Facts about Madrid
The bear and the strawberry tree
The medieval city dates back to the times when the Moors lived in this area. Situated on the Meseta Central near the Manzanares River, it was an excellent defensive point, and thus one of the first buildings erected here in the early modern times was the fort. After it was conquered by Christians, it remained a small town for hundreds of years, to which the masses began to flow only in the 16th century, thanks to King Philip II. Today, Madrid is the capital of Spain and the most important point on the country's map. Madrid is a place full of greenery, full of beautiful tenement houses, monuments and museums, and thanks to the climate that prevails here, it is a perfect place for a trip.
1Madrid is the capital of Spain and its largest city.
It is also the second largest city in the European Union. It is inhabited by almost 3.35 million people. There are almost 6.3 million inhabitants in the entire metropolitan area of Madrid.
2The documented history of the city dates back to the 9th century, although there is evidence of inhabiting the area as far back as the Stone Age.
The Visigoth village, one of the factions of the Germanic Goth tribe, was discovered near today's city. The first settlement was built in the years 852 - 886 by order of the emir of Cordoba, Muhammad I. It was a citadel built on the steep left bank of the Manzanares River. The city remained under the influence of the Moors until 1085, when it was conquered by King Alfonso VI of León and Castile.
3Unofficially, it became the capital of Spain in 1561 when Philip II moved his court here. This move accelerated the city's development.
Although in the middle of the 16th century it had a population of just over 20,000, by the end of the century the population was close to 100,000. A few years later, it was decided to move the capital to Valladolid, which meant that in 5 years the city was deserted again - up to 60,000 people left it.
4During the Civil War that broke out on July 17, 1936, Madrid became a besieged fortress.
For more than two years, the troops of the Second Spanish Republic defended the city against conquest by nationalist rebels. The city defended itself for two and a half years, but it finally succumbed to the onslaught of General Franco on March 28, 1939.
5The height difference between city districts is 130 meters.
In terms of average height, Madrid ranks 11th in Europe among all major cities (over 100,000 inhabitants). The areas in the north of the city are located at an altitude of 700 m above sea level, while the southern areas above Manzanares are at an altitude of 570 m above sea level.
6It houses one of the largest museums in the world—Prado.
It was established in 1819 by order of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, who thus fulfilled the wish of his second wife, Maria Izabela Braganza. The Prado has around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, and many other valuable works of art and historical exhibits. The main building houses a permanent exhibition with 1,300 exhibits. Prado's collection includes paintings by Francisco Goya, El Greco, Pablo Picasso, Titian, Tintoretto and Hans Memling.
7The official seat of the Spanish monarch and royal family is located on the outskirts of Madrid.
The Palacio de la Zarzuela was put into use in 1635. It was built by order of Philip IV Habsburg, initially to be used as a hunting lodge. Although the official residence of the royal family is the Palacio Real de Madrid, also known as the Palacio de Oriente, since 1962 the royal family has preferred the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the more intimate and located away from the hustle and bustle.
8The coat of arms of the city features a bear leaning against a strawberry tree trunk.
The history of the coat of arms dates back to 1212 when it featured only a red bear, accompanied by the seven stars of the Big Dipper. After 10 years, the coat of arms took the appearance we know today. A tree was added to it and the whole thing was framed with a shield with stars inscribed. This theme has remained virtually unchanged since that period. In its present form, it is crowned with a golden crown.
9One of the city's most important squares is Puerta del Sol. The name of this place means the gate of the sun, and although the name may come as a surprise today, because the square is located in the city center, in the 15th century an eastern entrance gate to the city was located there.
The office of the president of the autonomous Community of Madrid is located in the square. There is also a sculpture from 1967 depicting a bear leaning against a strawberry tree - a symbol from the coat of arms. The square is also a memorial site. There are two commemorative plaques, one commemorating the rebels against Napoleon's invasion of Spain on May 2, 2808, and the other victims of the bombings of March 11, 2004.
10The entire road system in Spain is measured from kilometer zero, situated in front of the post office building at Puerta del Sol.
This point is considered the center of both Madrid and Spain.
11Sobrino de Botin, according to the Guinness World Records, the oldest restaurant in the world, is located in Madrid.
Established by a Frenchman Jean Botin and his wife, who fell in love with the local cuisine while traveling around Span, the restaurant has been operating continuously since 1727. Apparently, the dishes served in the restaurant are prepared according to the original eighteenth-century recipes and the fire in the tabernacle also burned constantly since its opening. Francisco Goya worked at this restaurant while he waited for acceptance at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
12Madrid has a large number of churches, some of which are some of the finest works of Spanish religious art. The oldest church that has survived to this day is San Nicolás de los Servitas. Its belfry dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest architectural element of the building.
The remaining parts of the church have been rebuilt many times and come from the period between the 15th and 17th centuries. Another historic and ancient structure is the Church of San Pedro el Real (St Peter the Royal), dating from the 14th century. This building also underwent various renovations over the centuries, mainly in the 17th and 19th centuries. It was then covered with a new facade and portals were added.
13Over 800,000 trees grow in Madrid.
Madrid is the city with the most trees and green spaces per capita in all of Europe. Unfortunately, many of them have suffered recently. At the beginning of 2021, due to intense snowfall, which had not been seen here for over half a century, as many as 150,000 trees were broken or fell under the pressure of snow.
14The most famous city park is Buen Retiro Park (El Retiro).
In the old days, the royal gardens were located on 120 hectares of the park, but it was not until the reign of Queen Isabella II in 1868 that the park became public. Nowadays, it comprises 18,000 trees, there is a rose garden, numerous fountains, a central pond, and Paseo de las Estatuas avenue with 18th-century statues of Spanish rulers.
15The oldest tree in Madrid is the Montezuma cypress.
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, the tree grows in Retiro Park and was planted there in 1633.
16The tallest skyscraper in Madrid is the Torre de Cristal (Glass Tower).
The building was completed in 2009, has 52 floors and a height of 249 meters. It surpasses the second tallest building in Spain, Torre Cepsa, by only one meter. They are, respectively, the fourth and fifth tallest buildings in the European Union.
17The series of terrorist attacks in 2004 took many lives.
On March 11, Muslim al-Qaeda terrorists carried out a series of bomb attacks on commuter trains in Madrid. The attackers managed to detonate 10 charges out of 13, killing 193 people and injuring 2057. It was the most tragic terrorist attack that took place in Spain.