One of Madrid’s most affluent neighbourhoods, Salamanca is named after its founder, José de Salamanca y Mayol (1811–83). The Marquis first saw the commercial possibilities of the area bordering the Retiro in the 1860s and transformed it into a model of urban planning, with grid patterned streets and elegant mansions. The new neighbourhood was an immediate hit with the upper classes who found the central districts stifling and their own antiquated homes lacking in such modcons as flushing toilets and hot running water. Salamanca soon acquired a reputation as a bastion of conservatism and its residents were among the most loyal supporters of the Franco regime. Today the streets around Calle de Serrano, Calle de Goya and Calle de Velázquez form Madrid’s premier shopping district and showcase some of Spain’s leading fashion designers. The prices, though, may leave you breathless – shopaholics take note.

Marqués de Salamanca

Minister of Finance at the age of 34, the Marqués used his position to amass a personal fortune, but his free spending ways landed him in trouble and in 1847 he fled to France to escape his creditors. On his return two years later he launched into property speculation, but his career as a developer was to be his undoing and he died owing more than six million reales


  1. Café Gijón

    The haunt of journalists and leading cultural figures, the Gijón was founded in 1888 and is one of the few surviving tertulia cafés where, traditionally, men gathered to discuss issues of the day. Former patrons include the poet Federico García Lorca, the American film director Orson Welles and – more improbably the famous Dutch spy and bellydancer, Mata Hari. Order tapas and drinks at the bar or book a table for lunch. The windows look out on to Paseo de Recoletos where the café has its own terrace.

    • Paseo de Recoletos 21

  2. Museo Arqueológico Nacional

    The scale of the Archaelogical Museum’s collections can be daunting, so home in on what interests you most. The star turn on the main floor is the Lady of Elche, a stone bust of an Iberian noblewoman from the 4th century BC. Other highlights include a Roman mosaic floor representing the months and seasons, the Recesvinth crown from the Guarrazar treasure (Toledo, 7th-century), an example of Islamic stone-carving from 11th-century Zaragoza, and an ivory processional cross from the church of San Isidoro in León (1063). On the lower floor are Bronze and Iron Age finds from the Canary Islands and a collection of painted amphorae from ancient Greece. Before leaving, take a look at the reproduction of the cave paintings of Altamira is on display in the forecourt . Some parts of the museum will be closed for renovations until 2010.

    • Calle Serrano 13

    • Open 9:30am–8pm Tue–Sat, 9:30am–3pm Sun, hols

    • Closed 1 Jan, 6 Jan, 1 May, 15 May, 24–25 Dec, 31 Dec

    • Free during renovations

  3. Plaza de Colón

    This expansive square, named after Christopher Columbus, commemorates the discovery of the New World. The three monumental slabs near Calle de Serrano were designed by Joaquín Vaquero Turcíos to symbolize the three ships that made the voyage to America in 1492. In the centre of the square is a more conventional sculpture of Columbus, erected in the 19th century. A relief on the base shows Queen Isabel of Castile selling her jewellery to finance his enterprise.

    Plaza de Colón

    Plaza de Colón
  4. Museo Lázaro Galdiano

    José Lázaro Galdiano (1862–1947) was a distinguished patron of the arts and collector whose Italian style palazzo is now a museum showcasing his fabulous possessions. There are Spanish works by El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo, Velázquez and Goya and European paintings by Reynolds, Constable and Gainsborough. There are also spectacular objets d’art .

    • Calle Serrano 122

    • Metro Rubén Darío or Gregorio Marañón

    • Open 10am–4:30pm Wed–Mon

    • Closed public hols

    • Adm (except Wed)

  5. Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre

    Situated beneath a road bridge, the open air sculpture museum is easily overlooked. Nevertheless, exhibited in its windswept precincts are works by a number of outstanding modern Spanish sculptors, including Eduardo Chillída, Julio González, Joan Miró and Pablo Serrano.

    • Paseo de la Castellana

    Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre
  6. Fundación Juan March

    One of Spain’s most vital cultural institutions was founded in 1955 by the banker Juan March Ordinas, to promote contemporary Spanish art. Madrid shares the permanent collection, especially strong on abstract artists of the 1950s such as Tàpies, Sempere, Saura, and Millares, with other branches of the foundation in Cuenca and Palma de Mallorca, but the foundation’s main attraction is its outstanding temporary exhibitions.

    • Castelló 77

    • Open 11am–8pm Mon–Sat, 10am–2pm Sun & public hols

    • Free

    Fundación Juan March
  7. Paseo de Recoletos

    “Paseo” implies a stroll and this lovely avenue, at its best on a sunny morning or just after sunset, was designed precisely for that purpose. The first cafés began to appear in the 19th century when the boulevard was nicknamed “Recoletos beach”. Most of the originals had disappeared by the 1980s when the Movida gave the terraces a new lease of life. The Pabellón de Espejo looks the part with its painted tiles and wrought iron adornments but actually dates from the 1990s. No. 10 was the residence of the Marqués de Salamanca.

  8. Calle de Serrano

    Madrid’s smartest shopping street runs through the heart of the Salamanca district. Here, top Spanish designer names such as Adolfo Domínguez, Purificación García and Roberto Verino, rub shoulders with Armani, Gucci, Yves St-Laurent and Cartier. Even if you’re not especially interested in fashion, there’s plenty to amuse you. Madrid’s best-known department store, El Corte Inglés, has branches at Nos. 47 and 52, Agatha Ruíz de la Prada (No. 27) stocks colourful dresses, while VIPS Viajes (No. 39) specializes in travel books. If you’re looking for gifts visit Papelería Saab (No. 20). For a bite to eat, try Serrano 50 which has a menú del día as well as tapas.

    Calle de Serrano
  9. Calle de Hermosilla

    This side-street off Serrano has everything from cut-glass decanters to beach bags. For designer clothes for children, try Nanos (No. 21). Vista Alegre (No. 29) has an array of Portuguese–made tableware. If you’re off on safari but want to look elegant, Coronel Tapioca (No. 32) fits the bill with backpacks, cord shorts, shirts and hats for the fashion-conscious. Estay is just the spot for lunch. Next door but one is Tea Shop (No. 48), with more than 40 aromatic teas, including rum, toffee, cherry and passion fruit.

  10. Museo Sorolla

    This museum is devoted to the Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923) who spent the last 13 years of his life here. Some rooms have been left as they were in his lifetime, while others are used to hang his work. Dubbed “the Spanish Impressionist”, his subject matter ranges from Spanish folk types to landscapes, but Sorolla is at his most appealing when evoking the sea. Don’t leave without seeing the Andalusian style garden.

    • Paseo del General Martínez Campos 37

    • Metro Iglesia, Rubén Darío or Gregorio Marañón

    • Open 9:30am–3pm Tue–Sat (to 6pm Wed), 10am–3pm Sun

    • Adm (except Sun)

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