City map of Madrid
Atocha Station is located in the heart of Madrid.
We took the fast and comfortable Talgo Inter-City Train from autonomous Barcelona to the Spanish federal capital and disembarked at Atocha, Madrid’s main station. Madrid’s population is 3.3 million; the metropolitan area is 6.5 million and is the third largest metropolitan area in the European Union after London and Paris.
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city made up of grand and elegant boulevards and public buildings, also vibrant plazas and walking streets. Madrid is the seat of a federal government that is aggravated because full autonomy has not satisfied Catalan secessionists in Barcelona.
If the government permits the establishment of a Catalonia, it fears the Basques and Galicians in the north – simmering for decades over the issue of self-determination – will demand the same. Spain, described by some as an Iberian empire, would become a much smaller and weaker state.
Madrid’s largest and most famous park is the Buen Retiro where the Prado Museum’s works of Goya, Velázquez, and other Spanish masters are displayed. The park also contains a military museum and Army Headquarters.
Madrid’s largest central space is the Plaza Mejor (above photo) where spokes of walking streets project out into other plazas and related walking streets creating an ideal pedestrian experience and urban environment. The major marketplace, the Mercado de San Miguel and featured later in this web page, is accessed by means of the arch on the far right.
Observe how the walking streets feed throngs of people into the great plazas that direct the masses into more walking streets and plazas.
On the other side of the above plaza photo, the walking streets will in six blocks direct the tourist into the Plaza Mejor and Mercado San Miguel. Madrid has developed an ingenious pedestrian infrastructure that nurtures an enriched city life.
The distance from our hotel to the Plaza Mejor via the walking streets and plazas can be covered by foot in fifteen minutes. The same distance by taxi required a five to ten-minute walk up to the boulevard to hail a cab, then twenty to thirty minutes slogging through heavy traffic.
Observe the human throng parading up or down the walking street from or to the upcoming plaza. Five story residential buildings with retail on the ground floor generates the densities needed for vibrant street life and sustaining effective mass transit systems. The City of Atlanta is currently employing this development strategy and filling in nicely.
Madrid has a good system of tour buses with the second deck open to the air, a nice way to see the local sights. The tourists get on and off the bus as desired to access local attractions. The buses cruise the majestic boulevards and stop at designated places for drop-offs or pickups.
The walking street in the below photo and a block away from our hotel leads up to the boulevard to access the tour buses or taxis.
The Madrid government invests heavily in keeping the city’s public assets spiffy and the real estate market is healthy. As a result, construction cranes are everywhere.
Some plazas are more central or more popular than others. The following two pictures capture the popularity of a selected plaza two blocks from our hotel that contained an impressive theater / concert hall and museum.
The other half of the equation; Samsung electric ad, outdoor cafes, two walking streets.
Public art and pedestrians walking everywhere help civilize the ground and make cities special places to live, work, and play.
La Cubano is a popular Madrid theater featuring Latin stage shows.
The San Miguel Market is one of the world’s greatest. Prodigious and diverse displays of fresh produce and an even greater tapas food court of incomparable range and flavor delectably co-exist under one roof.
I was curious if the smoked salmon vendor offered their fish on a bagel with cream cheese, chopped onions, and capers – they did and I took a photo of the dish I like to eat at home. I instead sampled a small salmon plate with crumples of soft-boiled egg, capers, and diced onions spread on top – delicious.
History is everywhere one looks in Madrid.
As a retired high school history teacher and a citizen of relatively young Atlanta, I like to find signs of great age in cities like Madrid. The Casa Anton Bar was founded in 1952 and has been in business for 67 years. The wall plaque on the building honors the memory of Ramon Barce, a nineteenth century writer who lived there.
I snap photos of public murals wherever I go. I believe this one is called The Three Sisters.
Spain experienced a civil war in the mid-1930’s between fascists and democratic republicans and was a dictatorship under Francisco Franco until 1975. What will the national government do if Catalonia separates with a declaration of national self-determination and encourages Basques and Galicians to follow?
Spanish Army Headquarters is pictured in the above photo. If the nation fractures, will the army stay in the barracks or forcibly put the country back together again? Stay tuned.