Madrid - Overview
Madrid offers a wide artistic range, influenced by the many styles that have marked the city through the centuries. From the ruins of the ancient Arab wall, to small Gothic-style churches, and early Renaissance constructions, Madrid's development is a showcase for a variety of artistic periods. The city owes its name to the Arabic Magerit or "mother of the waters", which was the name given to the fortress in the bank of the Manzanares River, built by the Omayyad from Cordoba, Muhammad (823-886).
The capital of Spain, located in the heart of the peninsula and right in the center of the Castillian plain 646 meters above sea level, has a population of over three million. A cosmopolitan city, a business center, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family
The city can trace its origins to the times of Arab Emir Mohamed I (852-886), who ordered the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares River. Little is left of the Arab presence; only some ruins of the wall are preserved, and a tower, which was later turned into a bellower. With the coming of the Austrias in the 16th century, the great monuments of Madrid began to emerge in the area that is nowadays referred to as the Madrid de los Austrias, one of the most famous areas of the city where, in addition to the Plaza Mayor, there are many outstanding spots, churches, and convents, full of art and atmosphere.
The most avant-garde and modern Madrid is located in the area of newer districts, mainly along its two main arteries: Gran Vía and Paseo de la Castellana. Gran Vía, whose construction began at the beginning of the 20th century, is nowadays a nerve centre of shops, leisure establishments, and hotels.
Paseo de La Castellana, a magnificent avenue that crosses the city from north to south, features some of the most elegant hotels in the capital, as well as the offices of many firms that have opted for modern, avant-garde buildings. The well-known Paseo del Arte is made up of three remarkable museums, situated very close to one another: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, and the Queen Sofía National Art Centre Museum.
For the music lover, Madrid Opera In is a very interesting initiative offering the chance to attend opera performances at the Royal Theatre.
Madrid features an abundance of open spaces with varied landscape, from the Madrid Sierra, a gorgeous mountain range, where winter sports and mountaineering can be practised, to the fertile plains of Aranjuez and La Mancha landscape, surrounding Alcalá de Henares.
Almost the whole of Spanish cuisine is present in the tapas of Madrid. This includes excellent seafood, Iberian ham and sausages, pickles, native dishes, Madrid-style tripe, or snails, smoked meats and fish, excellent cheese, cocktail stick snacks and casseroles all of which help to make Madrid the tapas capital of Spain. In addition you'll find all kinds of local wines.
Compiled with the kind assistance of Turespaña