The great artery in the center of Madrid celebrates a century of life. Hundreds of events have occurred on this mythical street, thousands of people walked along it and, however, it has not become obsolete, on the contrary, it has known how to adapt to the times and circumstances. If you already know it well, perhaps you are unaware of some of the anecdotes it contains and that AUTO BILD reveals to you below.

The great artery of the center of Madrid celebrates a century of life. Hundreds of events have occurred on this mythical street, thousands of people walked along it and, however, it has not become obsolete, on the contrary, it has known how to adapt to the times and circumstances. If you already know it well, you may not know some of the anecdotes it contains and that AUTO BILD reveals to you below.

VIDEO: This is how Madrid’s Gran Vía looks like after the works

Anyone who feels attached to the city of Madrid has a special relationship with Gran Via. Every self-respecting Madrid resident has ever been surprised in the morning by wandering aimlessly along its sidewalks or has made the mistake of trying to drive across it at Christmas. These types of experiences, I can personally assure you, unite a lot. In any case, it has been a long time since the Gran Vía stopped being only for the people of Madrid, in fact, it never was. Because if Madrid has something cosmopolitan, 99% of it is due to this avenue.

The Gran Vía was once a solution and one need for the capital of Spain. The streets from the center of Madrid have a route that comes from baroqueThat is to say, they offer pedestrians or cars a narrowness and anarchy that anyone who has ever passed through them knows perfectly well. Even today, when pedestrians look out onto this street from any other in the center, they feel something similar to a breath of fresh air.

It was necessary to put some order among all the unhealthy alleys in the area and, by the way, it was necessary to connect the northwest with the city center, the neighborhoods of Salamanca and Arguelles. Added to all these needs was the new concept of commerce with large shop windows to win over the public. It had also been the path that many other European cities had followed to decongest their centers. Thus, there were some projects already in the middle of the 19th century.

Diaphanous appearance of the Plaza del Callao in the 1920s

One of the great tram lines: the one that crossed Gran Vía through Fuencarral

The opposition of the neighbors of the 344 buildings what were expropriated to demolish 30 apples and the disputes between different architects did not allow the works to begin until the April 4, 1910. In it original projectthe street must have been paved with wood and there was another great way that there would be cut perpendicularly to join Plaza de la Cebada and Fuencarral street. Such was the citizen opposition to the project that until Federico Chueca had dedicated the Operetta Gran Via in 1886.

cañí anecdote

The maestro’s opinion should not have been so immutable, since he himself conducted the orchestra on the opening day. At that event, the first section was launched, between Alcalá and Fuencarral. Pickaxe in hand, the King Alfonso XIII laid the first stone of Metropolis Buildingin 1907.

Aerial view of the first section of the Gran Vía. In the 1930s, traffic began to be a problem

In 1929, pedestrians passed unfazed by Europe’s first skyscraper, still uninaugurated: the Telefónica building.

Although this building is ranked 16th among the tallest in Madrid, now the activity below is much greater

The street was renamed ‘Howitzer Avenue’ during the Civil War. In some places on Gran Vía the shrapnel holes are still preserved. The victory of the national side was also celebrated here

Although before the Civil warthe Gran Vía had already experienced a boom period, probably its period of maximum splendour is located between 1950 and 1970.
During those years, the luxury stores in his first stretch (Alcalá- Callao) competed with the film premieres in their theaters, which attracted the main stars of the moment, such as Ava Gardner.

The entrance to the street on the corner with Alcalá in the 70s

Gone was the saddest time, when Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos either Antoine de Saint-Exupéry They sent their war chronicles from the hotel Florida. The beautiful building that housed it in the Plaza del Callao was demolished in 1964 to build the former department store. Preciados Galleries.

After the disappearance of that building, the Callao cinema It is one of the few examples of art deco of the capital, many of them on Gran Vía, although the majority of those there are eclectic. This cinema was the first large cinema of many that have marked the history of this street. It was inaugurated by the architect Luis Gutierrez Soto in 1926, on the same place where the Callao barracks had been established. The first screening of him was ‘Luis Candelas, the bandit of Madrid’. The film lasted three hours and since a law prevented venues from opening later than 1:00 a.m., the session had to be brought forward to 9:30 p.m. It is clear that Madrid residents have always had nocturnal customs.

Until the 70s, it was a tradition to go to the kiosks near Callao to buy toys for children. In the background, the Carrión building without its famous advertising sign

In the background, the Carrión building today

A story without end

A singular anecdote took place when the Gran Vía had just been born. A bull and one cow HE they escaped from the Extremadura highway and after wandering through the streets of Madrid and seriously knocking out some passers-by, they came across the matador Diego Mazquiarán at the height of Valverde Street.
The right-hander went more than a quarter of an hour bullfighting at the animal until someone managed to bring him a rapier. When the task was finished, the crowd carried him on their shoulders.

Summer terraces at the foot of asphalt in the 80s

On the sidewalk of the Military Casino, the cafe terraces served as social watchtowers

The last building to be completed was the Washington Hotelin 1952. It has rained a lot and although it seems that this street is not as fashionable as it was then, it is sure to still last another 100 years.

The crossing of San Bernardo Street in the seventies…

… and actually. The Madrid Tower already dominated the sky then

The bus lane, without the modern bollards that protect it now, was inaugurated in 1978

At number 39, the Allianz Insurance building

A random name

Some signs remember the old names of the Gran Vía

The Gran Vía has always been called that way by the majority of its pedestrians, although there have been those who insisted on calling it other official names:

Eduardo Dato/Av. Pi and Margall/Count of Peñalver (until 1936)
CNT Av./Av. From Russia (1936-1939)
José Antonio Avenue (1939-1981)

A unique walk

There are many more interesting buildings on Gran Vía, but here are a few to look out for next time you pass by:

Torre de Madrid is not on Gran Vía, but it dominates its landscape

Lope de Vega Theater

Press Palace

House of the book

Hotel Cibeles

Grassy Building, it is not called that but in the premises below is the museum of this famous watchmaker from Milan

The Gran Vía in figures

Work start date: 1910
Years of inauguration (by phases): 1924-1929
Length: 1,306 meters
Road width: 25-30m

Photos: Regional Archive of the Community of Madrid, M. Santos Yubero Photographic Fund, AUTO BILD and Wikipedia Commons.