Following our self-guided walks in Madrid’s old town which is called ‘casco antigua’ around Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Santa Ana, this time we are at the opposite side of Gran Via.
Starting from the street in front of the Gran Via metro station, Calle Hortaleza, we go to the neighbourhood of Chueca. This was a bohemian neighbourhood known with its gay community once, but as the streets are turned into pedestrian shopping attractions it also lost a bit of its hippie atmosphere. It is always lively though. Taking the street on the right we go down and come to the second parallel street Calle Barbieri where we head to the San Anton Market. Like the Municipal Market next to the Plaza Mayor this one is also both a market and a place where couple of restaurants serve tapas kind of food; people come here both to buy and eat food. A very Spanish experience.
We go out and continue walking, we arrive at Calle del Barquilla and turn right, pass through the King’s Square, the Plaza del Rey. On our left is the Cervantes Institution, with one façade on the street, the other one on the avenue, Gran Via; the elegant neo-classical building is the Head Office of the several Cervantes Institutions in the world founded to spread throughout the world the Spanish culture and language. We cross the Gran Via, look at the famous Metropolis building on our right that stands at the crossroads of two main avenues Alcala and Gran Via, cross again the wide avenue and arrive at the Circle of Fine Arts, a cultural institution with exhibition halls, book store, restaurant and a terrace at the top that you need to pay a fee if you would like to watch Madrid from the top (another terrace is situated down at the Communications Palace) in front of the Cibeles Square.
We prefer to take the narrow street Calle del Marques de Cuba instead of going down and walking on the Prado Avenue to enjoy the air of the old town more. Narrow streets lead to little squares, little squares open up again to narrow streets, the brown old buildings with iron window façades give a certain perspective that you don’t find in big metropoles. We pass the Plaza de las Cortes Square, and then the Plaza de Jesus Square, most of the taverns, cafés, restaurants are closed as it is afternoon, and waiting to reopen at about seven p.m. We come to the big avenue Atocha and cross it and then go inside again to old town until we walk to the Museum of Reina Sofia, one of the principal venues for modern art, famous with Picasso’s Guernica in its collection. Closed on Tuesdays. The Crystal Palace inside the Retiro Park is a branch of the museum with modern art installations can be visited free of charge. Down on the Prado Avenue we see the main entrance of the Atocha Train Station.