Plaza de Cibeles
The Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid. It sits at the intersection of Calle de Alcalá (running from east to west), Paseo de Recoletos (to the North) and Paseo del Prado (to the south). Plaza de Cibeles was originally named Plaza de Madrid, but in 1900, the City Council named it Plaza de Castelar, which was eventually replaced by its current name.
It is currently delimited by four prominent buildings: The Bank of Spain, the Palacio de Buenavista, the Palacio de Linares and the Cybele Palace. These constructions are located in four different neighbourhoods from three different adjacent districts: Centro, Retiro and Salamanca. In the years Cybele Palace and her fountain have become symbolic monuments of the city.
The place where Plaza de Cibeles sits today used to form part of a wooded, longitudinal axis that, during the Renaissance, separated the urban section of Madrid from different monastic and palace complexes. It consisted of three main sections, known as the Prado de los Recoletos Agustinos (now the Paseo de Recoletos), the Prado de los Jerónimos (which corresponds to the now Paseo del Prado) and the Prado de Atocha. The first important reform of this axis was carried out by Phillip II in 1570. In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Charles III, a new renovation had begun.
The most prominent of the buildings at the Plaza de Cibeles is the Cybele Palace (formerly named Palace of Communication). The cathedral-like landmark was built in 1909 by Antonio Palacios as the headquarters of the postal service. This impressive building was home to the Postal and Telegraphic Museum until 2007 when the landmark building became the Madrid City Hall (Ayuntamiento de Madrid).
Across the Paseo de Prado from city hall is the Bank of Spain. It is found opposite to the General Staff Headquarters of the Spanish Army. The oldest part of the enormous building, bordering the Cybele square, was built between 1882 and 1891. Throughout the twentieth century, three extensions were undertaken. The first of them took place between 1930 and 1934 and the second between 1969 and 1975. The most recent extension was added in 2006 and was designed by Rafael Moneo. Each architect has respected the original layout of the building since its inception. Inside, 30m below the surface is an area where the central bank stores its gold. Before modern security was installed, the room was flooded in case of danger by water coming from Cybele Fountain.
Opposite the Bank of Spain is the Palacio de Linares. The baroque palace was built in 1873 by a rich banker, José de Murga. A century later, the building had fallen into disrepair but in 1992 it was completely renovated. It currently houses the Casa de América, a cultural center and art gallery focused mostly on Latin American arts. The building is said to be haunted by the spirits of its first owner, who made his fortune in the New World.
Built in 1777 by the Duchess of Alba with designs of Pedro de Arnal. Surrounded by a French style garden by Ventura Rodríguez. Facing Cybele Palace is the Buenavista Palace, headquarters of the Spanish Army. The Crown owned it after the death of the Duchess of Alba, and became War Ministry in 1847 until 1939 when it was ceded to the Spanish Army to host its Headquarters.