It is universally acknowledged that Madrid is by definition, a city worth visiting. However, when it comes to architecture, it is easily among the top destinations in the world. Over the years, the city reached a fine balance between modern extravaganza and royal grandeur. One of the city’s landmarks – Plaza de Cibeles – is clearly an example of the latter.
Unlike any other square in Madrid, Plaza de Cibeles comprises an impressive ensemble of neo-classical buildings; although it is most famous for the fountain rising in the center – Fuente de Cibeles – a dedication to the Greek goddess of fertility, Cybele, is an artful work by Spanish artist Ventura Rodriguez. The fountain was built between 1777 and 1782, during the reign of Charles III, and shows the goddess sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain has become emblematic for the city; supporters of Real Madrid Football Club grew particularly fond of the monument and whenever their favorite club celebrates the victory, they gather around the fountain.
Possibly one of the most stunning buildings on the location is Palacio de Cibeles, formerly known as Palacio de Comunicaciones. Today, after being restored for several years, the palace serves as the official seat of the Madrid City Hall, but back in 1909, when the palace was inaugurated, it was meant as the headquarters of the postal service. The palace is accessible for visitors; and art exhibitions change throughout the year. The top floor houses a decent albeit somewhat overpriced café, with splendid views over the city. And even though, you might want to get to see the palace during daylight, to have a closer look at ornate decorations and sculptures adorning its façade; at night superb lighting gives the palace a truly magical appearance.
Right across Paseo del Prado stands yet another architectural masterpiece, imposing and grand Banco de España, the official headquarters of Spain’s central bank. Its construction lasted nine years and was finished by 1891. Since then, the building has expanded several times; the last expansion took place in 2006. However, the original eclectic design has remained intact – and just like decades ago, the edifice still features rich sculptured work, stone ornaments and iron-wrought large windows.
Palacio de Linares, a limestone marvel, was built in 1873 to accommodate Marquis and Marchioness of Linares. Today the palace operates as a museum, giving everyone a chance to admire an astonishing collection of art, including tapestries and glass, bronzes and ceramics and paintings by Spanish masters. It also houses so-called Casa de America – a cultural center which promotes the communication between Spain and Latin America.
Hardly any other army in the world is lucky enough to have the headquarters inside a building as magnificent as Palacio de Buenavista. At first it may result difficult to actually see the palace – a garden of exceptional beauty, designed by Ventura Rodriguez, surrounds and hides it from public stares. Built in 1777, the palace was designed to become the residence of the Dukes of Alba, not surprisingly, the interior flaunts lavish decorations and works by prominent Spanish artists including a large tapestry painted by Goya.
Metro: Banco de España (line 2)