Right in the heart of Spain’s capital city, Gran Via runs from Salamanca district to Argüelles. It is one of the main arteries of the city and one of its flagship avenues. This boulevard has been one of the most famous streets in Madrid since the 1930s, when a 1862 project to decongest the historical city centre (Puerta del Sol area) culminated.
That project meant also a modernisation of local architecture with the construction of the first skyscrapers. The works were carried out in three phases, which let us see different architectonic styles corresponding to each period in the three stretches covering this long avenue. The first stretch, connecting Calle Alcalá and Red de San Luis, features a historicist style, with neo-baroque buildings, like Casino Militar, or the neo-Renaissance-styled Metropolis building. Although the latter is accessed from Calle Alcalá, its dome topped with a Winged Victory statue has become a symbol of Gran Vía. The second stretch reaches Callao square and is characterised by French and American styles; in fact, it is noteworthy the Telefónica building, the first Spanish skyscraper and one of the earliest in Europe, clearly inspired by the high towers of Manhattan. The last stretch, between Callao and Plaza de España, features more modern and eclectic buildings.
Obviously, the construction of Gran Vía meant demolishing hundreds of houses and remodelling several streets, but some buildings were respected because of their religious and historical interest. An example of this is Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia, a neoclassical church originally built in 1659 and rebuilt between 1786 and 1795. A new north façade was added between 1911 and 1916 to integrate the oratory with the new thoroughfare.
In addition to admiring the architecture, visitors to Gran Vía can also enjoy a variety of leisure activities. It is a lively street, similar to Regent Street in London or New York’s 5th Avenue, full of hotels, restaurants, cafés, shops, cinemas and theatres; that’s why it is known as “Madrid’s own Broadway”. In Gran Vía you will find a little of everything, from great musicals and Cirque du Soleil shows to more intimate plays, from American style cafés to luxury restaurants – without forgetting the typical tapas bars- and , of course, lots of shops and boutiques!