The eastern end of Plaza Santa Ana is dominated by Teatro Español. The site has been home to a theatre since the 16th century, when the original building was commissioned by King Philip II. The theatre – which has showcased some of the best in classical Spanish drama, from plays to Spanish operas known as zarzuelas – was rebuilt in the late 1800s and today is a great place to experience Spanish theatre.
One of Madrid’s most glamorous nightlife spots is the rooftop bar of the ME Reina Victoria hotel, which sits at the opposite end of Plaza Santa Ana to the Teatro Español. It’s a place to see and be seen, so make sure to dress to impress. The views across the square and Madrid’s rooftops beyond are stunning; head up there for sunset for unforgettable vistas.
Just off Plaza Santa Ana is the intricately-tiled façade of Flamenco Villa Rosa, a flamenco restaurant that was founded in 1911. Villa Rosa has seen some of flamenco’s greats grace its stage, and today showcases many of Spain’s most exciting flamenco stars. There are two shows most evenings – an early evening and a late night performance that patrons can watch while sampling local tapas favourites.
Spain’s lower parliament, or Congreso de los Diputados, is located close to Plaza de Santa Ana on the Plaza de las Cortes. The grand building, which features neoclassical columns and two huge lion statues guarding the entrance, was built between 1843 and 1850 and is the seat of Spain’s parliament. Guided visits are available on Fridays and Saturdays when booked in advance.
Ernest Hemingway often frequented the bars around Plaza de Santa Ana during his long stints spent in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War and the decades after. Hemingway would often stay in the nearby Palace Hotel and liked to stop for a beer in Cervecería Alemana, on the southern edge of Plaza de Santa Ana. The wood-panelled room and white shirted-waiters give the beer hall a vintage charm. Hemingway’s window seat is lovingly preserved with a photo of the writer hanging above it.
The neighbourhood’s theatrical chops continue at the Teatro de la Comedia, located just off Plaza de Santa Ana on Calle del Príncipe. The theatre was built in 1874 and today is home to Spain’s National Classical Theatre Company, whose mission is to preserve and promote classic Spanish theatre from masters dating back to the Golden Age.
This private cultural institution, which was founded 1820 and has counted prime ministers and Nobel prize winners among its members, has been the centre of cultural life in Madrid’s literary neighbourhood since its inception. Guided visits are available (booking in advance is necessary) and certain events, from speeches to exhibitions, are open to the public.
Close to Plaza Santa Ana is Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s central square, popular meeting place, and the geographical central point of all Spanish roads (look out for the Kilometre Zero plaque on the ground in front of the regional government headquarters). The square was originally a gate in the city walls in the 15th century. It can get very busy at weekends and is not a place to linger for too long, but make sure to see the famous statue of the bear and the strawberry tree, the mascot of Madrid that features on the city’s coat of arms.
Pay homage to one of Spain’s greatest 20th century playwrights at the statue of Federico García Lorca, located at the eastern end of Plaza de Santa Ana in front of the Teatro Español. Lorca achieved fame both at home and abroad during his career, which included the plays Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba, and poetry collections including Poet in New York and Gypsy Ballads. Lorca was murdered aged 38 by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War and his body has never been found.
This popular jazz café is located just off Plaza de Santa Ana and has welcomed some of the genre’s biggest names, as well as homegrown jazz talent. It’s one of the best places to see live jazz in Madrid, and there are concerts most evenings, with bands often playing a short residency over several consecutive nights. Concerts start at 9pm and tickets go on sale a few hours before.