A Morning Walk Around Old Madrid

Begin the morning at Plaza de la Villa with its handsome 16th- and 17th-century palaces. Take the busy Calle Mayor as far as Calle de Felipe III, then turn into Plaza Mayor . Cross this magnificent square diagonally, leaving by the ancient Calle Toledo, once the main exit south from the city. On the way look out for the Hernanz rope store and other reminders that this was once an artisans’ quarter. Looming on the left is the Baroque Colegiata de San Isidro . Continue to La Latina metro.

Turn and follow Plaza de la Cebada, past the modern covered market. Turn right into Plaza del Humilladero and cross this square to the adjoining Plaza de San Andrés and its huge domed church. Straight ahead is a 16th-century palace, now the Museo de los Origenes Casa de San Isidro . Follow the path round the back of the church into Costanilla de San Andrés, a narrow street which opens onto the historic Plaza de la Paja, a good area for bars and restaurants. On the corner of Calle de Alfonso VI is the Colegio de San IIdefonso whose students chant the results of the Christmas National Lottery in a distinctive singsong.

By now you’ll probably be ready for a well earned lunch. Vegetarians will be tempted by El Estragón (Costanilla de San Andrés 10); another good choice is the Taberna Bilbao next door (No.8).

Best of the Rest

  1. Ateneo de Madrid

    One of Madrid’s great cultural institutions, the Ateneo was founded in 1835 to promote the arts and sciences. The building contains a library of half a million volumes.

    • Calle del Prado 21

    • Visits by appointment only in writing

  2. Colegiata de San Isidro

    This imposing church was built in 1622 by the Jesuits. In 1768 the remains of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro, were interred here.

    • Calle de Toledo 37–9

    • Open for services

    • Free

  3. Palacio de Santa Cruz

    This 17th-century palace has lovely spired towers and interior courtyards. It was originally used as the city prison, but now houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    • Plaza de la Provincia

  4. Teatro Español

    Spain’s National Theatre began as an open courtyard with a wooden platform for a stage. Above the entrance of today’s Neo-Classical building are medallions depicting the country’s best known dramatists.

    • Calle del Príncipe 25

    Teatro Español
  5. Teatro de la Comedia

    The Comedy Theatre stages classical plays, despite its name. The lovely façade dates from 1874; the auditorium was restored in the 1990s.

    • Calle del Príncipe 14

  6. Calle de las Huertas

    The name refers to the orchards that flourished here in the 17th century. Today the street is better known for its nightlife.

  7. Muralla Arabe

    Remains of the medieval defences are best seen from Parque Emir Mohammad I. The original section is 9th-century.

    • Cuesta de la Vega

    Muralla Arabe
  8. Cervecería Alemana

    This popular beer and tapas bar was founded in 1904 and is still going strong .

    • Plaza de Sta Ana 6

    • Closed Tue, Aug

  9. Plaza de Tirso de Molina

    Laid out in the 1840s, this square commemorates the creator of the infamous seducer, Don Juan.

  10. Cine Doré

    The cinematograph was introduced to a Madrid audience from a booth on the site of what is now, fittingly, the cinema house Cine Doré.

    • Calle de Sta Isabel 3

    • Closed Mon

Specialist Shops

  1. Casa Hernanz

    One of a number of intriguing shops on Calle de Toledo, Casa Hernanz specializes in rope, with items such as espa­drilles, baskets, mats and light shades.

    • Calle de Toledo 18

    Casa Hernanz
  2. Tea Shop

    You will find an exquisite selection of teas from around the world in this delightful shop. Be sure to try the aromatic and exotic infusions such as “Andalusian Garden” or “La Siesta”.

    • Calle Mayor 12

  3. Santería la Milagrosa

    Fascinating emporium near Sol, dealing in things spiritual – everything from amulets and birth charts to tarot cards, books on white magic and icons.

    • Calle de Espoz y Mina 5

  4. Biocentro

    Health food shop with a good selection of natural products, mainly food (including vacuum packed 100 per cent vegeburgers) and cosmetics.

    • Calle de Espoz y Mina 3

  5. Casa Mira

    Founded in 1842 by Luis Mira, who knew how to cater for the famous Spanish sweet tooth, this confitería (confectioner) is best known for its turrón (Christmas nougat); also marzipan, chocolate and pestiños (honey coated pastries).

    • Carrera de S Jerónimo 30

  6. La Violeta

    This quaint store, founded more than a century ago, sells its own brand of sugared violets, plus a small range of marrons glacés, pralines and other sweets.

    • Plaza de Canalejas 6

  7. Hermanos Ortíz Sanza

    Just off Plaza Mayor, this philatelist’s dream deals in stamps, albums, catalogues, commemorative issues and magnifying glasses; also medals, coins and old banknotes.

    • Calle de Felipe III 6

  8. Yo-Fútbol

    As the name suggests, this outlet caters for the soccer fan, with a strong bias towards local favourites, Real Madrid. Sells scarves, balls, calendars, clocks and other promotional items.

    • Calle de Toledo 11

  9. Fábrica de Churros

    You’ve seen them in every café but maybe the name escapes you. Churros are the doughnuts madrileños eat for breakfast, often dipping them in a cup of thick hot chocolate.

    • Calle de la Cava Baja 7

  10. Seseña

    Would-be matadors should first make their way here to be kitted out with the traditional Spanish cape. Be warned, however that they don’t come cheap.

    • Calle de la Cruz 23

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