Stretching from Cuesta de la Vega to the Plaza Mayor, this quarter offers visitors to Madrid a vivid impression of what the capital... more » looked like during the Hapsburg Dynasty. It is an area filled with charming little squares and traditional taverns epitomising the quintessential flavour of the city.
The street layout of the district dates back to the city’s medieval origins, when Emir Mohammed I ordered the construction of a citadel in AD 865 in the village of Myrit, on the Manzanares River. The township subsequently became a crossroads between the north and south and an important enclave for the Kingdom of Castile's reconquest of Toledo. Over time the citadel was transformed into a fortress for the Christian kings.
In 1561, Philip II eventually became the first king to set up court in Madrid. The Hapsburg dynasty brought a completely new image to the city, with granite and brickwork buildings, slate-clad spires and sumptuous religious buildings hidden away behind garden walls. Even today this corner of Madrid still preserves the distinctive air of that period. It takes little imagination to envisage the swash-buckling swordsmen of the king’s court, or poets of the Spanish Golden Age wandering through its streets.
It is possible to tour Madrid’s Hapsburg District in a couple of hours, but it is worthwhile visiting it at a more leisurely pace, taking in its churches, convents and the Royal Palace. Stopping for lunch at one of its mesones (traditional eating houses) is highly recommended, as is browsing the shops along Calle de Santiago or around Plaza Mayor, the central square from which our visit sets off. less «