In the 15th century, the monarchs of the House of Austria built a Gothic fortress in the area of the Alcazaba. The old fortress burnt down in 1734 and the Bourbons built the current Royal Palace on its site. This whole area of Madrid was known as "Madrid de los Austrias" (Hapsburg Madrid). The nobility built their palaces around it to live in the Court. In the 17th century, the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor, two of the city's nerve centres, were built.
Puerta del Sol
This was formerly the eastern entrance to the city, guarded by a gate and a fortress. Numerous writers of the Golden Age refer to the steps of San Felipe, known as the "mentidero de la Villa", on the corner of what is now Calle Mayor. Nowadays, it is in the shape of a half moon. The Casa de Correos (Post Office) that presides over the square was built by Ventura Rodríguez by order of Carlos III in 1760.
Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral
This is the site of the old Gothic Alcazar, which burnt down in 1734. Philip V was the king who commissioned its construction. The palace decoration reflects the taste of Charles III and Charles IV. The last monarch to reside here was Alfonso XIII. The façade of the Almudena Cathedral is integrated into the Royal Palace to form a unique architectural ensemble.
Today it is one of Madrid's main thoroughfares. It was inaugurated in 1910. This street contains very emblematic buildings such as the Metrópolis building, at number 7, the work of Eduardo Reynals, the main representative of the so-called "Spanish style".
A 17th century porticoed square made up of three-storey buildings. For centuries it has been a meeting place where bullfights, festivals and trials of the Holy Inquisition were organised. Rodrigo Calderón, secretary to Felipe III, was executed here. One of its attractions are the restaurants located under the arcades. The square is presided over by an equestrian statue of Felipe III.