The Plaza de España of Madrid: History, Monuments and More

Madrid’s History is told in its streets, its buildings and its squares. Walking around each corner of the capital is an invitation to discover what happened in the past, to know how that particular monument was raised and to learn more about all the treasures of this spectacular city.

Today we want to approach you to the Plaza de España of Madrid, one of the largest in the capital, very visited and photographed. It has an area of 36,900 square meters and a centric location: you will find it at the confluence between the end of the Gran Vía and the beginning of Calle Princesa. But before you get here, let’s get to know this beautiful square a little better.

What you should know about the Plaza de España of Madrid

The History of the Plaza de España of Madrid

Later we will see some of the points of interest of this square, but to begin to tell you about its evolution, we will tell you that in the center there is the monument to Cervantes. Roman remains were found in this place during its foundation, so the history of this square goes back a long time ago.

It is also known that this site had orchards that were irrigated by the Leganitos stream, which ran along a homonymous street whose name comes from the Arabic word “algannet”, so perhaps we can also give it a Moorish past.

We go a little further in time, and we place ourselves in the reign of Philip IV. The Plaza de España ceased to be a peripheral area and was included next to the Alcázar Real (the place where today is the Royal Palace), so it became a space to which the aristocracy usually went.

A military place more than a residential area

By the eighteenth century, the aristocrats who move to live in the surroundings made the interest of this area increase. The real urbanization came with the reign of Charles III, but its use changed because of the construction of Sant Gil convent, which never had an ecclesiastical function but became a barracks, so the place was transformed into a military zone rather than residential.

The royal stables were located in the current Sabatini Gardens and what we know today as the Plaza de España of Madrid was called Plaza de San Gil and, later, Plaza de San Marcial.

This barracks was demolished in 1910, and in 1915 a contest was organized to design a monument for Cervantes. The proposal of Martínez Zapatero and Coullaut-Valera was the winner, and the statue was finally inaugurated in 1929.

Over the years, there were some reforms and new buildings were introduced, such as the Edificio España or the Torre de Madrid, which for some years was the tallest concrete building in the world.

A new stage for the Plaza de España of Madrid

Madrid’s Plaza de España is immersed in a new remodeling that is expected to be completed in 2019. The change will mean the increase of trees and the creation of a place with more green areas, paying more attention to the pedestrians.

What to see in the Plaza de España of Madrid

Find here some of the essential locations you can visit in the Plaza de España of Madrid.

Edificio España

It was the first skyscraper to be erected in this square. Its façade is made of red brick and limestone and has a neo-baroque style portico. It has 25 plants and is currently in the process of becoming a luxury hotel.

Torre de Madrid

It is the building that, during the 60s, became the tallest skyscraper in the world. It was built in 1954, and until 1985 it was the tallest in the capital. It measures 142 meters. It is currently the hotel Barceló Torre de Madrid.

Monument to Cervantes

The central gardens of the square host the monument to Cervantes – the one we have already mentioned-. It was projected to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the writer’s death.

The monument includes a world’s balloon, and also the mythical figure of the writer, two statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, accompanied by other characters from Don Quixote and others from other books by the author, such as Rinconete and Cortadillo. It measures 22 meters high.

Casa Gallardo

It is a modernist building that will surprise you with its beautiful architecture, although for this you must look up and contemplate it calmly. It is located on the corner of Calle Ferraz.

The building of the Compañía Asturiana de Minas

It was built between 1891 and 1899 and is a structure presided over by three towers with a reddish facade and made of stone, brick and slate. It is opposite Casa Gallardo, on the way to the Royal Palace. It is the oldest known building in this square.

The gardens

The new process of transformation of the square will ensure that green areas and pedestrian spaces acquire greater prominence to the delight of all visitors.
Currently, the gardens of Plaza España in Madrid represent 2.70 hectares within which is a beautiful fountain with a pond, in addition to the monument dedicated to Cervantes.

The markets and shops

The Plaza de España of Madrid is a place, also, for shopping. It becomes the scene of traditional craft markets where it is possible to buy gifts for Christmas, an anniversary… Any reason is good for a walk through the artisanal markets. The adjacent streets also have several shops, and there is even a small Chinatown somewhat hidden under the parking lot of the same square.

Featured image: Garden area of the square