Gran Via

Address: Gran Via, Madrid, 28013, Spain

- Free


Madrid's most famous street is a showcase of 20th-century architecture.

Sweeping through downtown Madrid, the Gran Via is celebrating its centenary in 2010 with exhibitions, concerts and parties. Developed in three stages over a period of 50 years, the avenue is an integral part of life in the city. In the early years, people flocked there to admire the grand buildings and stop off at the fashionable bars, cafes and restaurants. The many cinemas and theatres meant it was busy late into the night. Nowadays, you'll see more chain boutiques and fast-food joints, but there are still a few theatres in the stretch between Plaza de Callao and Plaza de Espana. In the first section, from Calle de Alcala to the Red de San Luis, you can see how the architects were keen to emulate the elegant Paris boulevards created by Haussmann. These early highrises are often beautiful inside, with their winding corridors, wrought-iron balustrades and shuddering mahogany lifts. The second section was built in the 1920s and the architecture combines Art Deco features with the American influences emerging from Chicago and New York. The massive Telefonica building was Madrid's first skyscraper.

Value for money

Expert tips

Remember to look up as you walk along - there are some amazing statues on the tops of the buildings.

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • First-time travellers
  • Shopping