The neoclassical Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá), in Plaza de la Independencia, is one of Madrid’s most recognizable monuments. Designed by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini and erected in 1778, the triumphal granite gate once served as one of five main entrances to the city. The statues on top represent the cardinal virtues.
The Alcalá Gate has come to symbolize the city of Madrid, much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (though it predates both). Just about every city sightseeing tour stops here, including walking tours and Segway or biking tours through Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park). Those who want to get their heart pumping during a stay in Madrid can don their sneakers and pass the gate on a sightrunning tour of the Spanish capital.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Alcalá Gate is a must-see for any first-time visitor in Madrid.
- Bring sun protection; there’s not a lot of shade at the gate.
- The gate and its surroundings are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The gate is situated at the junction of Calle de Alcará, Calle de Alfonso XII, and Calle de Serrano, three of the city’s most prominent streets. To get there via public transportation, take the Madrid metro to Banco de España or Retiro stations, both on Line 2.
When to Get There
It’s possible to visit the gate just about anytime, but it’s at its prettiest just after sundown when the granite edifice is illuminated. If you’re visiting in summer, arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the worst midday heat.
Before Madrid grew to the bustling metropolis it is today, the Alcalá Gate featured on a route used for the seasonal migration of livestock—primarily sheep—moving through the city. Today, on one Sunday in fall, the city celebrates its pastoral past by herding some 2,000 sheep through its central streets, making sure to traverse the roundabout surrounding the gate.