The passage of time has left numerous constructions that have left their mark on Madrid and that speak to us about its history. Even though the city’s monumental and artistic heritage is so vast and difficult to cover in a single list, the following is a selection of 20 sites and buildings that make up the city’s most emblematic and iconic image. By clicking on the links, you can access the files of each site or building in the catalogue, with details of their location, a photo gallery and practical information on filming in them.
1 Puerta del Sol
Centrally located and bustling, the Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid’s landmarks. Its semi-circular layout is the hub of several of the city’s busiest and most historical streets, and it is home to some of its most representative elements such as the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, the symbol of the city, the Kilometre 0 plaque that marks the starting point of the different national highways that radiate from Madrid, and the equestrian statue of Charles III, the king who modernized the city.
Every New Year’s Eve, a host of locals and visitors congregate beneath the famous clock of the Casa de Correos (the old Post Office building) to guzzle down the traditional twelve grapes to the sound of the bells ringing in the new year
2 Plaza Mayor
Located in the heart of Madrid’s historical centre, the Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid), for centuries now, the Plaza Mayor has been the scene of popular festivities, bullfights, beatifications, coronations and autos-de-fe during the Inquisition. The square is crowned by the equestrian statue of Philip III and the iconic Casa de la Panadería whose façade is adorned with murals on which we can make out mythological figures related to the history of Madrid.
With its arcades and uniform buildings, the square is closed at its corners and has nine entrance arches, of which the best known is the Arco de Cuchilleros, the Arch of the Knife Makers, whose steps lead down to the street of the same name, graced with buildings that are quite picturesque due to the height and inclination of their buttress-like facades.
3 Plaza de la Villa
The Plaza de la Villa is one of Madrid’s best-preserved monumental ensembles. Located in the historic centre of the city, it was one of the main hubs of medieval Madrid and it connects to several streets that follow the original layout of the city.
Looking around the square we can see the main façades of three buildings of great historical and artistic value: the Gothic-Mudéjar style Casa de los Lujanes (15th century), the Plateresque style Casa de Cisneros (16th century), and the Baroque style Casa de la Villa building (17th century), the former Madrid City Hall building.
4 Plaza de Oriente
Located between the Royal Palace and the Teatro Real Opera House, the Plaza de Oriente and its gardens were an initiative of José Bonaparte designed to enhance the two royal buildings. An equestrian statue of Philip IV stands in the centre of the square. Cast by Pietro Tacca in 1640 following the calculations of Galileo Galilei, it is observed by the numerous statues of Spanish monarchs scattered around the gardens.
The Plaza de Oriente is the centre of one of the city’s most important and most iconic monumental ensembles. From Calle Bailén we come upon La Almudena Cathedral and, at the other end of Calle San Quintín, we can see the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation in the square of the same name.
5 Plaza de España
Its central location and its connection with some of the city’s busiest shopping and tourist streets make the Plaza de España a popular meeting place in Madrid. The square is surrounded by two of the city’s most emblematic buildings: the Torre de Madrid, which was for years the tallest concrete skyscraper in the world, and the Edificio España, one of the most representative buildings on the urban skyline of Madrid. Its landscaped area is home to a well-known monument to Cervantes and to a pond and a fountain.
6 Temple of Debod
Originally built in Egypt in the 2nd century BC, the Temple of Debod was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government to prevent it from being flooded after the construction of the great Aswan dam. Transported and rebuilt stone by stone on the Príncipe Pío mountain close to Plaza de España, it maintains the same east to west orientation that it enjoyed in its original location. Surrounded by the Gardens of the Temple of Debod, this area offers its visitors panoramic views of beautiful sunsets.
7 Gran Vía
Inaugurated in 1910, the Gran Vía Avenue is one of the most important thoroughfares in the city centre. Several of the city’s most emblematic buildings stand on this Avenue, including prime examples of the architecture of the last century, such as the well-known Capitol Building with its emblematic neon Schweppes sign, the imposing Telefónica Building which was the city’s first skyscraper and the photogenic Metropolis Building, whose dome is crowned by a statue of Winged Victory.
In addition, there are countless buildings of interest that are home to some of the world’s leading fashion brands and food chains, making this neuralgic avenue one of the busiest streets in the city.
8 Plaza de Cibeles
Crowned by the Cibeles Fountain, one of the undisputed symbols of the city and the place where Real Madrid fans celebrate their team’s victories, Plaza de Cibeles is surrounded by the Buenavista Palace (the Army Headquarters), the Linares Palace (Casa América), the Bank of Spain, and the Communications Palace (the former headquarters of the Post Office), which today houses the Madrid City Council and the CentroCentro Cibeles cultural space
9 Puerta de Alcalá
Situated in the centre of the Plaza de la Independencia, the Puerta de Alcalá Gate is one of the five ancient royal gates that provided access to the city, thus called because it stands on the road that led to Alcalá de Henares. Designed by Francesco Sabatini during the reign of Charles III and inaugurated in 1778, it is a triumphal arch built in granite in the neo-Classical style, the first such arch to be built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and precursor to other well-known arches such as the Arch of Triumph in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
10 Gardens of the El Retiro Park
The city’s historical park par excellence, the Gardens of the El Retiro Park are a green oasis in the centre of Madrid. In addition to its varied gardens, its interior houses some of the city’s most recognisable buildings and monuments, such as its Lake, presided over by the sculptural ensemble dedicated to king Alfonso XII; the Glass Palace, an outstanding example of so-called iron architecture in Madrid; and the singular statue of the Fallen Angel, one of the few monuments to this mythological figure to be found anywhere in the world.
11 Neptune Fountain
Located in Plaza Cánovas del Castillo, and surrounded by two legendary Belle Époque hotels, the Palace and the Ritz, the Neptune Fountain is one of the most beautiful and majestic fountains in Madrid. It originally stood directly opposite to the Cibeles Fountain, the two statues glaring at each other on one side of the Paseo del Prado, but after it underwent a number of restructuring processes in the late 19th century, it was moved to its current location. This is where Atlético de Madrid fans celebrate their team’s victories.
12 Atocha Train Station
The main hall of the city’s first train station was calculated by the engineer Saint-James in 1892, and today the Atocha Train Station is one of the most recognisable images of Madrid. Under the old marquee of the train station, which was extended by Rafael Moneo between 1984 and 1992, visitors can today enjoy a pleasant hothouse garden containing some 7000 plants of 400 different species.
13 Prado Museum
The Prado Museum presides one of the most popular routes for tourists visiting the capital: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). The Prado contains a valuable collection of 8,600 paintings and 700 sculptures, including the most complete collection of Spanish painting in the world, and countless masterpieces of the Italian and Flemish schools. The museum opened to the public on 19 November 1819, which means it is celebrating its bicentennial in 2019.
14 Reina Sofía Museum
Located on one of the vertices of the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) the Reina Sofía Museum stands on the site of Madrid’s Old General Hospital. Architect Francisco Sabatini’s original work has been extended by Jean Nouvel to include an auditorium, a library and new exhibition rooms under a large red aluminium and zinc marquee attached to the rear of the old building.
Chronologically, its collection is a prolongation of that of the Prado Museum, covering the period from the end of the 19th century to the present day. The Museum houses outstanding works by great Spanish artists of the 20th century, and particularly important collections of Cubist, Surrealist and Expressionist works.
15 Las Ventas Bullring
Located at the junction of Calle Alcalá and the M-30 ring road, to the northeast of the city, the Las Ventas Bullring is one of the largest and most beautiful bullrings in the world. Based on brickwork and hand-painted tiles, its beautiful neo-Mudéjar style makes Las Ventas one of Madrid’s most visited and photographed monuments
16 Madrid Río Park
Born from the burial of Calle 30 that used to run alongside the Manzanares River, Madrid Río Park is one of the largest ecological rebalancing operations to have been carried out in the city in the past decades.
Following the rehabilitation of the area into green zones in which the waters of the river play a prominent role, several of the city’s emblematic bridges can be found along the course of the park, including the historical Puente de Segovia, the oldest bridge in the city, and the avant-garde Puente de Arganzuela Bridge which was designed by the famous French architect Dominique Perrault in the form of a double metal spiral.
17 Matadero Madrid
The former sheds that once housed the city slaughterhouse are now home to Matadero Madrid, an extensive centre of creation and cultural exhibitions composed of various spaces dedicated to all kinds of artistic and participatory activities.
From its main street and its outdoor squares one can appreciate the structure and the singular neo-Mudéjar style of the old complex, one of the most significant assets of Madrid’s 20th century industrial heritage, now turned into a symbol of the city’s urban and cultural renewal.
18 AZCA Complex
Built in the 1990s and taking its inspiration from New York’s Rockefeller Centre, the Azca complex is located in the economic-financial heart of the city, between the Paseo de la Castellana and Calle Orense, Calle Raimundo Fernández Villaverde and Calle General Perón. Some of the city’s main skyscrapers stand on its central square, including Torre Picasso, Torre Europa or Torre BBVA (now called Castellana 81). The Santiago Bernabéu stadium, the home of Real Madrid, is nearby.
19 Torres KIO
Designed by John Burgee Architects and standing 115 metres high, their characteristic symmetrical slope over the Plaza de Castilla is the best-known emblem of Madrid’s skyline. The façades combine glass, aluminium and stainless steel, which latter material creates the large shiny bands that are so characteristic of this striking pair of skyscrapers. Popularly known as the Torres KIO, even though their official name is “Puerta de Europa” or “Gateway to Europe”, their design was intended to create a kind of futuristic gate that would defy the laws of gravity.
20 Cuatro Torres Business Area
Completed in 2008, the skyline of Madrid has been modified over the last decade by the appearance of four new skyscrapers that stand in this business park located to the north of the city: Torre Cepsa (designed by Norman Foster), Torre PwC (Carlos Rubio Carvajal and Enrique Álvarez-Sala Walther), Torre Espacio (Henry N. Cobb) and Torre de Cristal (César Pelli), which at 249 metres is the tallest skyscraper in Spain.