Friday, April 18, 2008

Madrid - City Information

The largest city and capital of Spain since 1562, is located at the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. A cosmopolitan city, headquarters for the municipal Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family, Madrid also plays a major role in both the industrial and banking sectors. Madrid is characterized by deep cultural and artistic activity as well as a very sparkling nightlife.


Madrid is located just northeast of the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula, in the middle of the Spanish central Castillian plateau (Meseta central), at an average altitude of 650m. The city is located on the Manzanares River. The Community of Madrid is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha.


History of Madrid dates back to prehistoric times, as has been revealed by several objects found during different excavations along the banks of the River Manzanares. Many of these Palaeolithic objects, remains of animals that prove the existence of large mammals, Neolithic ceramics can be seen at the National Archaeological Museum. The first settlements inhabited by small Iberian and Celtic tribes dates back to 1000 BC between the rivers Jarama and Manzanares. The area around Madrid was used only as pass trough to other areas of Spain when the Romans occupied the Iberian Peninsula (from 218 BC.). According to archeological founds, a small number of Visigoth tribes settled the area after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Town of Madrid has it origins from the Arabs; the Emir Mohamed I (852-886) ordered the first important construction in the town with the fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares River to protect their army and Arab citizens from Christian attacks. The area is under constantly attacks from Christians during the next 200-300 years which is the reason why the town in this period doesn't undergo any important expansions. Later it was conquered by Alonso VI in the 11th century. A defensive wall was built for the protection of the new outlying areas, tracing the roads of Segovia, Toledo and Valencia at the end of the 17th century. In the 18th century under the king Charles III (also known as the best Mayor of Madrid) the town gained importance and important constructions such as the El Prado, Puerta de Alcala, Paseo de la Castellana and the Royal Palace were build.

Madrid expanded rapidly during the golden age, the period after discovering America, financed by the gold coming in from the new continent. In the rest of the 19th century the town was expanded and under Franco’s regime all the national institutions were centered in Madrid and the town is said to have been privileged by the dictator. After Franco’s regime over in 1978, the king Juan Carlos I was established as king with home in Madrid and political transition to a Parliamentary monarchy was started.


Madrid is a very major airport and is serviced by several airlines. Madrid Barajas International Airport) is located 13km from the Puerta del Sol. The airport has 4 terminals and Terminal 4 has won architectural awards, and might be worth the trip to have a look even if you are not flying. Two smaller airports, Torrejón and Cuatro Vientos, also serve the city, though, there are no commercial flights coming in or out of these two airports. Madrid has a system of local trains (Cercanías) that connect faraway suburbs and villages with the city center. The Cercanías make it easy and fitting to visit historic or outdoor destinations outside the city core although not important for short term visitors within the metropolitan area. Northbound trains arrive and depart from Chamartín station, while trains to Valencia, Barcelona and north Spain depart from Atocha railway station. Madrid's Subway is one of the best and cheapest metros in Europe. Besides, the underground tunnels of the Metro provide relief from the sun on hot days.

Places to visit in Madrid

Palacio Real: The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is a massive palace, the biggest one in Europe in its kind, with scorching plains of concrete around it. Although it is the official residence of the King of Spain, the royal family does not actually reside here and it is generally used only for state ceremonies Entry: €8; Guided tour: €11; Students and children: €3.5; free W for EU citizens

Puerta del Sol: This is one of the busiest places in the city, and a favourite meeting spot for locals. There is a famous statue of an oso (bear) climbing the madroño tree on the north side of the plaza, which is the symbol of Madrid. New Year’s celebrations are aired from Sol every year with the ringing of the clock bringing in the new year.

El Retiro Park: This is the perfect place to take a rest during a sunny day and there is a large boating lake where one can hire a rowing boat. The Forest of the absent, and the Crystal Palace, a large structure entirely made of glass are a treat to watch.

Parque del Capricho: one of the most beautiful parks in Madrid nearby the Retiro Park. Declared as an Historic Garden, it has a strong Romanticism influence and was built in 1797-1839. the lake has swans and ducks, laberints, palaces, squares and fountains makes this a delicious place.

Gran Vía: Gran Via is one of the busiest avenues in Madrid, literally ‘Broadway’ and it is the main street of Madrid, and the location of the cinema district. The Gran Via is very comparable to Times Square in New York City.

Madrid cuisine

The best food from all around the country arrives in Madrid every day which means that the restaurants and markets have access to the freshest and most varied produce. The visitors should bear in mind that there are eating hours in Spain. Lunch and the evening meal start much later than in many other countries. The Spaniards tend to start the day with a light breakfast. Lunch can be as late as 15.00 or 15.30h. An excellent way of enjoying good Madrid Cuisine for around 7 or 8 euros at lunch time is to sit down for a "menú del día". This is a fixed price menu offering several choices of first and second courses with a drink, bread and desert or coffee. Dinner in Spain starts any time after 20.00h, and many restaurants will not open until 21.00h.

It is paradoxical that Madrid, located right in the center of Spain has higher quality seafood than most coastal regions. This quality comes at a price, and tasting Madrid's seafood may be, for the visitor, an experience which will be worth the cost.

Madrid has a number of "typical" dishes such as Gallinejas and Entresijos ( different parts of lamb fried in its fat), Callos a la Madrileña( A hot pot of spicy beef tripe similar to those found in Turkey and the Balkans), Cocido Madrileño (Chickpea stew with meat and vegetable products) and Oreja de Cerdo ( Pigs ear, fried in garlic)

Climate in Madrid

Madrid experiences quite different temperatures in the summer and the winter due to high altitude of 650 meters. From May to mid July, The weather is most pleasant with average temperatures are between 20 and 32 degrees Celsius (68°F – 90°F). From July to August, it can get very hot with temperatures sometimes reaching 40 degrees Celsius (100°F). Night-time temperatures remain around 18 degrees Celsius (64°F). Though, the climate in Madrid is very low in humidity, therefore making the high temperatures easier to tolerate.

The weather in Madrid is mostly dry, but that doesn’t mean that rain can be ruled out particularly in the winter months. However, please note that these temperatures are averages, and the weather may fluctuate from the normal. The temperatures drop in November, and the daily average is 12 degrees Celsius (55°F), dropping to 9 degrees Celsius (48°F) in December.

Calender & Holidays in Madrid

  • 1st of January - New Year’s Day
  • 5-6th of January - The procession of the 3 Holy Kings.
  • 3rd of February - A small festival celebrating the patron saint San Blas
  • March / April - Easter-Week
  • 1st of May - International Labor day. A national holiday in Spain
  • 2nd of May - Dos de Mayo. Local holiday In Madrid
  • 23rd of June - San Juan. San Juan is the longest day of the year
  • 15th of August - Asuncin de la Virgen. National holiday
  • 12th of October - Dia del Hispanidad. This is a national holiday with official parades celebrating "being Spanish".
  • 1st of November - All Saints day. National holiday in Spain.
  • 6th of December - Constitution day in Spain. National holiday
  • 8th of December - Imaculada Concepcin
  • 25th of December - Christmas day. National holiday