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Calle Gran Vía


  - 2 opinions

The must-see Madrileño Broadway!

Translated by Helen Hardy — 4 years ago

Original text by Paola Villegas

The Gran Vía is a ´must-see`, an unmissable sight during a visit to Madrid not only due to its importance and its fabulous architecture, but also because just by walking down it you get the opportunity to see three or four equally as emblatic places.

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This street is actually one of the most important and well-known streets in Madrid. The street begins in Alcalá and ends in the Plaza de España. Start your walk in the Parque del Retiro (a brief review of this can also be found on my profile), take a scenic photo standing under the famous Puerta de Alcalá, and begin walking along the Gran Vía.

At the end of the Gran Vía, be sure to visit the Plaza de España, where you´ll see the famous monument to Cervantes and the Edificio España. If your feet can manage a few metres more, I recommend you walk a bit further and see the Templo del Debod (a review of which you can also find on my profile, a very beautiful place to visit).

The Gran Vía is now one of the main tourist attractions of the city, but once upon a time it was also famed for being the street with lots of cinemas, some of which have now been turned into theatres. In fact, when walking down the Gran Vía it´s possible to see the theatre where the famous musical The Lion King is performed and further along, the famous Callao cinema which is almost ninety years old.

The Callao cinema building features Neo-Barroque architecture and is also the place where famous actors come to promote their films: the famous red carpet and the often thousands of fans who wait outside hoping for an autograph are common sights here. I remember that the second time I visited the Gran Vía, I came across hundreds of fans of The Walking Dead dressed up as zombies in the hope that their favourite actors would be coming down the red carpet. Considering all this, I recommend the Gran Vía due to its cinematic importance (yes, yet more reasons to visit! ) since the first thing which comes into your head when you see the street is that it´s like a smaller version of Broadway.

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The history of the Gran Vía - why was it built?

The Gran Vía was born from the idea of unifying the city centre, the present day Calle de Alcalá, with the north east, now Plaza España, Príncipe Pío and Argüelles. The plan for its construction was conceived at the start of the 21st century. During the planning many doubts and questions arose as to what sections the street should comprise of and what name it should be given, doubts which lead to many subsequent modifications and changes, especially in terms of its name: the Gran Vía has previously been known as Avenida del quince y medio, Avenida de la Rusia, Avenida de la Unión Soviética (in some cases, it´s possible to guess at which point in history a particular name was chosen.... ) and Avenida de la A among many others. The best-known street in Madrid has also been subject to various restoration projects and changes over this time.

A walking tour of the Gran Vía

We´ll begin at the Calle de Alcalá. This stretch of the Gran Vía is dedicated to the most expensive shops, and was conceived as an imitation of the Rue de la Paix in Paris and Regent Street in London. As expected, on this stretch of the street you can find many exclusive and prestigious shops selling everything from clothes to cars and additionally, some restaurants. There are also many elegant and expensive hotels here (such as Hotel de las Letras or Hotel Cibeles). The views from the rooms must be spectacular with the Edificio Metrópolis opposite.

Next comes the Callao Cinema, surrounded by department stores such as El Corte Inglés (famous throughout Madrid), Galerías Preciados and Los Almacenes Madrid-París. On this stretch theatre halls, cinemas, cafes and bookshops dominate.

After walking further, you´ll come across the Palacio de la Prensa, the Capitol, the Coliseum, the Rialto, and the Teatro Lope de Vega. By the time you reach the Plaza de España with the Edificio Telefónica, you´ll have delved quite deep into the north east side of the city.

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What to do on the Gran Vía

You will literally find everything on the Gran Vía, and for every kind of budget. If you´re looking for somewhere to eat, why not go to the famous McDonald´s, or to one of the other thousands of more exclusive restaurants. If your visit has a cultural emphasis, visit one of the many cafes or bookshops, relax and watch a film at the Callao cinema (slightly more expensive that other cinemas in Madrid) or see a show at the theatre. The best thing about this street is that its mood never dies: you´re impressed by the architecture at every corner, and it´s a street full of life which has something to suit every taste.

Looking for souvenirs to take home for your family and friends? The Gran Vía is your perfect place, since the souvenirs on sale here are of great quality and are often very original in design. These shops can be found all along the street and none of them will disappoint.

If you´re longing to do some clothes shopping, this street is also the best option. You´ll find lots of well-known chains such as Stradivarius, H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear, Nike (where you can buy the official Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid football t-shirts), Intimissimi, Bershka, and many more.

Around the Gran Vía

If you´ve yet to explore Madrid city centre, the Plaza del Sol, the Palacio Real and the Plaza de Opera are all situated in close proximity to the Gran Vía. You can reach them by cutting down one of the side streets near the Callao cinema or by McDonald´s.

The restaurants along the Gran Vía tend to be very expensive, and there is actually an extra fee if you want to sit at one of the outside tables. Locals tend to be aware of this, and so the waiters presume all customers are, but some tourists have an unpleasant surprise when the bill is brought. If you´d prefer something a little cheaper, I recommend taking a walk through the streets adjacent to the Gran Vía - here you can find many cafes and restaurants in which the food is no less tasty, but definitely less expensive.

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How to get there

  • I always suggest walking, as this is the best way to get to know the city. As mentioned before, I recommend the following walking plan: from the Parque de Retiro to the Puerta de Alcalá (via Calle Alcalá), then on to Plaza Cibeles and the Banco de España, continuing on along the Gran Vía until you see reach the Plaza de España, then finishing off with the Templo de Debod and the Teleférico de Madrid (if your feet can take it! ). The Gran Vía takes about ten to fifteen minutes to walk without stopping (which you´ll probably want to do at some point! ), so it´s not a very long walk.
  • There are also several bus companies such as City Tour de Madrid which drive down the Gran Vía and allow passengers to disembark along the way.
  • If you´re travelling by metro, get off at either ´Retiro` or ´Banco de España` station (both on the red line) to walk down the Gran Vía from the direction of the Puerta de Alcalá. If you´re particularly interested in the Callao cinema, you can get off at the ´Callao` station (on the yellow line) and you´ll find yourself directly in front of the building. It´s also possible to get off at the station named ´Gran Vía` itself, which lets you off in the middle of the avenue. If you´d perhaps like to start at the opposite end of the avenue, get off at ´Plaza de España` (on the yellow line).
  • There are lots of buses which stop at the Gran Vía: number 138 drops you directly at the Plaza de España, as do lines 1, 2, 202 and 74. Lines M2, 3 and 46 also have stops nearby.

Recommendations:

  • Wear comfortable clothes, and above all, comfortable shoes (I recommend tennis shoes).
  • Visit the Gran Vía by day as well as at night, since the street is full of life at all hours. At sundown it´s an explosion of colours, advertisements and sights.

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Madrid's Gran Vía

Translated by Daniele Iannarone — 4 years ago

Original text by Maika Cano Martínez

Madrid's Gran Via is well-known by Spaniards everywhere, we've all either heard about it or have actually been there, but for those of you who have not had the good fortune of visiting it, I'll provide you with a short summary.

Madrid's Gran Vía

This street is located in the dead-centre of Madrid, extending from the calle Alcalá all the way to the Plaza de España. It's a big street that appears to be divided into three sections. It's one of the best streets in which to go shopping or to enjoy other leisure activities, it being one of the main shopping centres in Madrid. It's also home to several offices and apartments.

Madrid's Gran Vía

Madrid's Gran Vía

With regards to shopping, you'll love going shopping on the Gran Via, and if it's sales season, then even better. I've had the good fortune of going in the two seasons and I strongly recommend it. Not only does it feature brand stores that you can't find in the rest of the country, Gran Via also features all the stores that we do know about, such as Zara, Strdivarius and H&M, but bigger! For example, the Zara on Gran Via features four floors, if I'm not mistaken, it seems like a luxury store, and here you can find the entire collection of the chain, whereas in Murcia you can't find everything. The same occurs at Stradivarius, as it features two floors, and the same also occurs for many other stores. If you're lucky enough to be earning a good salary, you can also find luxury and jewellery stores, such as Loewe, Sanz or Grassy, among others.

Madrid's Gran Vía

Madrid's Gran Vía

Here we can find bars and restaurants, some more luxurious than others.

On the other side, we can find some typical fast food and coffee chains spread out throughout the entire street, such as Burger King, Starbucks, Pans&Company, McDonald's, etc...

Madrid's Gran Vía

We all know McDonald's, but I want to talk about this one in particular because it's image is different than the majority of McDonalds' we find in Spain. The building is located at the intersection of Gran Via and Calle Montera. It's big, featuring two floors, but the best thing about it is that it's very elegant, or, should I say, the building it's in is an elegant one, this is where it differs, because the food inside is the same as the food at all the other locations. Surely you'll like it.

Madrid's Gran Vía

Madrid's Gran Vía

With regards to leisure, beyond the food and shopping, the street features cinemas and movie theatres. The Lope de Vega theatre is one of Madrid's most important. Due to it's location on Gran Via, and the works displayed in it, it's very famous. Gran Via's most famous movie theatres would be Rialto and Capitol, and nearby you can even find the Callao theatre. I see it as kind of weird that there are so many theatres in such a small space, but Madrid is boasting with locals and tourists alike, and if these theatres and cinemas are still operating, it must be because there's a demand for it.

Gran Via also features several of the most emblematic buildings of Madrid, which are:

-Edificio Metrópolis: The building splitting the Calle Alcalá and Gran Via, it's essentially the introductory page of the street. It's one of my favourite buildings, it can be seen from the Plaza Cibeles, and it appeals due to its elegant style, and especially for it's black dome sitting atop the building, the dome featuring golden detailing and topped with a figure of a cupid formed like an angel, known as the Victoria Alada. Below the dome, there's an inscription on which is written "METROPOLIS", thus the name of the building. Metropolis is the name of an insurance company.

Madrid's Gran Vía

-Edificio Telefónica: One of the tallest buildings on Gran Via, which therefore allows it to stand out among the others. In fact, it was the first ever skyscraper built in Spain. It's shape is also impressive and characteristic, seeing as it has several floors, and if you take a look at the architecture you'll notice that each floor is thinner than the last, therefore the uppermost floors are smaller. At night, this building stands out due to its illumination in blue and the clock featuring on its facade.

Madrid's Gran Vía

Madrid's Gran Vía

-Edificio de la Casa del Libro: The Casa del Libro (book house) is know for being one of the oldest virtual libraries in Spain, but in Madrid and in some other cities it has a physical presence, and in Madrid it has a building.

Madrid's Gran Vía

-Edificio Carrión: Stands out for the side of the building, which appears to be a half-cylinder on which you can find the large illuminated advertisement of the Schweppes brand. Then the building gets bigger toward both sides, though smaller, a little bit resembling the Flatiron building in New York. The cartel is another symbol of the street, it's hard to miss and it's location is perfect, and even though it's located at an extreme of Gran Via, it can be seen from practically anywhere on the street. It's also famous for having appeared in several Spanish films and TV series, such as in the movie “El día de la Bestia”.

Madrid's Gran Vía

-Palacio de la Prensa: It's a nice building. What stands out about it is the brick architecture, which is one of the highest buildings of the sort. It also gives onto the Plaza de Callao, and on the main floor you can find several movie theatres.

Other buildings that stand out are the hotels, such as the Hotel Atlántico.

The street also is home to a metro station, the station called "Gran Via", by which pass lines 1 and 5. Even though the street is very large, depending on where you are or where you want to go, perhaps it's move convenient for you to use some other nearby stations, such as "Sol", “Plaza de España”, “Callao”…

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