Apparently Pedro Almodóvar arrived in Madrid by the Extremadura motorway. According
to an autobiographical article published in Diario 16 in 1993, his first contact
with the city of Madrid was to prove something of a disappointment. “It was nothing
like how I had imagined it; the landscape was colourless, grimy and unwelcoming.”
Nothing like that for me…The first time I saw the GRAN VIA was in 2010 when it
resembled a river cutting Madrid in two. This was the year the Spanish celebrated
the 100th birthday of the iconic avenue and the entire length had been carpeted in a
brilliant blue plush pile. I still think of the GRAN VIA in a watery context but now
it is a sea of people.
GRAN VIA began its life when King Alfonso XIII, grandfather of Juan Carlos of
Borbon, ordered that it be built. He inaugurated construction on April 4, 1910.
Since then the GRAN VIA, measuring 1,316 meters, from the Alcala street (Plaza
Cibeles) intersection to the Plaza de España, has changed significantly. Intimate
sidewalk cafes and glamorous theatres have made way for fast food joints, nightclubs
and global high street brands. But look up, above the modern day shopfronts and you
will witness some of Madrid’s classic architecture. The Spanish speaking video provides a great introduction to the street.
Interestingly, GRAN VIA is not the widest or longest street in Madrid but you could
easily spend a whole day stilling its length and If walking the full length of the
GRAN VIA is too much for you there are no fewer than 4 metro stops along its route
(Plaza de España, Santo Domingo, Callao and Gran Via) to help break up the journey.
As you walk, you will sense the life of Madrid and enjoy iconic 1930’s facades. At
the top end, find Plaza de España, and the statue of Spanish novelist Cervantes’
heroes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.