Tel: (34) 91 3300500Fax: (34) 91 4201560
N +40º 24' 41.61" / W -3º 41' 51.39"
Welcome to Madrid!
My name is Maria Alcaide and I am one of the cultural experts at the TRYP Atocha.
I would like to present a privileged tour of the arts quarter.
We will start at Plaza de Santa Ana, the true heart of the neighbourhood. The Santa Ana Convent was located here until it was demolished in the urban renewal process started by José Bonaparte. On one side we can see important buildings such as the Teatro Español, built on the site of the prince’s old farmyard, and the Hotel Victoria, traditionally chosen by bullfighters to get dressed in before a fight. Around the square there are many bars and cafes, heirs to the tavern tradition of the area: The Café del Príncipe was famous for its social gatherings, here Larra and Espronceda would meet up, and La Alemana was visited by famous writers such as Jardiel, Valle Inclán and Ernest Hemingway.
The tour continues through Plaza del Angel passing by the Café Central, the city’s jazz temple. Then we go down San Sebastian street towards the Church of San Sebastian. In its registers we can see the recorded births, weddings and deaths of many prominent figures such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Vélez de Guevara, Espronceda, Iriarte, Moratín, Bécquer and Benavente.
Here there is a striking flower shop, built on the old churchyard where Lope de Vega was laid to rest in one of the last acts of urban renewal in the 19th century, his bones now lost forever.
Turn into Atocha street and then turn right into Costanilla de los Desamparados street. On the corner with Atocha Street is the building (now transformed)which published the first part of El Quijote and is now the headquarters of the Cervantes Society in Madrid.
On this street we arrive at Moratín street. Here was one of the writer’s homes in the area. Across the street from Santa María, we reach Huertas street.
Continuing down and we turn right into León Street. Here is the tavern of the representatives where actors and authors would converse, write reviews, find work and learn all the news and gossip.
Continuing a little further and we find ourselves in Cervantes street, so named as he had one of his homes here (before he had lived in Huertas and in plaza de Matute). In a paradox of fate, in the same street, a little further down from the building built on the plot of the writer’s house, is the Home Musuem of Lope de Vega. Lope lived here during the last years of his life, it was then abandoned until the Royal Academy bought it and carefully rebuilt it. Now you can visit and admire this 16th century house.
In Lope de Vega street is the Convent of the Trinitarians, where Lope’s daughter and Cervantes’s daughter professed. Continue down Lope de Vega street until we reach plaza de Jesus, so called for being the parish of Jesus de Medinacelli, image of very famous miracles. According to tradition, if you go there the three consecutive Fridays after the first of March to kiss the image, you are granted three wishes, hence huge queues would form. This whole area belonged to the Dukes of Lerma who sold and demolished his palace in the 19th century to make way for the construction of buildings such as the Hotel Palace. Next to the former palace was a church which also disappeared during the construction of the current church in the 1920s.
Gone are the distorting mirrors from Cat Alley, in which Valle-Inclán saw the tragedy of Spain transformed into the grotesque through the agonizing eyes of Max Estrella. The mirrors, which today are claimed by a bar specializing in "patatas bravas" (potatoes with a hot sauce), are smaller copies of the huge full length mirrors, one concave, the other convex, in which children and adolescents would see their distorted images resembling Quixote and Sancho.
We now return to plaza de Santa Ana, the largest in the area and privileged site of its main theatre, offering comedy and tragedy, a cenacle of conspiracies and fables.
In the surroundings the most illustrious talents of Spain’s century of gold and miseries lived and lived badly: Félix Lope de Vega, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora.