Possibly the most beautiful of the many grand squares in Madrid is the Plaza de Cibeles. The unfortunately heavily trafficed square is surrounded by majestic buildings.
At its center is the Fuente de la Cibeles. This fountain, named after Cibele (or Ceres), roman goddess of nature, is seen as one of Madrid’s most important symbols. The Cibeles fountain depicts the goddess in a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built between 1777 and 1782 by Ventura Rodriguez. Whenever the local football team Real Madrid wins a cup, fans flock around the fountain to celebrate.
Palacio de Comunicaciones / City Hall
The most prominent of the buildings at the Plaza de Cibeles is the Palacio de Comunicaciones, or Communications Palace. 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 Madrid’s official city hall (Ayuntamiento de Madrid).
Banco de España
Across the Paseo de Prado from the city hall is the Banco de España, Spain’s central bank headquarters. The oldest part of the enormous building, bordering the Cibeles square, was built between 1882 and 1891. It was later expanded in 1936 and again in 1975.
Inside, thirty meters 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.
Palacio de Linares
Opposite the Banco de España 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.