Spanish version

Gran Via

Gran Via (Broadway) is one of the most important and popular streets in Madrid. It starts at Calle de Alcala and ends at Plaza de España.

It is divided into three areas.
The first part goes from Alcala to Red de San Luis. There are big buildings, the first skyscrapers of the city. The idea was to make this part of the street an exclusive shopping area. Here were important jeweler´s and the most famous designers opened their shops here.

There were also private clubs, recalling the English ones, although they were called casinos. Many populars cafes offered entertainment to their clients.
Many buildings of this area reflect a typical Spanish architecture, although some of them also show French style.

All these shops changed the life of Madrid´s inhabitants. Now people went windowshopping in the center, a new activity began. There was also the first underground line that brought people to Gran Via.

The second area goes from Red de San Luis to Callao. This part is broader and it should have been a boulevard, but the central area disapeared after a few years. Here people could find the first malls of the city and some of the most important cinemas of last century. Although the first malls do not exist any more it is still one of the most important shopping areas in Madrid. In the 1980´s and 1990´s many cinemas that had a capacity for hundreds of people changed one big room into several small cinemas. Sadly most of them do not exist any more.

The buildings of this area follow the French and American trends of the time.

The third part of the street is the one between Callao and Plaza de España. It was mostly dedicated to entertainment with many cinemas, theaters, night clubs and bars. There were also many buildings for offices.
The buildings of this area are more modern.
The idea to build this street - in order to connect the northeast of Madrid with the center - arose in the middle of the XIX century. Several projects were presented by the most known architects, but it was not until 1910 that the works began. It was a very complicated and expensive project. Many buildings had to be demolished (about 312). One of the buildings that survived this time is the Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia.
The work officially ended in 1932, although some of the buildings were not finished until the end of the Civil War.

During its existence Gran Via has had many different names, sometimes parts of it were dedicated to important characters of its time or to political events. During the Civil War, for example, two parts of it were called Russia Avenue and afterwards Soviet Union Avenue. People also called the area between Red de San Luis and Plaza de España, Bombshell Avenue, as Franco´s army fired many bombs against the buildings, specially the Telefonica Building, used as military observatory.
During Franco´s regime Gran Via was called Avenida de Jose Antonio, but in 1981 it finally became Gran Via again.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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