Madrid of the Austrians

King Alfonso VI of Castile (1083-1086), seized the Arab village known as Majerit (Madrid today) from the Muslims. In 1561, during the reign of Felipe II, was when the Court of Madrid was set up definitively.

In the 15th century, the monarchs of the House of Austria built a Gothic fortress in the area of the citadel. The old fortress was burnt down in 1734 and on its site the Bourbons built the Royal Palace that still stands today. This whole area of Madrid was named Madrid of the Austrians. The nobility built their mansions to live in the Court.

In the 17th century Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor were built, two major nerve centres of the city.

Palacio Real (Royal Palace)

What you should know…

  • This site was home to the old Gothic fortress, burnt down in 1734.
  • Felipe V was the king who commissioned its construction.
  • The palatial décor reflects the taste of Carlos III and Carlos IV.
  • The palace was inhabited by monarchs until the year 1931.
  • The last monarch to live here was Alfonso XIII.

Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena (Cathedral)

What you should know…

  • Building started in 1883.
  • The façade is connected to the Royal Palace to form a single architectural piece.

Gran Vía

What you should know…

  • Nowadays this is one of the main arteries in Madrid. It was inaugurated in 1910.
  • This street contains extremely iconic buildings such as the Metrópolis, the 7th piece by Eduardo Reynals which is highly representative of “Spanish style”.

Plaza Mayor (square)

What you should know…

  • A 17th century square with porticoes, consisting of three storey buildings.
  • It has been a meeting place for centuries, acting as a venue for bull runs, festivals and judgements during the Spanish Inquisition.
  • This square was the site where the patron of Madrid, Saint Isidro, was beatified in 1621. This was also the place where Rodrigo Calderón, secretary to Felipe III, was executed. However, the most important event held here was the reception of Carlos III from Italy in 1760.
  • The architect who designed it was Juan Gómez de Mora.
  • Presiding over the square is an equestrian statue of Felipe III.
  • A major attraction in this square are the restaurants which are located under the arcade.

Plaza de Oriente (square)

What you should know…

  • José Bonaparte ordered this area to be cleared of old houses, thereby opening up a large square with views of the Royal Palace.
  • The square is decorated with statues of Gothic kings and an equestrian statue of Felipe IV.
  • This area is also home to the Royal Theatre, inaugurated by Isabel II in 1850.

Puerta del Sol (square)

What you should know…

  • Originally the eastern entrance to the city, guarded by a gate and a fortress.
  • Many writers of the Golden Age make reference to the steps of San Felipe, known as the “gossiping place of the Town”, a site on the corner of today’s calle Mayor.
  • Today it is in the shape of a half moon.
  • The Casa de Correos (post office building) which presides over the square was built by Ventura Rodríguez by order of Carlos III in 1760.
  • Today it is the seat of the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and witness to various festive events such as New Year’s Eve.