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This article is about the Spanish capital. For other entries, see Madrid (disambiguation).
The Metropolis building located on Gran Via

Madrid is the capital and largest city in Spain, as well as in the province and the autonomous community of the same name. It is located on the Manzanares river in the center of the country. Due to its geographical location and history, Madrid has been considered the financial and political center of the Iberian Peninsula.

As the former capital of the old Spanish Empire Madrid has been bestowed with a degree of cultural predominance. Renowned museums such as Museo del Prado, the Museo Reina Sofia, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza are major touristic attractions to the city. Other cultural highlights include the Royal Palace of Madrid and the near by royal monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

The 2003 estimated population of the city was 3.093 million, while the estimation of the population of the urban area is 4.791 million. The entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area (urban area and suburbs) is calculated on 5.604 million. The city spans a total of 607 km² (378 square miles).

Following the restoration of democracy and the integation to the European Union, Madrid has experienced an increasing role in European finances as to become one of the most important Southern European metropolis. The residents of Madrid are called madrileños, and the current mayor is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón.

City Coat of Arms
File:Coat of Arms of the Municipality of Madrid.png
General Information
Autonomous community: Madrid
Province: Madrid
Postal code: 28,001-28,080
Area code: 34 (Spain) + 91 (Madrid)
Flag of Madrid
[[Image:Bandera de Madrid.png Flag of the city of Madrid]]
Map: Madrid in the community
Map of Madrid
Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (PP)
Population: 3,155,359 (2005)
5,604,000 including suburbs
- rank in Spain: 1
Population density: 5.198/km²
Area: 607 km²
Location: 40,43° n.
3,69° w.
Altitude 667 m
Administrative Structure
Districts: 21
Barrios: 127
Plaza de Cibeles (Cibeles square) and the Palacio de Comunicaciones (Communications Palace)



File:Karte Madrid MKL1888.png
An 1888 German map of Madrid
Main article: History of Madrid

Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since prehistoric times, the first historical data from the city comes from the 9th century, when Mehmed I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is occupied now by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built.

Near that palace was the Manzanares, which the Muslims called Template:Unicode (Arabic: المجريط, "source of water"). From this came the naming of the site as Magerit, which was later rendered to the modern-day spelling of Madrid). The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison's granary). In 1329, the Cortes Generales first assembled in the city to advise Ferdinand IV of Castile. Sephardic Jews and Moors continued to live in the city in the city until they were expelled at the end of the 15th century.

After troubles and a fire, Henry III of Castile (1379-1406) rebuilt the city and established himself safely fortified outside its walls in El Pardo. The grand entry of Ferdinand and Isabella to Madrid heralded the end of strife between Castile and Aragon.

The kingdoms of Castilla, with its capital at Toledo, and Aragón, with its capital at Barcelona, were welded into modern Spain by Charles I of Spain. Though Charles favored Madrid, it was his son, Philip II (1527-1598) who moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court was the de facto capital. Seville continued to control the Spanish Indies, but Madrid controlled Seville. Aside from a brief period, 1601-1606, when Felipe III installed his court in Valladolid, Madrid's fortunes have closely mirrored those of Spain. During the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century), in the XVI/XVII century, Madrid had no resemblance with other European capitals: the population of the city was economically dependent on the business of the court itself.

Felipe V decided that a European Capital could not stay in such a state, and new palaces (including the Palacio Real de Madrid) were built during his reign. However, it would not be until Carlos III (1716-1788) that Madrid would become a modern city. Carlos III was one of the most popular kings in the history of Madrid, and the saying "the best mayor, the king" became popular during those times. When Carlos IV (1748-1819) became king the people of Madrid revolted. After the Mutiny of Aranjuez which was led by his own son Fernando VII against him, Carlos IV resigned, but Fernando VII's reign would be short: in May of 1808 Napoleon's troops entered the city. On May 2, 1808 (Spanish: Dos de Mayo) the Madrilenes revolted against the French forces, whose brute reaction would have a lasting impact on French rule in Spain and France's image in Europe in general.

After the war of independence (1814) Fernando VII came back to the throne, but after a liberal military revolution, Colonel Riego made the king swear respect to the Constitution. This would start a period where liberal and conservative alternate government, that would end with the enthronement of Isabel II (1830-1904), who would not be able to calm down the political tension that would lead to yet another revolt, the First Spanish Republic, the comeback of the monarchs which eventually would lead to the Second Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War. During this war (1936-1939) Madrid would be one of the most affected cities and its streets became battlezones. It was during the Civil War that Madrid had the sad honor of being the first city bombed by airplanes to spread terror among innocent citizens.

During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Madrid became very industrialized and there were massive migrations into the city. Towards the end of the dictatorship the Basque terrorist group ETA assassinated Franco's prime minister, Luis Carrero Blanco, in the Street of Claudio Coello. As anything related to ETA, this incident is still today a matter of controversy; while some think that it created further instability, others hold that the terrorist action--by impeding that Carrero Blanco would continue the dictatorship after Franco's death--contribute to lead the country towards democracy.

After the death of Franco, emerging democratic parties (including those of left-wing and republican ideology) accepted Franco's wishes of being succeeded by Juan Carlos I--in order to secure stablity and democracy--which led Spain to its current position as constitutional monarchy.

Befitting from the prosperity it gained in the 1980s, the capital city of Spain has consolidated its position as the leading economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological center on the Iberian peninsula.

Contemporary Madrid

Plaza de España (Spain square)
The Puerta del Sol square, in the heart of the city

Contemporary Madrid came into its own after the death of the Fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Years of the Franco regime left Madrid and much the country in economic shambles due to isolation. With his death, Madrid, and Spain as a whole, began to reassert itself on the international stage. Within Spain, reaction against the dictatorial bureaucracy centered in Madrid and a history of centralism that predated Franco by centuries has resulted in the successful modern movement towards increased autonomy for the regions of Spain, considered as autonomous regions, under the umbrella of Spain.

Modern Madrid ranks as one of the important cities in Europe. Madrid is a leading southern European city and the most important link between the European Union and Latin America.

The modern metropolis is home to over three million people. As expected with any major European capital city, each district (or barrio in Spanish) has its own feel.

Plaza Mayor and Sol

The Plaza Mayor is one of the most beautiful and emblematic urban areas in what is known as the Madrid of the House of Austria. It's located in the historical and commercial heart of the city. The Plaza is rectangular in shape and is surrounded by three-floor residential buildings. It has a total of nine entranceways. The Plaza Mayor was built during the Austrian period. Previously it was named the Plaza del Arrabal. Its origins of the Plaza go back to 1581 when Felipe II encharged Juan de Herrera to devise a plan to remodel the busy and chaotic area of the old Plaza del Arrabal. Juan de Herrera was the architect who designed the first project in 1581 to remodel the old plaza del Arrabal but the construction didn't start until 1617, during the Felipe III's reign. This king asked Juan Gomez de Mora to continue with the project, and he finished the porticoes in 1619. Nevertheless, the Plaza Mayor as we know it today is the work of the architect Juan de Villanueva who was encharged with its reconstruction in 1790 after a spate of big fires. The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events: market, bullring and "actos de fe" against supposed heretics and the executions of those condemned to death. Under its porticoes there are some old and traditional shops. The statue of Felipe III on horseback in the centre of the square dates back to 1616. It is the work of Juan de Bolonia.


As the name implies, Madrid's main Opera Theatre, Teatro Real. In front of the theatre is the Royal Palace. The royal palace is no longer used as a residence, but it has been kept intact since it last functioned as home to the king, primarily serving as a tourist attraction. The entire palace is not open to the public, but most of the more important rooms can be visited. The palace is interesting in its own right, in particular its architecture and gardens (there are two, the Jardines del Moro and the Sabattini gardens). There are also some excellent frescos inside the palace by Tiépolo, and paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco, Juan de Flandes and Caravaggio, among others.

Alonso Martínez

This district contains the large Plaza de Colón. This plaza commemorates Christopher Columbus, who was responsible for ushering in the Spanish imperial golden age of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is within walking distance of the main cultural and commercial areas of the city such as the Prado museum, the expansive Parque del Buen Retiro as well as near the business center on the lower part of the Paseo de la Castellana.


Façade of the old Atocha Railway station building

Atocha includes a rather large area which is bordered by the Huertas and Lavapiés districts. The two important sites located in this area are the Reina Sofía Museum and the beautiful Atocha Railway Station, one of the two main train stations in Madrid (the other one is Chamartín). The area also contains a number of art galleries and restaurants serving traditional food. This district also contains the main bus terminal as it is a central point of the city.

AZCA / Nuevos Ministerios

This is the financial district. The area is populated by skyscrapers, among them Torre Picasso, Edificio BBVA and Torre Europa. Torre Windsor, one of the skycrapers in this area, burnt entirely on the night between 12 February and 13, 2005 [1]. A very large (3 interconnected buildings) El Corte Inglés department store is also here. The area is directly linked to Barajas Airport by metro line 8 from Nuevos Ministerios station.


Main article: Chueca

Chueca is among the most authentic and cosmopolitan neighborhoods in the downtown city center. This district was the site of major urban decay during the early 1980s. However, later on during the decade it became one of the most active centers of the so-called 'La Movida', largely due to its new-found status as a popular gay village. It is still quite attractive and has many good and interesting places to eat, as well as some of Madrid's most avant garde fashion and shoe shops.

Las Cortes

This district is small in size but packs a number of powerful sites. The most important include Spanish parliament buildings of the lower house Congreso de los Diputados. It also includes one of the three museums of the Madrid golden triangle, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. In addition, we find the highly ornate Banco de España, the Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes, the Zarzuela theater.

Gran Vía

As the name implies, the Gran Vía district contains one of Madrid's most important avenues, the Gran Vía (literally, "Great Way") First and foremost it is a shopping street, but it also contains a number of tourist accommodations, plenty of nightlife and most of Madrid's largest movie theaters. It is also a hub for Madrid's red-light district, especially the side streets. One of those streets, Fuencarral has become a link between the old shopping areas of the center of the city, the Bohemian Malasaña and the hip Chueca, making of it one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the city.


Traditionally one of the poorer neighborhoods near the city center, this district has maintained much of true 'Madrileño' spirit of the past. Lavapiés is one of the areas with a high concentration of immigrants, and also tends to attract artists and writers adding to the cosmopolitan mix. The presence of immigrants has led to an inevitable variety of shops and restaurants - this is a good place for good and cheap restaurants of local and international food. It's also one of the best places to search for non-Spanish foodstuff, (herbs and spices etc.) Due to its immigrant character and the fact that the terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004, were based in Lavapiés (in particular, in a popular Moroccan restaurant called Al-Baraka), there are substantiated fears of crime in this district.

La Latina

In and around this area are the origins of Madrid. Its difficult to put precise boundaries on La Latina, because, like its immediate neighbors, streets are narrow and wind a lot. There are quite a few nightlife spots. There are also a number of attractive churches as well as Madrid's town palace. Bordering on La Latina's east side is the famous Rastro flea-market (a prime pick-pocket spot).


Malasaña is a vibrant neighborhood full of lively bars and clubs overflowing with young people. Its streets are currently being renovated, making it a much more attractive quarter (the streetworks are almost finished). It's one of the classic areas for partying the night away. The area's center is the Plaza del Dos de Mayo (in commemoration of the Madrilenian popular uprising on May 2, 1808, brutally and effectively repressed by the French troops and which started the Spanish Independence War).

Although popularly known as the barrio Malasaña, the real name for the area is Universidad (University). The name Malasaña comes from the 17 year old girl Manuela Malasaña who once lived on the street San Andrés. She was killed fighting the French in 1808. Today there is a street named in her honour very close to the roundabout 'Glorieta de Bilbao'.


Vallecas is a poor working-class residential district in the south of Madrid. It is also home to the Rayo Vallecano soccer team.


As the capital city of Spain, the city has attracted many immigrants from around the world. While almost 9 in 10 inhabitants are Spanish, there are many recent immigrants who come from Latin America, Europe, and North Africa.

The largest immigrant groups include: Ecuadorian: 83,967, Moroccan: 51,300, Colombian: 37,218, and Peruvian: 32.791.


The region of Madrid has a Mediterranean climate that manifests itself with fresh winters that often experience temperatures lower than 8(ºC). Summer tends to be warm with temperatures that easily reach 24(ºC) in July and that can often reach 35(ºC). In fact, the daily oscillation of the weather conditions its quite reduced in the center of the city, but its far more noticeable in the outskirts of Madrid. Precipitation, although very limited, can be observed all throughout the year except during summer.

Parque del Retiro's Observatory
1971-2000 jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec TOTAL
Max. Temp (ºC) 9,7 12,0 15,7 17,5 21,4 26,9 31,2 30,7 26,0 19,0 13,4 10,1 19,4
Min. Temp (ºC) 2,6 3,7 5,6 7,2 10,7 15,1 18,4 18,2 15,0 10,2 6,0 3,8 9,7
Precipitation (mm) 37 35 26 47 52 25 15 10 28 49 56 56 436
Barajas Airport
1971-2000 jan feb mar abr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec TOTAL
Max. Temp (ºC) 10,6 12,9 16,3 18,0 22,3 28,2 33,0 32,4 27,6 20,6 14,7 11,0 20,6
Min. Temp (ºC) 0,3 1,5 3,2 5,4 8,8 13,0 16,1 16,0 12,7 8,3 3,8 1,8 7,6
Precipitation (mm) 33 34 23 39 47 26 11 12 24 39 48 48 386

Tourist attractions

The Prado Museum

Important cultural and tourist spots include the so-called Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising the famous Prado Museum,free on Sunday mornings, (with highlights such as Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas and Francisco de Goya's La Maja Vestida and La Maja Desnuda), the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum (where Pablo Picasso's Guernica hangs); the Plaza Mayor; the Gran Via; the Casón del Buen Retiro (hosting the 19th-century collection of the Prado Museum; currently closed for reform), the Palacio Real-free to go in on Wednesdays if you have a European Union passport, the Templo de Debod (a temple brought stone-by-stone from Egypt), the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, the Puerta del Sol and the Parque del Buen Retiro.The Naval Museum between Cibeles and the Prado (Paseo Prado,5) is free and gives a great insight into the former Spanish sea-power.

Some places that you need to phone to make an appointment to visit are-

  • Casa-Museo Jose Padilla (913561258 11am-2pm).
  • Casa-Museo Manuel Benedito (915754687).
  • Museo de Antropologia Medico Forense Paleopatologia y Criminalistica Profesor Reverte Coma (913941578).
  • Museo De La Farmacia Hispaña (913941797).
  • Museo Del Reloj Grassy ( better to call, 915321007).
  • Palacio De Liria (915475302.There appears to be at least an 18 month waiting list).

Madrid is also host to one of the most famous bullfighting rings in the world, Las Ventas [2].

Other nearby towns are popular as day trips from Madrid, including Toledo, Segovia, Ávila, Aranjuez, Alcalá de Henares, the monastery and palace complex of El Escorial, and Chinchón.


Other notable structures


Madrid is also noted for its nightlife and discotheques. Younger madrileños sometimes dance all night, stop off for chocolate y churros at dawn, go home, shower, shave, and go to work. This nightlife, called la movida or la marcha and initially focussed on the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, flourished after the death of Franco, especially during the 80's while Madrid's most cherished mayor Enrique Tierno Galván was in office. A particular hub for this night activity is nowadays the gay district of Chueca. However, as prices continue to rise and more jobs become available, nightlife in Madrid is becoming more and more like that of other European cities such as Stockholm or Munich.


Madrid is the largest hub in Spain for university life.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid

The Complutense University is one of the oldest universities in the world, and the largest in Spain. It has 10000 staff and a student population of 117 000. It is located on two campuses, in the university quarter Ciudad Universitaria at Moncloa in Madrid, and in Somosaguas.

The Complutense University has its origins in the 13th century on the banks of the river Henares. The university achieved the name "Complutense" due to the fact that it was originally situated in the town of Alcalá de Henares, whose Latin name was Complutum. After 1836 the university was moved to Madrid and renamed Universidad Central. The campus in the Ciudad Universitaria quarter in Madrid was built starting in 1927, and around 1980 a secondary campus was created in the neighbouring town of Somosaguas. The old Alcala campus reopened as an independent university (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares) in 1977.

Universidad Autonoma de Madrid

The Autonoma, perhaps Spain's best university for research along with Complutense, was instituted under the leadership of the famous physicist, Nicolás Cabrera. The Autonoma is widely recognised for its research strengths in theoretical physics.

Known simply as la Autónoma in Madrid, its main site is the Cantoblanco Campus, situated 15 kilometers to the north of the capital (M-607) and close to the municipal areas of Madrid, namely Alcobendas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Tres Cantos and Colmenar Viejo.

Located on the main site are the Rectorate building and the Faculties of Science, Philosophy and Fine Arts, Law, Economic Science and Business Studies, Psychology, Higher School of Computing Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education.

The Medical School is sited outside the main site and beside the Hospital Universitario La Paz. [3]

Other Universities

Public universities
Private universities



Madrid is served by Barajas International Airport. Barajas serves as the main hub of Iberia Airlines and other airlines. It consequently serves as the main gateway to the Iberian peninsula from Europe and the rest of the world. Current passenger volumes range upwards of 40 million passengers per year, putting it in the top 20 busiest airports in the world. Given annual increases of 10%, a new fourth and fifth terminals are in the process of being constructed. It is expected to significantly reduce delays and double the capacity of the airport. Two additional runways have also being constructed and will soon be in operation, making Barajas a fully operational 4 runway airport.

National Rail

Spain's railway system, the Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles (Renfe) operates the vast majority of Spain's railways. In Madrid, the main rail terminals are Atocha and Chamartín.

The crown jewel of Spain's next decade of infrastructure construction is the Spanish high speed rail network, Alta Velocidad Española AVE. Currently, an ambitious plan includes the construction of a 7,000 km network, centered on Madrid. The overall goal is to have all important provincial cities be no more than 4 hours away from Madrid, and no more than 6 hours away from Barcelona. As of 2005, AVE high-speed trains link Atocha station to Seville and Toledo in the south and Lleida in the east (to be extended to Barcelona).


Serving the city's population of some three million, the Madrid Metro is one of the most extensive and fastest-growing metro networks in the world. With the addition of a loop serving suburbs to Madrid's south-west "Metrosur", it is now the second largest metro system in Western Europe, second only to London's Underground. The province of Madrid is also served by an extensive commuter rail network called Cercanías.


Madrid is home to Real Madrid, the world's most successful football club (according to FIFA). There are two other major teams, the Primera Division club Atlético de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.

Madrid is also home to the Circuit del Jarama, a motorsport race circuit which formerly hosted the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix.

Theatres and Cultural Venues

  • Teatro Real: Madrid's main Opera House.
  • Auditorio Nacional de Music: Was built in the 80s and houses two concert rooms for classical music.
  • Teatro Monumental: The Orquesta Sinfonica de RTVE performs every Thursday and Friday in this old concert hall.
  • Teatro de la ZarzuelaThis is one theatre you won't need Spanish for. It puts on the traditional Spanish operettas known as zarzuela, a kind of visual, bawdy comedy. It also programmes Opera and Lied.
  • Centro Cultural de la Villa Worth visiting just to stroll under the deafening, refreshing waterfall located below the Columbus monument. It houses a theatre, concerts, a café and a huge gallery space, where group shows of many important Hispanic artists are staged.
  • Teatro de la Abadía
  • Círculo de Bellas Artes Compared to the ICA in London, or the Kitchen in New York, this great multi functional cultural and social centre, housed in its own fine building since 1926, is older and larger than both. A major player in the arts scene in Madrid, apart from a theatre and concert hall and vast café, it has four exhibition spaces that show work in all media.
  • Teatro Español
  • Teatro de la Comedia
  • Cafe Central Madrid's top Jazz venue.

See also

Sister cities

Paris, Moscow, Lisbon, Belgrade, Warsaw, Bordeaux, Brussels, Tripoli, New York City, Caracas, La Habana, Managua, Panama City, Quito, San Jose, Santo Domingo, Mexico City, Rabat, Beijing and Nouakchott.

External links

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