Welcome to my "Plaza de la Independencia and La Puerta de Alcalá" description page, for photos & videos of this site click --> HERE.
Though the official name is Plaza de la Independencia, this square is often refered to as Puerta de Alcalá after the big three-arched city gate in the middle of the traffic roundabout.
The Puerta de Alcalá was originally constructed in 1599 to welcome dońa Margarita de Austria (wife of King Felipe III) to Madrid. Unfortunately, what was good enough for dońa Margarita just did not cut it for the later King Carlos III. On December 9th, 1759 KIng Carlos III entered the city through the gate but was not very pleased with it and felt it was not worthy of such a noble entrance. So, in 1764 Carlos III ordered the gate to be torn down and decided to construct a new gate that was worthy of his greatness. Projects were presented by renowned architects such as José de Hermosilla, Ventura Rodríguez and Francisco Sabatini but in the end, the King gave the job to the Italian Architect Sabatini who in his opinion had presented the best project. The gate used to serve as the entrance to Madrid from the "Camino de Aragón" ("Road to Aragón"). The Puerta de Alcalá that we know today was completed in 1769 and it quickly became one of the most important symblos of Madrid. God bless the vanity of Monarchs because it truly is one of the most beautiful monuments in the city.
The Puerta de Alcalá is constructed of granite and stone from the area of Madrid known as "Colmenar".
Just off the square is the main entrance to Retiro Park and the south end of calle Serrano, one of the most upscale shopping streets in the city. At Christmas, the view west along Alcalá street towards Cibeles and Sol is lovely, with tiny white lights sparkling in the trees and coiled around the lightposts in the Cibeles and Plaza de la Independencia.
For all its urban atmosphere, this square has a bit of rural history, too. Alcalá street is part of Spain's centuries-old system of livestock routes, running east-west to connect major north-south routes on both sides of the city. Here in Plaza de Independencia are two small stone markers, one on each side of Alcalá street (near the entrances to the tunnel under Alcalá, watch out for pickpockets in the tunnel). Theoretically these stone markers should be placed at stipulated distances along the routes, but most have disappeared. Finding them in the middle of the city is a surprising reminder of Madrid's not-too-distant rural past.
Interesting note: During May-June of 2001, The Puerta de Alcalá underwent a unique and very original transformation in honor of Madrid being named the "Capital Mundial del Libro" (World Book Capital), check out my photo featur by clicking HERE.