Five of Spain’s football stars were named by Shape Magazine in The 50 Sexiest Soccer Players at the 2018 World Cup. But soccer players are only a part of Madrid’s beauty! A city’s seat of government often holds some of its most treasured and beautiful public spaces. Plaza de Cibeles (Cibeles Square), the most famous plaza in Madrid, is one of those places. Each of the four magnificent marble structures that anchor the plaza are designated “Spanish Property of Cultural Interest”. The Art Nouveau and Baroque style architectures include the Bank of Spain; the Linares Palace; the Buenavista Palace; and the Cybele Palace . At the Plaza’s center is iconic Fuente de Cibeles, (Cibeles Fountain), whose three figures are carved from the purple marble of Montesclaros in Toledo, Spain. From the seat of her lion drawn chariot, Cibeles, Roman goddess of fertility, has protected the town since 1782. The entire plaza is a wonder!
Visitors often get a windshield view of this magnificent plaza from their motor coach. The fountain sits in the middle of the intersection of three famed streets, Calle de Alcalá, Paseo de Recoletos, and Paseo del Prado, surrounded by traffic on all sides. After seeing the plaza several times from the windows of our motor coach, I made a mental note to go back there for a closer look. In fact, before I got the chance to go back there during the day, I got a glimpse of the fountain at night from a few blocks away. I could tell that at night, it is especially magnificent, lit against the backdrop of the Cybele Palace.
A short taxi ride from our hotel, my husband Eddie and I were in for a real treat, one that shouldn’t be missed on a visit to Madrid.
On the ground, we viewed the Cibeles fountain from every magnificent corner. In addition to pondering its beauty, we imagined its practical purpose in earlier years when the fountain supplied water for the town’s people and Spain’s cavalry stopped there to water their horses. These days, the fountain is a symbol of Spanish football and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol fans celebrate their team’s many victories at the site. I can’t imagine a more spectacular place for celebration! The Cibeles Fountain also marks Madrid’s Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) and from there, you can walk to the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the Reina Sofia Museum. These museums form the Art Triangle of Madrid.
Circling the plaza with little time to spare, we viewed three of the four structures from the outside, well worth the time. They are also spectacular inside and some are open to the public during certain hours. Bank of Spain is a stunning example of 19th Century Spanish architecture and houses a library containing over 350,000 works pertaining to finance and the economy. Buenavista Palace is the Army’s General Headquarters, where visitors may see the changing of the guard on the last Friday of every month except three, June, July, and December. Linares Palace houses Casa de América (Linares Palace) cultural institution and is rumored to be inhabited by a ghost, daughter of the first Marquis de Linares, part of a sad but fascinating love story.
Completing the circle, we reached the Cybele Palace, now Madrid’s City Hall. First passing through security, we were directed upstairs to the observation deck where visitors get a panoramic view of the city. There is also an art gallery, café, rooftop bar, tourist information, and a cultural space known as CentroCentro, with an exhibition hall and auditorium. The cost of a view from the observation deck is minimal, €3 and if you opt for a view from the roof top bar as we did, you get a discount on a beverage of your choice. It’s a great place to take photos without the impediment of glass in between and it offers a stunning view of Plaza de Cibeles and surrounding vistas.
These extraordinary landmarks offer an example of the hidden gems that are found in the public spaces that house seats of government.
We could have walked to the plaza from our hotel but our schedule was tight and our guide recommended that we take a taxi there and back.
The nearest metro station to Cibeles Plaza is located at the Banco de Espana. For more information about getting around Madrid on the metro go to https://www.esmadrid.com/en/madrid-metro.
For a list of hotels, hostels, apartments, and apart-hotels in the area, go to https://www.gomadrid.com/.
For more information about the historic structures in Cibeles Plaza and other venues, go to the Official Madrid Website at https://www.esmadrid.com/en.
Our visit to Madrid was part of a larger tour of Spain, Morocco, and Portugal, expertly guided by Javier Galvez travel director at Trafalgar Tours. It was our good fortune to meet Javier, whose storytelling skills and inside information led us on a safe and spectacular journey throughout three countries and to spectacular places on and off the itinerary.