Get to know Madrid on the trail of Álex de la Iglesia

Do you like to mix in your fair share of horror, satire and touches of comedy? Then you have one of those trained palates that revels in intense flavours and hedonistic experiences, ideal for enjoying Madrid in the footsteps of Alex de la Iglesia. 

Although Álex de la Iglesia is a native of Bilbao, he plays his home town in Madrid. This great city has become the perfect setting for his imagination and he has been able to portray the city in a unique way. With his films set in the capital, Álex de la Iglesia takes us through original stories that will delight any screen tourist. So get ready to start with the route of El Madrid de Álex de la Iglesia, a proposal designed by Madrid Film Office and to which we add some additional tips for you to savour the stops along the way.

Comedy, horror, action and drama… in Madrid

It is said that Álex de la Iglesia’s films are very much of Madrid, as in his films you can find characters and situations that are typical of the Spanish capital. Join us on this tour of Madrid proposed by the Madrid Film Office, a different way of experiencing the city as if you were one of the main characters in his stories. Moreover, following the trail of this director is also an excellent guide to enjoy the city, as he is a lover of intense food, exotic flavours, and is just as fond of a good steak as he is of Asian food, without neglecting some good beans. Give yourself up with all five senses to the most cinematographic Madrid!

Scene from “The Day of the Beast” with the mythical Schweppess sign / Video Mercury Films / Madrid Film Office

We begin by approaching the scene of one of his most iconic and spectacular scenes on this tour. We are referring to the indelible image of “The Day of the Beast” (1995) at the top of the Carrión building in Callao, where the well-known Schweppes poster is located. If you want the best views of this building, just across the square you’ll find a place with an unbeatable view: the Espacio Gourmet Experience Gran Vía at El Corte Inglés where you can enjoy a tapas while you reminisce about the rogue Madrid of the nineties.

When the film was shot, this area was the centre of gravity for rock music. Record shops and venues for heavy metal and incipient grunge music. If you found the image evocative, close to Gran Vía you’ll find the El Sol concert hall, open since 1979, where the last guardians of the movida madrileña still remain. Apart from that, Gran Vía is now known as Madrid’s Broadway, with a multitude of cinemas and theatres where you can enjoy musicals and other shows.

Scene from “La Comunidad” in the Banco Bilbao building / Video Mercury Films / Madrid Film Office

In your walk through the centre of Madrid, go to Calle del Desengaño, 22, where the flat sold by Julia (Carmen Maura) in “La comunidad” (2000) was located. Also the García pension in “El día de la bestia” (The Day of the Beast) (1995). And from there, continue on to the nearby Plaza de los Mostenses, where “El bar” (1997) was filmed and where Álex de la Iglesia, a lover of exotic and intense flavours, would surely recommend you try one of the Asian and Latin restaurants that dot this square. Although, if you fancy more Mediterranean flavours, a great recommendation from Santiago Segura, Jose Maria in “The Day of the Beast” is the restaurant Da Nicola, in the same Plaza Mostenses.

Scene from “El bar” in the Plaza Mostenses / Pokeepsie Films / Madrid Film Office

Now we suggest you continue along Preciados street, nowadays an emblem of consumerism, another source of inspiration for the director. Stop at the FNAC Callao building, outside the shopping centre where “Crimen Ferpecto” (2004) takes place. Go to the end of the street to Puerta del Sol to remember some scenes from the beginning of “Las brujas de Zugarramurdi” (2013) or others from “Crimen Ferpecto”, where you could see the advertising of Tío Pepe in its old location, nowadays moved to the façade of El Corte Inglés. If you’re visiting the Sol – Gran Vía area, you’re in the ideal place to quench your thirst. Did you know that Álex de la Iglesia’s favourite drink is gin and tonic? If it’s time to take a break from your visit and continue tomorrow, this evening stroll around Madrid’s best cocktail bars in the purest bohemian style.

Scene from “Las brujas de Zugarramurdi” shot in Sol / Video Mercury Films / Madrid Film Office

The route also takes you to Calle Alcalá, where the Banco de Bilbao building is located. Take a moment to look at it, as it has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and is one of the most photographed buildings in the city, on whose roof Terele Pávez was suspended from the legs of the chariot in “La comunidad”. It’s what the director calls “Mount Rushmore syndrome”, in allusion to the scene in Hitchcock’s “With Death on Our Heels” (1959): “I know I have a tendency to hang my actors from Madrid’s urban emblems… it’s something stronger than me, I can’t help it”. We have already mentioned how he did it with the Schweppes sign in “The Day of the Beast” and he will do it again in “Sad Ballad of the Trumpet” (2010) with the cross of the Valley of the Fallen. And if this stop was made at dinner time, don’t hesitate, come and try 44 Sushi Bar, one of Álex de la Iglesia’s favourite Japanese restaurants. 

The next stop is still on Calle Alcalá, in the Edificio de las Cariátides, today the headquarters of the Instituto Cervantes. This is where the Swiss bank robbery that serves as the opening scene of the first season of “30 Coins” (2020) is recreated. This stop is very special, not only because of the impressiveness of the building, but also because you can’t leave Calle Alcalá without going up to one of the most visited terraces in Madrid, the Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes (Rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes). A rooftop with privileged views of the centre of Madrid, ideal for a drink at sunset.

Scene from “30 monedas” filmed at the Instituto Cervantes / HBO / Madrid Film Office

Back on the route, turning left at La Cibeles, go up Paseo de Recoletos to the Wax Museum, where in “Muertos de risa” (1999) the characters of Álex Angulo, Santiago Segura and El Gran Wyoming go for a visit. Emulate the main characters, Nino and Bruno, with your own visit to the wax museum, one of the most visited in the city.

The next stop is Plaza Alonso Martínez, at the Hotel Sardinero, on whose rooftop “Perfectos desconocidos” (2017) was filmed, where four couples accept the challenge of uncovering their secrets by sharing everything they receive via mobile phone during a dinner. Make the most of the trip and let yourself be treated to the latest in Madrid’s gastronomy, as the area between Alonso Martínez and Castellana has become a trendy area full of new restaurants.

Near this hotel, the next stop on the route is Calle Españoleto. This is where, in “Balada triste de trompeta”, the assassination attempt on Carrero Blanco was recreated. And remember that if you need to recharge your batteries at this stage of the tour, you are in Chamberí, the most traditional neighbourhood of the city and known for its traditional and welcoming atmosphere; here you will find bars and taverns offering a wide variety of tapas, drinks and typical food of Madrid’s gastronomy. 

Continue along Calle Luchana and you will find the Cines Luchana, where the sad clown saw Raphael sing for the first time. Today it has been converted into a multi-purpose theatre with a wide range of shows at very competitive prices. Make a note of this tip so you can come back another time.

An obligatory stop in Madrid, which is also a must for this tour of Álex de la Iglesia’s filmography, is the Retiro Park. There you will find the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, a statue dedicated to Lucifer, a rara avis in the world of sculpture in public spaces, but one that Álex de la Iglesia could not resist to immortalise the end of “The Day of the Beast”.

Statue of the Fallen Angel in the Retiro / Video Mercury Film / Madrid Film Office

From this point you won’t be far from the charismatic neighbourhood of Lavapiés, located in the historic centre of the city. This is an area known for being multicultural and bohemian, with a wide range of cultural and gastronomic offerings. The stop on the route is at Calle Santa Isabel, 44, where you’ll find the Palacio de Fernán Núnez, which you can visit, where the protagonists of “30 coins” cross the mirror in search of Father Vergara. 

The last locations require a little more time to get there, but don’t you feel like living the Álex de la Iglesia universe a little longer? One of them is Calle San Francisco el Grande 15, where the exteriors of “La comunidad” were filmed. Here you’ll find a large stately building in Madrid where De la Iglesia details the ins and outs of the relationships between neighbours. The building is well worth a selfie.

The other is Cuesta de San Vicente 44, to find the old Estación del Norte. This is where the battle that begins “Balada triste de trompeta” is recreated. Today it is an interesting cultural space in the city, the Gran Teatro Caixabank Príncipe Pio. Check out its programme and you’re sure to go more than once and the building itself is also highly recommended. A little further north is the next stop on the route, at the Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, at Calle Pintor El Greco, 4. This building is where they are trying to recover the gospels written by Jesus Christ himself in the “30 coins” series.

Scene from “Balada triste de trompeta” with the Estación del Norte in the background / Video Mercury Films / Madrid Film Office

The culmination and final point of the route is at the KIO Towers, the birthplace of the Antichrist in “The Day of the Beast”. In the film, the profile of the towers was incorporated into ancient engravings as a symbol of the devil, yet another detail of the dark world of Álex de la Iglesia’s films. Demons or no demons, these imposing twin buildings are an architectural landmark in the city and a true symbol of modern Madrid. In addition, they offer a spectacular view of the city from their viewpoint located on the 51st floor, which allows you to appreciate the Madrid skyline in all its magnitude.

We encourage you to take this route, get excited and live through the eyes of Álex de la Iglesia. And if you leave anything out, don’t worry, because Madrid is a city that always asks you to come back. 

For more information about the route of El Madrid de Álex de la Iglesia visit the Madrid Film Office website.

By Víctor Cervelló

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