Renoir Plaza de España
The flagship of the enterprising Renoir chain, with screens on the small side and a haphazard queuing system in the cramped foyer, although good sound systems and a keen crowd of film fans ensure enjoyable viewing. The Cuatro Caminos branch is also worth a mention for its larger screens, decent bar and intelligent balance of Spanish and world cinema, while the Princesa also has an eclectic mix of Spanish, European and independent American cinema.
This relative newcomer to the ranks of VO cinemas has five screens showing a lively mix of art-house, Spanish, independent and mainstream foreign films.
This legendary four-screener, until recently known as the Alphaville, was the first of Madrid's art-house cinemas and played a crucial role in the Movida during the '80s. The screens and sound systems are showing their age and tiering is inadequate, but the basement café is still a fashionable meeting place with a bohemian atmosphere.
Filmoteca Española (Cine Doré)
Known affectionately as la filmo and featured in films by Almodóvar, this chic art nouveau national film theatre was founded more than 50 years ago. The neon-lit foyer/café is a lively meeting place and the tiny bookshop is always full of browsers. A free, expansive, fold-out monthly programme features details of its eclectic seasons of films from the Spanish National Archive and world cinema. The grand auditorium is an especially marvellous place to see silent movies, sometimes accompanied by live music. The outdoor rooftop cinema and bar are open - and unsurprisingly very popular - during the summer months. Note that tickets can't be bought in advance for the Filmoteca, so you will often be required to queue well before the film starts.
Cine Estudio de Bellas Artes
Originally a theatre, this repertory cinema is part of the grand Círculo de Bellas Artes building. The sound system is excellent, and the programme of themed film seasons goes down well with the trendy audience.
Inside the Matadero de Madrid, this is the first and practically the only cinema in the country dedicated almost exclusively to non-fiction films. The programme is made up of alternative, indpendent and documentary films, and the cinema is recognised as a platform for young film-makers.
Tickets & Attractions
Commissioned by Philip V after the earlier Alcázar was lost to a fire in 1734, the Royal Palace is rarely used by the royal family, and many of its 3,000 rooms are open to view. The architects principally responsible for the final design, which reflects the taste of the Spanish Bourbons, were Italian - Giambattista Sacchetti and Francesco Sabatini - with contributions by the Spaniard Ventura Rodríguez. Filippo Juvarra, Philip V's first choice, had planned a palace four times as large, but after his death the project became a little less ambitious. Completed in 1764, the late-baroque palace is built almost entirely of granite and white Colmenar stone, and, surrounded as it is by majestic gardens, contributes greatly to the splendour of the city. Inside you must keep to a fixed route, but are free to set your own pace rather than follow a tour. The entrance into the palace is awe-inspiring: you pass up a truly vast main staircase and then through the main state rooms, the Hall of Halbardiers and Hall of Columns, all with soaring ceilings and frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto and Giambattista Tiepolo. In the grand Throne Room there are some fine 17th-century sculptures commissioned by Velázquez, which were saved from the earlier Alcázar. Other highlights are the extravagantly ornate private apartments of the palace's first resident, Charles III, again decorated by Italians. Particularly striking are the Gasparini Room, the king's dressing room, covered in mosaics and rococo stuccoe
This famous square is in the heart of the city's historic district, built on the site of the old Plaza del Arrabal, which was home to the most popular market in the late 15th century. It was Felipe II who in 1580 commissioned Juan de Herrera with the project to remodel the square, although it would be Juan Gómez de Mora who would finish the job in 1619. The first building that was erected in Plaza Mayor as we know it today was the Casa de la Panadería bakery, designed by Diego Sillero. These days the square is the headquarters of the Madrid Tourism Centre. The equestrian statue of Felipe III in the centre of the square was designed by Giambologna and completed by Pietro Tacca in 1616. Another important work in the area is the Arco de Cuchilleros, the most famous of the nine entrances to the square. The archway is the work of Juan Villanueva, who, after the devastating fire of 1790, decided to reduce the façades by two levels, close off the square, and raise the nine arches, so the largest in size with an enormous stairway would give passage to C/Cuchilleros.
With an ancient Roman aqueduct and a 13th century castle, this city is full of symbols representing its past. Established by the Romans, the area became a retreat for Spanish monarchs.
Inhabited by everyone from the Romans to the Christians, Toledo has served as a homebase for each of its conquerors, with traces of each remaining throughout the city. One could easily devote an entire day to visiting the Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues, the Catholic cathedral, and not forgetting the Alcazar castle or the Renaissance art by the famed El Greco.
Madrid City Tour and Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Match a sightseeing tour of Madrid with a visit to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home ground of the legendary Real Madrid football team. See the buildings that have shaped Madrid, from the Moorish quarter to the Habsburg and Bourbon eras with their Royal Palace and grand squares. Then go behind the scenes on a Santiago Bernabeu Stadium tour and feel the excitement of walking on Real Madrid’s home pitch.
El Escorial Monastery and the Valley of the Fallen
Commissioned by King Felipe II as a testament to Spain's devout Catholic faith, El Escorial was built in the 16th century after defeating the French in the Battle of Saint Quentin.
Cinema on the cheap
Spanish Film Academy – Free
The Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España, aka Academia de Cine ('The Spanish Film Academy'), responsible for the annual Goya national film awards, is much more than a simple institution. Founded in 1986, its honorary president is Luis García Berlanga, who took part in the creation of this non-profit, public-service-orientated organisation. The films shown here are completely free of charge. All you have to do is to collect your passes (maximum two per person) from the mansion that houses the academy on the same day as the screening of the film you want to see. Admission is limited to the capacity of the auditorium, and no one is allowed in once the session has started. The academy also schedules interesting film cycles.
Cine Doré – €2.50
The Spanish Film Archive (Filmoteca Española) has its headquarters at this cinema, which has three auditoriums. The first is a reconstruction of the old Salón Doré, the second is a more modern design and the third is an open-air space named after the Spanish director Luis Berlanga, which is only open from July to mid-September and has bar service. A café and specialist bookshop round out the facilities. The films shown here belong predominantly to the classic, independent and experimental genres, though there are occasional nods to the mass audience through their ‘Cine para todos’ (‘Cinema for all’) sessions. And all of this costs just €2.50, or €2 if you’re a student.
Cines Golem – €4 on discount day
Large seats and wide arms mean that watching an original-language film at this cinema is both comfortable and cheap. Its location in a street that runs parallel to C/Princesa makes it easy to get to, and the films are mostly indie productions. It happens to be right next door to Renoir Plaza de España, another cinema specialising in the same genre. Monday is discount day here and tickets cost €4 (€3.90 if you buy them online). Note that 3-D films are subject to a €1 supplement and prices double at weekends, so take advantage of cheap Monday here to start off the week with a good movie.
La Casa Encendida – €3
Everything from documentaries and experimental screenings to short films, talks with directors and auter productions have a place in the audiovisual auditorium of La Casa Encendida. The idea is to offer a wide perspective of the art form paying special attention to 'works that explore less-well-travelled expressive paths and are overlooked by commercial channels'. A number of noteworthy films have been screened here, and in summer an open-air cinema is set up on the outdoor terrace. Admission usually costs €3.