Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Celebrate the Gran Via Centenary
If you happen to travel to Madrid and time is not a luxury for you, then the best place for you to stay is a cozy hotel in the most prominent street in all of Madrid, Gran Via. And if you’ve already made arrangements of going there this year, you’re lucky because Gran Via is celebrating its 100 years anniversary.
The Madrid Tourist Board has included the celebration of the Gran Via in its guided tours program, which also provides decent background information on buildings and sites within the Gran Via. The most recent celebration Madrid for the renowned destination was held on April 11 at the Plaza del Callao. The feast was a special treat prepared by the City of Madrid, as well as the the Friends of Gran Vía and the Association of Shopkeepers of Calles Preciados, Carmen, Arenal and adjoining streets (APRECA). The city dedicated a cake filled with a hundred candles commemorating the street’s birthday celebration.
Your temporary residence
A great place to stay in Gran Via is at the Emperador Hotel Madrid, situated right in the middle between Plaza de España and Plaza del Callao. Guests can view premier sights of Madrid such as the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral from its roof deck swimming pool. From here, you also have a better look at the winged ornaments on the apexes of nearby buildings. These figures, symbolizing victory, are used not just in the buildings along Gran Via, but throughout Madrid as well.
But regardless of your choice of hotel, the beauty of staying in the Gran Via is that everything else is simply a short walk away. For such a grand street, street traffic is very light, which makes going around a lot more pleasurable.
Now, after 100 years of constant change, there are literally hundreds of places to go, things to do, food to delight on, clothes to try out, performances to catch, and movie premieres to watch. However, one should try not to be so overwhelmed with Gran Via as to miss out a few of the essential stops.
How to enjoy Gran Via
There are many approaches to experiencing the city. The techie way of doing so is going online and preparing an itinerary of sorts as to where to go during the trip. Another way is to simply wing it and ask locals for directions.
The best way to start your small voyage into Gran Via is to begin at the historical Plaza de España and work your way through the many destinations along the way. By the time you reach Calle de Alcala, you can choose whether to go to Paseo de Recoletos, Paseo Del Prado next, or continue through Calle de Alcala.
The people in Madrid are easy going and delightful. And the people in Gran Via are no different. Because of the year-long festivities, people in this area of the city are more than happy to point you to their preferred destinations. A delightful conversation might even ensue if you happen to talk about the right kind of wine, or a beautiful place to go to at night. Many secrets abound that only locals might know, like how Museo Chicote used to be Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail bar during his stay in the 1930s, or that the Telefonica Building was Madrid’s first Sky Scraper. It’s always such a pleasure to learn things from residents rather than tour guide pamphlets.
Basking in culture
Like most guests, tourists go to Madrid for the culture more than anything else. Culture, arts, and entertainment are interwoven into Gran Via much like musicality within most Spanish poems. This grand street reflects this with a wide showcase of pristine disciplines like architecture, theater, fashion, and music.
The structures along Gran Via are unique examples of classical Spanish architecture. Spanning from centuries of practice, these buildings showcase a combination of modernist, classical, and neo-Mudejar, especially the buildings near the Plaza del Callao portion of Gran Via. Here you can see buildings such as the Edificio de España and the Torre de Madrid. Both 20th century structures, they were the tallest buildings in Madrid decades ago.
One of the most compelling piece of architectural magnificence is the Metropolis Building. It is located at the end of Gran Via, right before Calle de Alcala. With its awe-inspiring apex piece supported by a rotunda of Corinthian columns, Metropolis towers above Gran Via and the rest of the structures nearby.
With all that looking up at the intricate designs of the buildings, one would surely work up an appetite. Surely guests don’t want to waste the experience on simply dining in the hotel where they checked in. One must go out and give his or her taste buds a vacation as well.
Theaters in the Plaza del Callao showcase some western broadways like Chicago from time to time, but are also homes to local production. Like the many dining destinations along Gran Via, guests will also experience a unique entrée for the mind and soul.
With a steady budget of Euros70, guests can enjoy the great tasting and authentic cuisines like Paella Valenciana, as well as other meals cooked with their own unique Spanish twist. A great place to dine is the famous Torres Bermajes. It’s known widely for its Sirloin steaks, as well as its Paella Valenciana and grilled food like entrecote, lamb chops, and salmon. Torre Berjames is also known for its incredible Flamenco shows
And if Flamenco isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps the beats of Arena will suite you well. A multi-purpose venue, Arena is known for holding big events like movie premiers, large-scale parties, and concerts. Just think of Space Ibiza when you’re thinking how big the parties they throw are here.
And lastly, for the fashion seekers, there are several shops and boutiques that feature both international brands, as well as locally-made items. Salvador Bachiller is probably one of the most famous brands when it comes to bags, and its roots come from its store in Gran Via. Salvador Bachiller is known both the quality and exclusivity of their leather handbags, footwear, and suitcases. Other brands like Springfield, H&M, and Zara also have shops along Gran Via.
So whether you’re in Madrid for a week of just a few days, you simply must dedicate a day or two to get to know and celebrate Gran Via’s 100th year. It’s not just a tourist destination, or some road that connects one part of Madrid to another. It’s a masterpiece carved with 100 years of change, thousands of dedicated people, and the sum of Spanish culture.
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