Wednesday, January 29, 2014

{travel} madrid literary quarter walk

The best part about living in a big city is that you never have the opportunity to get bored. There is always a new neighborhood, street, and cafe to see! Although it caaaaan sometimes feel overwhelming when you try to decide on which part of the city you would like to explore that day. Rather than wandering around completely aimlessly, (although we all know that this is a favorite past time of mine as well) you can utilize a great app, called City Guide, to give you ideas for attractions, restaurants, and shopping around you.  The app even uses your GPS to tell you how far away you are from each location. The best part is that you don't need data or wifi for it to work! And in true TripAdvisor fashion, you can read reviews to help you narrow down your options. I feel like I should definitely add a little disclaimer right now - I am not at all being paid for this blog post by the TripAdvisor peeps. I just genuinely love this app and use it all the time. As you can see in the picture below, 31 cities in Europe currently have a City Guide, as well as 26 cities in North America. I always check to see if my next travel destination has one so that I can download the guide while I have wifi.

On top of being able to read reviews on the restaurants and attractions closest to you at the moment, you can also go on free walking tours. When you tap on the Suggested Itineraries  tab, it will take you to a screen with tons of awesome walking tours, options for "on a low budget," "Free Madrid," and "Madrid with family." Although I have utilized the City Guide walking tours in other cities before, I had yet to do one in Madrid so I decided to go on the "Literary Quarter Walk" after work the other day. It was a really great walk!

Madrid's old literary quarter is set in the Huertas barrio, just a stone's throw away from the touristic mecca that is Puerta del Sol. During the Spanish Golden Age, from the 15th century through the 17th century, this barrio was filled to the brim with famous Spanish writers such as Gongora, Tirso de Molina, Cervantes, and Lope de Vega. It is so lovely to walk through the narrow alleys and just try to imagine all of the secrets it must hold from the heyday of the Golden Age. 

This tour began in Madrid's famous Plaza Mayor, but since I have already been to the plaza many times before I decided to begin at stop number two on the list. Closest metro: Anton Martin

Stop One, Iglesia de San Sebastian: A shop next door to this church is built on top of an old graveyard that was once frequently visited by the writer Jose Cadalso. Apparently the love of his life died at an early age and was subsequently buried at the San Sebastian cemetery. Poor Jose was arrested by the police one night when he was discovered trying to dig up her body. According to the guide, this event was the inspiration behind his novel, "Noches Lugubres." (aka Lugubrious Nights, or Sad/Dismal Nights.)

On the way to the next stop on my walking tour, I saw this little plant and flower shop. I absolutely adore the quote. "It is the extraordinary people who put color in our lives." Can I have that mat for my house please?

Stop two, Plaza de Santa Ana: This was the main plaza of the Literary Quarter's action back in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. It is still an incredibly busy and popular plaza to this day. Little has changed over the years. People still come here to meet with friends, drink, eat, and socialize, just like the Spaniards of the past did. It is a beautiful plaza surrounded by restaurants and apartment buildings, and most notably, the Teatro Espanol and Hotel Me Madrid. Hotel Me Madrid is said to have the nicest (and most expensive) rooftop bar in the entire city, but it also used to be the hotspot for bullfighters to change into their fancy costumes before heading off to the ring. Teatro Espanol has staged the woks of Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina.

Teatro Espanol

Hotel Me Madrid

Stop 3, Calle de las Huertas: This street is named for the orchards and gardens that covered the area up until the 16th century. Today, it is filled to the brim with cafes, bars, music shops, and restaurants. The Huertas barrio is arguably one of the most exciting places to go out at night, and this street is the absolute heart of the action. The photo below is of a side street off of Calle de las Huertas.

I was getting quite cold walking around at this point, so I stopped in at a cafe just off of Calle de las Huertas. Although the pastries and other treats at Cafe Belle Bonbon looked quiiiite tempting, I decided to be frugal and just order a cappuccino instead. I may need to make another trip back to try some of their delicious sweets.

Stop 4, Casa Museo de Lope de Vega: I did not get a picture of this house museum because the street was quite narrow, but I really want to go back a different day to tour it. Although entry is gratis (free) for the museum, they only allow 10 people in at each time slot. I definitely need to reserve a spot in the coming weeks.

Below - the house that Cervantes lived and died in. This was not a stop on the tour, although I wish it was. I stumbled upon it as I was walking down a random street to get back on track after stopping briefly at the Casa Museo de Lope de Vega. This house is on, of course, Calle Cervantes.

Stop 5, Ateneo: During the 19th century, this building was named "little Holland" because it was the place to be to discuss liberal ideas. This building houses the largest newspaper library in Europe and has a ceiling painted by Arturo Melida. He included Masonic symbols in his painting, as many of the original members of the Ateneo were masons. I'm not sure if you can tour the inside of the building, but the facade is beautiful.

Ah, Madrid. Your love of funny little statue people is so great.

Stop 5, Congreso de los Diputados: This gorgeous building houses Spain's lower house of parliament. The building was originally called the Palacio de las Cortes espanolas, built between the years of 1843 and 1850. That beautiful engraved bronze door is only opened on special occasions. 

Bonus stops! 

Stop 6, La Iglesia de las Calatravas: As I turned onto Calle de Alcala to head home, I was struck by the incredible light hitting the top of this church. I know absolutely nothing about this church, but maybe I'll stop by again someday soon to check out the inside.

Stop 7, Edificio de Metrópolis: I adore this building for many reasons, but mainly because of where it is located - right on the corner of Calle de Alcala and Gran Via. Doesn't it look so regal standing there in the middle of all of the action? I will never not take a picture when I walk by it. 

Stop 8, Palacio de Cibeles: This impressive building is enjoyed at any time of the day. You can actually go to a terrace on the 7th or 8th floor of the building for a view of Madrid, but I much prefer the nearby Circulo de Bellas Artes for that. Plus, when you are on the terrace of this building you can't very well see it! Pay the same amount (3 euros), drink a glass of wine on a bed sofa, and take in the view of Cibeles from the Terraza Azotea at Bellas Artes.

So, I hope you've enjoyed a walk through stunning Madrid. :) Make sure to download the City Guide app to access the map of this tour. Thanks to TA for some fun facts about my lovely city. 

xx Jen


  1. I love the City Guides app! It´s so helpful when traveling. Beautiful photos....I think I need to do the walk myself!

  2. I feel myself transported back, to almost everyone of these locations! I love the different neighborhoods in Madrid, and I was sad to discover new ones just a week before leaving! So much left to explore!

  3. I sometimes seem to forget how beautiful this city is! I may also do this walk sometime soon. And I'm downloading the TripAdvisor App now!

  4. As an English bookseller in Madrid ( ) , I thank you very much for this wonderful post. It shows there is far more to this wonderful city than just nightlife, tapas and football (although they are also top quality).

    1. You're so right. I am continually amazed by the beauty in Madrid! I need to come check out your bookstore soon. :)


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