience the city's exciting atmosphere.
The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales
www.patrimonionacional.es or Monastery of Barefoot Royals is a historic convent of Franciscan nuns which dates from the 16th century. The nuns keep an amazing collection of 15th- to 19th-century religious art, including paintings by Rubens and Titian. The interior is beautifully decorated and includes a grand staircase, royal balcony, Hall of Kings and a Choir room.
Opening hours are; Tue-Thurs and Sat 10.30 am-12.45pm and 4pm-5.45pm, Fri; 11am-1.45pm, Sun; closed
Admission is 4 euros 80 cent and includes a tour. On Wednesdays entry is free for E.U citizens.
The Bear Statue
This emblem of Madrid has changed throughout the ages. First just a crown, they decided to change the crest to a bear grazing on all fours as a symbol of fertility of what was once agricultural land. Not many people know it is a female bear standing against a Madrono or berry tree. The flora was added when the clergy and council began to wonder who actually owned the forests; the crown intervened and declared them property of the council who cheekily changed the emblem to include their acquisition.
Eat and Drink
Founded in 1839, first as French pastry shop then exclusive restaurant with old world charm, and great croquettes. Make your way to the dining rooms upstairs where famous and royalty have dined, admire the Japanese room salon japones built during craze for everything oriental at end of 19th century. This restaurant was opened by a French pastry chef and has stayed in the family ever since. One story goes that a con artist decided to try his luck one cold Christmas in 1933 when he was locked up in the clink. He writes a letter to L'Hardys restaurant requesting two five course meals to the prison on Christmas Eve and signs as a famous banker, a few days later said banker received the bill for the meal he never ate. The culprit was put into solitary confinement but probably spent the time reminiscing over his delicious feast!
El Pozo bakery
This is the oldest bakery in town and it shows. Its antique wooden paneled exterior and delicately engraved glass and mirrors inside allow us to imagine the clientele queuing up on its opening day in 1830. Originally known as the oven of well (Pozo) street, the street name stuck. What have not changed though are the specialties of flaky puff pastry and pies, they must be doing something right for locals to come back for over 170 years.
Vegetarian and 100% free trade, this combined cafe/shop is a breath of conscientious air in the busy shopping district of Callao. Downstairs you will find the bathrooms and also a basement workshop space with any number of yoga or urban plant cultivating classes taking root under your feet. Upstairs enjoy coffee, salads and great deserts with the comfort of knowing that someone somewhere got a fair deal in their making.
Seafood el Cucurucho del mar
Seafood in Madrid you say? How do they get it fresh all the way from the coast, well that I cant say but to add to the mystery here is a quality restaurant that manages to source fresh fish and keep its prices reasonable in the very heart of Madrids commercial and tourist centre. Now that is a mystery.
Chocolateria San Gines
You may have noticed people dipping doughnut like pastries into thick melted chocolate. No, it is not a hallucination, these calorific treats can be found in abundance and the best place is this chocolate shop. What can we say, if you melt chocolate and dip doughnut enough times you get really good at it, hang on just one more sample and it will be perfect.
Film: If the idea of Harry Potter speaking Spanish seems slightly disturbing and downright distracting, you may not want to see the latest flick in the big cinemas. There are however select cinemas which show films as they were intended, known as Original Version version original, they are a haven for native English speakers. Princessa Cinemas
offer this and more, with a great selection of India and impronunciable foreign film, film buffs will find it hard to leave.
Theatre: Taquilla del ultimo minuto
, come on, come all. This ticket desk sells last minute entries to theatre in Madrid. Now you will have no excuse to spend the evening in the bars (not that you really needed one).
is an authentic Turkish bath in the centre of Madrid. The beautiful terracotta rooms offer hot, cold and lukewarm pools, not to mention a relaxing steam sauna. A 90-minute session costs 23euro and if you feel like treating yourself add in an aromatherapy massage for 35euro 50cent.
The mama of music venues near Sol has to be Sala Heineken
, with a capacity of 2000 and bands like The Jayhawks and Joan As Policewoman this venue is about quality and diversity of sound. The prices are great too.
Ok ok, so the time has come to mention Flamenco. Since its become such a tourist activity how about something more private and personal, on Arenal street there is an old fashioned shopping centre during the day that transforms at night into dance and music classes which sometimes put on informal flamenco concerts for an audience of about 10 or 20 people. No-one twirls around in Polka dots (for that try Corral de la Moreria) but you can clap along and get carried away in the dramatic intensity and poetry of the song.
Concerts in Plaza de Espana keep an eye out for free gigs, from reggae with The Wailers to dub step DJ sessions you never know what you will discover. If you are willing to pay you can expect to find names as big as Kylie Minogue who made an appearance during this years Gay Pride Festival.
Apart from a niche film bookstore near Princessa cinemas, this area is filled with chain stores such as Zara, Mango, Bershka (a cheaper and younger Zara), H&M and Benetton.
Opening hours are less Mediterranean than usual; these international stores stay open all day, from 10am till 9pm.
II Castillas Madrid
Intur Palacio San Martin
Sol is the centre of Madrid so transports no problem; the metro http://prs.metromadrid.es/metro/mapametrofull.asp connects Sol to lines 1, 2 and 3. If you are heading to or from the airport take a short cut from Sol by going via fast train Cercanias http://www.renfe.com/viajeros/cercanias/madrid/index.html to Nuevos Ministerios in only 5 minutes, hop directly onto metro line 8 and its only 5 stops to the airport. Gran Via connects with metro lines 1 and 5.