Madrid - Buildings & Monuments

This is merely a glimpse of two of the areas in this fascinating city - with only 4 nights there and a stack of art and eating to get through we didn't range very widely.

First we look at the area we walked in, through and around every day coming and going to the hotel which was on the border of the areas/suburbs/neighbourhoods known as Justicia to the north and Sol to the south. 

Around the Plaza de Cibeles rise four important buildings – the most impressive is the main post office Palacio de Communicaciones, known as “Our Lady of Communications”.  Its appearance – white with high pinnacles – is often likened to a wedding cake.  It was built between 1905 and 1917 on the sight of former gardens.  

On the northeast side of the square is the stone facade of the Palacio de Linares, built by the Marquis de Linares in the late 19th Century.  At one time threatened with demolition it was saved and converted into Casa de America, and displays Latin American art.

In the northwest corner, surrounded by attractive gardens is the heavily guarded Army Headquarters, the former Palacio de Buenvista commissioned by the Duchess of Alba in 1777.  

Occupying an entire block on the opposite corner is the Banco de Espana, constructed in the late 1800s by Adaro y Sainz de la Lastra.  Its design was inspired by the Venetian Renaissance style and houses an important collection of art. The bank is currently undergoing facade restoration and the scaffolding is hung with a screen showing the finished product. 

The bank was one (very small) block from the Hotel Suecia and we saw this screen facade each time we came out of our little  side street onto Calle Alcala and turned right.

When we turned left we were greeted by the scene shown below.

The building on the left of the photos is the Edificio de Metropolis, the most famous and recognisable of the buildings of the 20th Century in Madrid, which stands at the intersection of Calle de Alcala and the Grand Via.  It was built between 1907 and 1911 by the architects, Jules and Raymond Fevrier with a facade that is distinctly Parisian, with Corinthian columns, high-level statuary and tiled dome.  The cupola covered in dark slate with gilded ornaments originally displayed a statue of Phoenix, which was replaced in 1970s by the winged goddess Victoria as you can see in the 'close-up' photo on the right above.

The building immediately to the right, just into the Gran Via is the Edificio Grassy, another landmark  built in 1917.  Though not as elaborate as the Metropolis, it is topped by a small tower and has a distinctive renaissance influence.  The building takes its name from the French watchmaker, Alexander Grassy.  The Grassy company occupies the ground floor where there is a museum containing a collection of clocks from 16 to 19th Century.  

As we walked further on along Calle Alacala, we would come to the beautiful  Banco Espanol de Credito, building pictured below, that stands at the corner of Calle Alacala and Calle Sevilla.  It  was built between 1882 and 1891 and designed by Jose Grases.  As you will see from the following photographs, the Credito, was highly decorated in a manner indicative of the Bourbon period.  

Immediately across Calle Alcala stands the Casino de Madrid, a private club of great beauty, seen below in both day and night shots.

The actual club commenced in 1836 through the initiative of a group of young men.  It was called a Casino - a gentleman’s club not a gambling club. Apparently the name 'casino' was used, instead of a society or club, to distance the group from any political connotation.


After changing location several times the club decided to construct its own building on Calle de Alcala at number 15.  Using a plan that synthesised the proposals of the most famous architects of its time, Luis Esteve signed off on the plans and a member of the Casino, Jose Lopez Sallabery, the best architect of the time in Madrid, oversaw the construction. 

For economic reasons between the years of 1975 and 1986, the Casino fell into disrepair.  A major restoration project returned the Casino to the exquisite decor and furnishings you see today and in 1993 the building was declared a monument of Cultural Interest.

The Frosts are members of the Newcastle Club in Australia which enjoys a reciprocal arrangement with the Casino, and we were most fortunate to be able to gain access to the Casino and enjoy dinner in the members dining room one evening. There is also a 3 Michelin Star restaurant on the top floor but it was (unfortunately for our stomachs, but fortunately for our bank balances) booked out for a private function the evening we had available 

Below you can see the happy gang leaving the Casino.

Now we go to the western outskirts of Madrid in the university area to the Plaza de la Moncloa, near the Oeste Park  where a large triumphal arch, the Arco de la Victoria or Victory arch, by the architect Arregui is situated. 

It looks older than it really is, Dictator Franco had it built in 1956 as a tribute to his Nationalist army who defeated the republicans during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939). The Arco de la Victoria is also known as the Puerta de Moncloa or Moncloa Gate, a name preferred by those who do not want to be reminded of the late dictator.  

The 39m high imposing arch is topped by a statue of a four-horse chariot. Franco used to drive along this route on a regular basis traveling to Madrid's city center from his main residence, the El Pardo Palace.  

This photograph of Franco's arch was taken looking down from the Faro de Moncloa, (light of Moncloa) an observation tower that you can see below.  We took the elevator  to the flying saucer-shaped viewing platform 92 metres above the Plaza del Moncloa.   The Faro was designed by Salvador Arroyo in 1992 to monitor traffic flow and offers panoramic views of Madrid and in the distance to the Guadarrama Mountains.  

The picture below left, with Trisha in the foreground will give you some sense of the scale of this construction, and you can see more of the structure itself on the right.

The picture below shows the view to the Guadarrama Mountains off in the heat haze

The view below shows the top of the Arch in bottom left with the courtyard of  Army Headquarters (or at least one of them) to the right and the Torre Madrid appearing above the Melia Hotel.

The Torre de Madrid appearing above and shown in isolation below (in an image 'borrowed' from ) is 142 metres high and was built in 1957.  

Nicknamed La Jirafe it was the tallest concrete building in the world and the tallest building in Madrid until the Torre Picasso was built in 1989.  

Torre Picasso, seen in the distance in the image below, is 157 metres high, and was completed in 1989.  It is the focal point of the city’s major financial and business district concentrated along the Paseo de la Castellana.  The tower was designed by Yamasaki and Associates who also designed the now destroyed World Trade Center buildings in New York 

Below is a close up of the elegant Torre Picasso and the similarity to the World Trade Centre is a poignant reminder of what once was.


Also visible from our perch above the city we could distinguish two strange, dark sloping shapes.  These were the Torres KIO in the Plazo de Castilla.  They are two sloping towers designed by the architect Phillip Johnson (1996) for the Kuwait Investment Office. They are the world’s first leaning high-rise buildings.  They lean towards each other (at 15 degrees) to suggest a gateway.  The gateway, called Puerto de Europa, symbolises an entrance to Madrid’s business district. The towers have become one of the modern symbols of Madrid.