Posts with category tourism

No te pierdas en el Kilómetro Cero

By | 27 November, 2014 | 0 comments

Kilómetro_cero,_Madrid“Kilómetro Cero, breathes in the city centre the soul that is lost when it escapes”. These are the words of singer/songwriter Ismael Serrano, not exempt of melancholy, dedicated to this central point in Spain, called the “Kilometer Zero” because it is the starting point of all of Spain’s roads. Located in front of the Casa de Correos in the Puerta del Sol, a plaque on the floor has reminded locals and tourists of its central-city status since 1950.

Starting from this emblematic point, the visitor comes across a wide range of bars and restaurants, of which today we’ll try and set apart the best from the rest. The first thing to do is have a walk around the two liveliest streets in the area: Calle Espoz y Mina and Calle Victoria (where Hotel Victoria 4 is located). In the latter is where we can find Xabreiro, a restaurant that is not famous among the masses but it is definitely one of the most authentic ones in the area. The owner, known as Murphy to his friends, prepares impeccable paellas that you can finish off with a homemade herbal liqueur.

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Turismo sin mover un pie

By | 4 August, 2014 | 0 comments

madrid city tourWould you like to see Madrid comfortably sitting on a bus? It is most definitely a good option for those who have just arrived in Madrid, who then get a general idea of the city in order to get to know its best places and locate themselves more precisely in this big city.

There are many options for this but the most famous one is Madrid City Tour, the famous red double-decker buses that the locals are used to seeing everywhere on the streets. They operate 365 days a year with different timetables, depending on whether it is high or low season, and the price for adults is of 21 euros, which includes the use of unlimited travel on the buses on the chosen day.

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High Shopping en Madrid

By | 21 July, 2014 | 0 comments

If we want to invent some expressions, we might as well invent high shopping when we are referring to shopping in expensive shops, playing Julia Roberts shopping in LA in Pretty Woman. You can also find these exclusive shops in Madrid, as you can judge by the high rent prices of shops on Calle Serrano, some 175 per square meter on average.

Let’s stay in Serrano, one of the noblest streets in the Salamanca district, which concentrates its commercial stretch closest to Plaza de la Independencia or to the Puerta de Alcalá, where it culminates. There you can find a good representation of the most exclusive and select brands in the world, in shops that are valuable on their own, such as Loewe (Serrano, 26), that holds a fashion photography exhibition by Lillian Bassman during the month of July, included in the programme of PhotoEspaña.

With 155 stores from Juan Bravo to the Puerta de Alcalá, on Serrano you can find brands such as Carolina Herrera, Prada, Yves Saint-Laurent, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tous, Forever Young, Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada or Roberto Verino. Also inside this high-level spectrum there is affordable fashion brands, such as Zara, classed as “hyperbolic” by the press due to its huge size at number 23; or Adolfo Domínguez, located at number 5. The ABC Serrano shopping centre, at the old headquarters of the ABC newspaper, is also worth a visit.

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La milla del arte

By | 21 May, 2014 | 0 comments

CaixaForum MadridThe inauguration of CaixaForum was the fourth and latest addition to the great museum scene in Madrid, made up by the Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía National Museum of Art, up until then known as the Triangle of Art. A unique concentration of culture along an avenue, Paseo del Prado, that leads to the nearby area of Atocha train station and the Reina Sofía Museum, located in the old hospital of San Carlos.

Below is a little bit on each of these museums, from the newest to the oldest. Inaugurated in 2008 as part of the social project of laCaixa bank, CaixaForum Madrid stands out among the other three for having a free entrance. All of its temporary exhibitions can be enjoyed without paying a single euro, as well as the vertical garden at the entrance of the building. The building itself is one of the main attractions, like for example the re-adaptation of an industrial building, the old Electrical Station of Mediodía, reconverted by the studio of Herzog & De Meuron into a modern space whose spiral staircase is worthy of a mention.

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San Isidro: una fiesta con raíces

By | 6 May, 2014 | 0 comments

San Isidro MadridConsidered as the patron saint of farmers and although his festival is celebrated in many towns with processions that bless the fields, it’s in Madrid where he is venerated the most, with a festival dedicated to him that is becoming increasingly important.

The saint’s incorrupt body is located in Madrid, the city where he was born in around 1082, in the old cathedral of la Real Colegiata de San Isidro. The visit to his sacred remains is what originated the pilgrimage around the chapel built as a tribute to him, located in Pradera de San Isidro, painted by Goya in a painting with the same name. Every year, the amount of attendants is huge to the point that you need plenty of patience to deal with the large crowd that has gathered there since first thing in the morning. In the afternoon, the procession with images of San Isidro and Santa María de la Cabeza take place from the Colegiata de San Isidro to the district of La Latina and the Plaza Mayor, a return route that ends with the hymns of the Virgin of the Almudena and of San Isidro.

This happens on the festival’s biggest day, May 15th, but both the days prior and after this date have a large programme with different festive, cultural and gastronomic events. Some of the best places during this festival are Plaza Mayor or Las Vistillas, as well as the aforementioned Pradera de San Isidro that offer traditional entertainment such as giants, cabezudos (large papier-mâché heads), operettas, or the Regional Houses Festival. Other activities that are less linked to folklore are the concerts of David de María, Pablo López or Carlos Rivera, as well as the 30-year tribute to La Unión or the Rock Villa de Madrid Awards.

A series of leisure activities that do not rival the main one in the programme: the bullfighting of San Isidro, that lasts for almost the whole month of May with fantastic line-ups on the most important days. Bullfighters such as Enrique Ponce, Juan José Padilla, Miguel Abellán or Morante de la Puebla will attempt to leave out of the main gate during these days in the Monumental de Las Ventas bullring.

Both to go to Pradera de San Isidro and to the Las Ventas bullring, Victoria 4 offers all the amenities of a 3-star hotel located in the centre of Madrid, very close to the Puerta del Sol. From there, you can easily take the metro to the bullfight on Line 2 or the bus that will leave you close to the festivals on the southern bank of the Manzanares river.

Estación de metro de Sol

By | 25 April, 2014 | 0 comments

Metro SolSol is the busiest station in Madrid, alongside Atocha, due to it being an intermodal station, since it has offered a regional trains service since 2009. The latest renovation did however encounter a few difficulties, since the works had to be interrupted due to the finding of archaeological remains.

Originally, with the earliest metro lines, it only had one service, Line 1, which in 1919 was the only one that went through the inside of the city. It wasn’t until 1924 that another metro line arrived, Line 2, and a further twelve years for a third one. Today, it still has not incorporated further metro lines and it has a regional trains that go to El Escorial, Alcobendas-San Sebastián de los Reyes and Colmenar Viejo.

These advances slowly contributed to create the modern and complete station that Sol is today, renamed for sponsorship and funding reasons to Vodafone Sol, and whose latest renovation culminated with the ‘whale’ or ‘hungry-hippo’ building. Designed by the architect Antonio Fernández Alba, at first it was the victim of criticisms and jokes, both by the conservative and modern voices. They ignored that, with time, it would be part of the landscape and that it would not be as shocking to the eye, just like the Eiffel Tower or the pyramid at the Louvre, or even the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, all of which sufferers from similar judgements after their construction.

Consulted for the different names that the locals, spontaneously, started to propose for this new way of access to the Metro, the architect told the press that he would just call it Puerta del Sol. He was therefore referring to that gate that sees 70,000 people walk past it every day and that it finally had an entrance since this central square, unlike the Puerta de Alcalá or the Puerta de Toledo, never had a single way of access. Perhaps because the most important squares, like the seas, are fed by different streets that, just like the rivers, populate its urban space with people.

Sol Metro station is the closest to our establishment. Hotel Victoria 4 is just 200 yards from this new Sol Metro and regional trains entrance.

La calle Preciados

By | 16 April, 2014 | 0 comments

Calle PreciadosDespite what some may think, this street does not start on Plaza del Callao but before, from the area of Santo Domingo, parallel to Calle Jacometrezo.

Its name comes from the fact that the Preciado brothers used to live there, who worked as civil servants that used to check and spy on the irregularities that took place in the markets, an old figure that was common in the Arab souks. The word in Spanish is almotacén, of Arabic origin, which sounds like almacén – warehouse, which is relevant because this house held one of the most famous department stores in Spain of the 20th century, Galerías Preciados, who opened their doors in 1943. Their central location soon turned it into a favourite street among locals who began to enjoy higher purchasing power from the 1960s onwards, which influenced the pedestrianisation of the area a decade later.

The first stretch of the street, the one that is born on Santo Domingo, is almost exclusively dedicated to gastronomic offer. The visitor can find fast food restaurants in the different free buffet places at good prices, as well as traditional cuisine in restaurants such as Asador de Aranda, which specialises in Castilian cuisine and suckling pig.

In the second stretch, leaving the square to our left, is the impressive building of Callao, with a fine and modern outline that makes it hard to believe that it was built in the early 1940s. Its author was the eclectic architect Gutíerrez Soto, who is also the ‘father’ of other emblematic parts of the district such as Bar Chicote and Cine Callao, of modernist style. The Callao building used to hold the aforementioned Galerías Preciados, today owned by the Corte Inglés group, who later paved the way for the current tenant, FNAC.

Among the different fast fashion shops and others like Camper or Swatch are some older surviving ones, such as the toy shop Sanatorio de Juguetes, on the first floor of number 19 Calle Preciados, considered the oldest toy shop in Madrid, open since 1916.

A street of contrasts, since its important commercial and consumerist offer -before reaching Sol are two Corte Inglés buildings- is combined with the presence of many different NGOs that try to get affiliates to register for their causes. They are part of the human landscape of this famous artery in Madrid, the one chosen by different televisions to carry out surveys on current affairs. These are elements that once the visitor reaches the Puerta del Sol, where our Hotel Victoria 4 is located, will make him breathe and feel a happy relief.

Restaurantes con solera: Casa Botín

By | 10 April, 2014 | 0 comments

Casa Botin MadridThe name does not come from the president of an important Spanish bank; this restaurant boasts, and rightfully so since it is certified with a Guinness plaque (the records one, not the beers), of being the oldest in the world. The date is subject to controversy since there are older restaurants in the world although if you google “oldest restaurant in the world” you will find Casa Botín in the top places. In any case, it is the oldest in Spain, opening its doors in 1725 during the reign of King Felipe V, the first king of the House of Bourbon in Spain. It rivals with Can Culleretes in barcelona, a restaurant that has offered Catalan gastronomic specialities since 1786.

In fact, it is called, as the plaque says at the entrance, Restaurante Sobrino de Botín, and it is just a stone’s throw from the Plaza Mayor, on the picturesque Calle de Cuchilleros. Its interior with four floors surprises the visitors with its intricate rooms. Its menu does not include over complicated dishes of fusion cuisine but rather traditional and simple cuisine, with juicy stews and starters such as asparagus or peppers, although they all have the special charm of the restaurant, filled with lovely corners and old-style waiters. However, do not expect a local crowd in there because it is full of Japanese and European tourists, tourists with a deep pocket since it is not particularly cheap; age has a price.

Far from stalling and living from the past, the oldest restaurant in Spain is showing signs of adapting to the changes, as its online reservations network shows, as well as its presence in the social networks and YouTube. Also, the business is open to expansion, exemplified with its restaurant in Toledo, where they serve every day in the Army Museum and have a fantastic terrace with a view over the river Tajo. The latest heirs of the restaurant also want to bring new dishes to the menu and have incorporated paellas made in true Valencian style, with water and vegetables brought especially from this region, an excellent example of how the different parts of Spain that come together in Madrid. Isn’t that fusion cuisine?

Enjoying lunch or dinner at Casa Botín is a unique experience for foodies staying in our hotel. From Hotel Victoria 4 we can walk to the Plaza Mayor in just a few minutes. You just have to cross the Puerta del Sol, from its birth in Plaza de Santo Domingo.

Metro de Madrid

By | 31 March, 2014 | 0 comments

It offered its first underground services in 1919, when King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the first line that went from Cuatro Caminos to Sol, with Chamberí station -of which we will talk about later on- in the middle of the line. With these new infrastructures, Madrid was now a European city in its full right, with the works on the Gran Vía in full flow initiated nine years before and the vocation of leaving aside that appearance of ‘Castilian town’, paraphrasing the members of the literary Generation of ‘98. In neighbouring Portugal, the first lines of the metro in Lisbon were inaugurated in 1959 while the underground in Rome began to work in 1930. In Paris, the first line of the Métropolitain opened in 1900, built for the Olympic Games of that same year.

During the Spanish Civil War, the metro stations became common refuges  for the people of Madrid to keep safe from the bombings of the aviation of General Franco and his German and Italian.

Going back to the present, the metro of Madrid enjoys a good reputation among locals despite the recent protests due to the increase in ticket prices, prices that are in line with those from other European capitals with a higher per capita income. However, the short frequency of trains -especially by day- and the cleanliness of the facilities make it an increasingly-popular transport as the following data indicates: 634 trips in 2011.

With a total of 12 lines and 238 stations, the Madrid Metro is getting closer and closer to the periphery of the city, with access to cities like Alcobendas, Leganés or Getafe, although the regional trains are recommended for long journeys inside the city itself -which you can get from Chamartín and Atocha, for example-, essential for day trips of cultural interest to places like San Lorenzo de El Escorial , Alcalá de Henares or Aranjuez.

If we go back to the aforementioned station of Chamberí, a curiosity is that it was closed to the public because with the opening of new stations it was no longer needed, so it was ‘frozen’. Before it became a museum, if you travelled on Line 1 you could still see the remains of the past, with adverts from products from years gone by (Anís del Mono) and the tiles in Parisian style on the walls that used to be so trendy back then (and which luckily are coming back into fashion). Since 2008, it became a small museum on the old metro, preserving the aesthetics it had until the station closed on May 21st 1966. An excellent way of learning about the past of the quickest and most comfortable transport in the city.

The most famous and key station in the network is Sol, which is located barely 200 yards from our hotel. From it you can get to almost every point in the city of Madrid in less than an hour. It was one of the first stations in the network but in the 1980s it was revamped to make it suitable for the huge traffic of commuters that it had every day.