City Guides

Connoisseur’s Guide to St. Anna Square

Written by Aksel Ritenis

santa-ana1Mayor and the Puerta del Sol. It is also possible to walk to Madrid’s main museums from here, making this area an ideal location to stay in the city.

The square was originally the site of the Convent of Santa Ana, founded in 1586 but demolished during the reign of José Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother), in 1810. In its place, the Plaza was created around 1848.

On its east side, the “Teatro Español” may be found, whose origins go back to 1583, although the current building was constructed in 1849 after the first, an open air theatre, was burnt down. In this theatre Spain’s most important writers have seen their works acted out on stage.

To the west, the unmistakable façade of the ME Madrid Reina Victoria hotel dominates the square. The hotel was built in 1916, the large front windows of its rooms enjoying truly spectacular views of the Plaza.

s_1Two statues in the square play tribute to two great Spanish personalities. The first, close to the hotel, is of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681), the famous Spanish playwright. The second, just in front of the Theatre, is of Federico García Lorca (1898–1936), poet and dramatist, killed by the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Plaza Santa Ana is a great place to start an evening’s entertainment in Madrid. The Madrileños will often start arriving to this area around 1pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Plaza Santa Ana is a very pleasant square just off Puerta del Sol and situated in an older barrio of Madrid; indeed the house where Miguel de Cervantes (writer of Don Quixote) lived is a couple of streets away in Calle Cervantes.

At night the square becomes one of the most important hot spots for night time entertainment. My favourite bars in the square include “La Moderna” and “Cerveceria Santa Ana” and “Cerveceria Alemana” the latter are typical Madrid bars with oak panelling, huge beer pumps and waiters turned out in white waistcoats.

Another favourite is “Naturbier”, which is unique in Madrid as it brews its own beer – it has a cavernous basement and serves good food. In one of the streets next to the theatre, you will find “Viva Madrid” which is an elaborately tiled bar with great wooden ceilings. Just around the corner from Plaza Santa Ana, you’ll find Calle Huertas which comes alive at night and has a vast array of bars, catering for all needs.

The main hotel in the square, Tryp Reina Victoria, is closely associated with bullfighting and it is the place where the top Spanish bullfighters choose to stay whilst in Madrid.

St. Anna Square waiterSanta Ana monastery, which was once on this site, was destroyed during the reign of Joseph Bonaparte (1808–13). Today the square is bordered by tapas bars and is the ideal place to participate in people watching.

Plaza de Santa Ana is a wonderful place to just sit and watch the passers-by, to take a refreshing drink at one of the open-air terrace cafes, or to enter one of the many bars to sample a plate or two of tapas with a glass of wine.

The square is particularly popular on Sunday mornings, when Spanish families come out in droves to buy a newspaper or a loaf of bread, and take a short stroll, interspersed, of course, by a glass of wine or three! During the summer months, the Plaza is packed from early evening to late at night as a younger crowd take over the terrace cafes before moving on for dinner or to dance away the early hours.

Nearest metro station: Sol and Sevilla.

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Aksel Ritenis

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