Madrid (Spain)

Madryt (Hiszpania)

Madrid, the main city of the province of the same name and the capital of Spain, is located in the historical region of Castile. In the center of the city many evidences of the former power of the royal dynasty have been preserved.

Madrid is a metropolis full of life and a vivid example of the true Spanish temperament.

History of the city

Madrid is located in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula. The first mention of Madrid dates back to the X century. At that time, almost the entire Iberian Peninsula was under the rule of Muslim Arabs. The Arab Emir of Córdoba, Mohammed I, settled on the territory of modern Madrid and built the fortress of Al-Qasar. A settlement was formed around the fortress, which was called Magherit, which means “a place with many springs”.

Later the fortress changed hands several times from Arabs to Castilians until in 1083 the Castilian king Alfonso VI finally conquered the city of Toledo. Then the fortress of Al-Qasar and the settlement of Magherit passed into the hands of the Christians without bloodshed.

Madrid became the capital of Spain in 1561. It was chosen by King Philip II of Spain as the seat of the royal court for entirely pragmatic reasons. Madrid at that time was a modest village located between the two ancient Spanish capitals of Toledo and Segovia. The founding of the new capital seriously weakened the importance of these cities, especially Toledo, where power was under the control of powerful archbishops. In Madrid, however, neither the aristocracy nor the church had much influence. Madrid is also called the “Deliberate City,” that is, a city built at the whim of one man, Philip II.

Philip II ascended to the throne in 1556, becoming the most powerful monarch in the world. From his father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (in Spain he went by the name Charles I, becoming the first Spanish monarch of the Habsburg dynasty), he inherited a vast multi-national empire. Spain then held most of Western Europe and South America, as well as large holdings in Asia. With the reign of Philip II is associated with the beginning of the “golden age” of Spain (from about 1580 to 1680).

Now Madrid is called not only the city of museums, but also the palace capital of Europe, as the main attractions of Madrid are countless royal castles, fortresses and palace complexes. The famous Royal Palace on the site of Al Cazar was built in the XVIII century. A true masterpiece in the Rococo style can be called the Porcelain Cabinet of the palace. At the request of King Charles III, the walls of this room were lined with magnificent porcelain of the highest quality.

Residents of the Spanish capital are proud of the fact that Madrid was proclaimed European Capital of Culture in 1992, and this is not only because of its traditions and famous museums and galleries. It is enough to see the interior of some of the small churches around the city to marvel at the beautiful altars, paintings and sculptures.

The museum city is the capital of the arts

The Prado Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Spanish paintings. The metropolis, located in the heart of Spain, is also known for other attractions and entertainment.

The Prado is to Madrid what the Louvre is to Paris. This world-class museum houses hundreds of outstanding works by celebrated masters such as El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Goya, Picasso, Miró and Dalí. Interestingly, one of the most famous Spanish artists – El Greco (1541-1614) by nationality is really Greek. His name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, and the amazing features of the language of his paintings are largely explained by the fact that in his youth, the future El Greco learned to write icons in the Byzantine style of the Cretan iconographer Michael Damascene. Then the teacher of the young artist was Titian, in Venice Domenikosu managed to get acquainted with the work of Veronese, Tintoretto, Bassano. At the same time, the artist’s own style was completely unique, not similar to any of the great teachers.

In 1576, the already famous painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos went to Spain to serve King Philip II of Spain, where he became the great Spanish painter El Greco. By the way, he always signed his paintings with his Greek name.

Pablo Picasso’s painting “Guernica”, which is located in the National Art Center of Queen Sofia – the museum of modern art of the XX century, makes an unforgettable impression on visitors. The Spanish authorities commissioned the artist to decorate the pavilion for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. The exhibition opened in May 1937, and at the end of April 1937, the German legion “Condor” bombed from the air Guernica – a small town in the Basque Country. In a matter of hours, the town was virtually destroyed. Shocked by what happened, Picasso five days before the exhibition finished a canvas 3 by 7.5 meters and called it “Guernica”. Strangely enough, the work was recognized as genius by both Franco and Hitler.

Picasso ordered that the painting be brought to Spain only after democratic rule had been established. Therefore, “Guernica” arrived in Madrid in 1981.

A visit to the El Rastro market, founded back in the 17th century, is an integral part of a tour of Madrid. For the first two centuries of its existence, it was a meat market. The word rastro is a coloring, a trace of blood left by an animal. Nowadays you can find here many unusual objects and works of art, old clothes and books. Unfortunately, this market is a favorite place for pocket thieves.

The royal palace is surrounded by parks. But anyone hoping to meet King Juan Carlos here is in for a disappointment. He spends most of his time in his country residence and rarely appears in Madrid. Here tourists can admire the architecture and frescoes by Italian master Giovanni Tiepolo.

General information

  • Capital of the Kingdom of Spain.
  • Administrative division: the city is divided into 21 districts.
  • Language: Spanish (Castilian).
  • Currency: euro.
  • Religion: mainly Catholicism.
  • The most important parts of the city: the center – Habsburg Madrid (Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol – Sun Gate) and Bourbon Madrid (Paseo del Prado Boulevard, Royal Palace).
  • Metro: 12 lines; sixth longest in the world and third in Europe after London and Moscow.
  • International airport: Barajas.
  • Area: 607 km2.
  • Population: 3,213,271 (2008).
  • Population density: 5,293.7 people/km2.
  • Average altitude: 667 m.
  • Number of museums: as many as 42 are considered the most popular!


  • Industry: mechanical engineering, automotive, electronics, chemical, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics.
  • Services: publishing houses, banks, insurance companies.
  • Tourism.

Climate and weather

  • Continental.
  • Winters are cold, summers are often hot.
  • There is little precipitation.
  • The average temperature in January ranges from +1ºC to +8ºC and in July from +17ºC to +31ºC.


  • Plaza Mayor Square
  • Royal Palace panorama of the city)
  • Prado Museum
  • Queen Sofia Art Center
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
  • Retiro Park
  • Puerta del Sol Square

Fun Facts

  • Madrid’s coat of arms depicts a bear eating the fruit of a strawberry tree (a type of wild berry that is said to have magical powers). In the XIV century there were many bears in the surrounding forests.
  • Of the European capitals, Madrid is located at the highest altitude above sea level and in one of the sunniest places on the continent.
  • From the end of May to the beginning of June in Madrid, in Retiro Park, the famous book fair takes place.
  • El Corte Ingles is the largest shopping center in Madrid. The private retail chain, which owns this center, has more profit than the airline Iberia.
  • Madrid’s metro is the third largest in Europe after London and Paris. It is also considered one of the fastest and most efficient in the world.
  • Retiro Park is one of the famous places in Madrid. Here you can find an artificial lake, the Crystal Palace and many sculptures.
  • The name “Madrid” comes from the Arabic word “مجريط” (Majrīṭ), which can mean “water spring” or “place where rivers flow”.
  • Madrid is known for its art treasuries, and the Museo del Prado is one of the world’s great art museums, with works by masters such as Velázquez, Goya and Bosco.
  • Every year in May, Madrid celebrates the Festival of San Isidro, dedicated to the city’s patron saint, St. Isidro Labrador.
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