The city of Madrid in Spain is the country’s political, cultural, and financial nerve center. It is a Global City, i.e. it is considered important for the health of the global economic system.
Madrid, the capital and largest city of Spain, is also the third-largest city in the E.U. It has a population of approximately 3.3 million inhabitants living in an area of 605.77 sq km.
Madrid is located on the banks of the Manzanares River. Its geographic location is almost at the center of Spain. The city experiences a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cold winters. The annual daily mean temperature in Madrid is 14.6 °C. Rains fall chiefly in the autumn and spring season.
Archeological excavations suggest that the region in and around Madrid has been occupied since prehistoric times. It was a Roman outpost by the 2nd century B.C. Over time it passed through the hands of the Vandals, the Visigoths, and then the Muslims who arrived in the 7th century. The liberation of the Iberian Peninsula from Moorish rule was an important landmark in the growth of this city. From the middle ages, the fortunes of Madrid and Spain have been closely linked with each other. The city grew in size and importance under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella. The credit for establishing Madrid as the capital of Spain goes to Philip II of Spain who moved the court to this city in 1561.
The city’s demography over the years makes for interesting study. It was less than 40,000 in the middle of the 16th century. In the 1970s, the city’s population was around 3 million. For the next two decades, the population of Madrid experienced a decline as people moved to newly developed towns. The nineties saw a reversal of the decline with an increase in population, mainly as a result of foreign immigrants moving to Madrid. South America, the erstwhile colony of Spain, contributes significantly to the number of foreign-born citizens of Madrid.
The locals speak Spanish and this capital city of Spain offers many excellent opportunities to learn the language. If you happen to be in Madrid, do make it a point to take up Spanish language classes. To get to learn Spanish in the capital city of the country that gave the world the language is a treat in itself.
Madrid is served by the Madrid Barajas International Airport, which is the busiest airport in Spain. Railways connect the city to not only other cities in Spain but also with cities all over the rest of Europe via direct and connecting trains. Madrid is also easily accessible by road.
Intra-city travel in Madrid is a pleasure; the city has a reputation for having one of the best public conveyance systems in the world. Buses, trains, taxis, and the metro make it possible to reach any part of the city with utmost convenience. Madrid consists of 128 wards or barrios contained in 21 districts. The city’s infrastructure is robust and that has given it the confidence to bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Each district has its own notable features. Chamartín is home to the iconic football team Real Madrid. The Tetuan district is populated by immigrants from Africa and South America. It is noted for the Madrid Central Mosque, which is the second-largest mosque in Spain. The district of Salamanca is where the rich folk of Madrid reside and realty prices of certain areas in this district are the highest in Madrid. The character of Retiro district is brought out by the Buen Retiro Park which is the largest urban park in Madrid.
Let us take a look at what makes the economy tick in Madrid. The city is one of the largest financial centers in Europe. The services sector contributes heavily to the city’s GDP. The economy here grew rapidly in the nineties and the gains made then are now standing the city in good stead as Europe experiences a financial slowdown. However, high incomes and a high standard of living in Madrid come with a higher cost of living as compared to other cities in Spain.
Last Minute Holidays to Madrid – Things to Do
Madrid is much-loved by the Spaniards and tourists for a reason. It has something for everybody. This is a culturally rich city. Madrid is the third-most visited city in the E.U. It ranks as one of the greenest cities in Europe. You may be interested to know that the popular tourist destination of Toledo can be enjoyed as a day-trip from Madrid.
Madrid’s cityscape is dotted by impressive architectural landmarks; however, unlike other historical cities of Spain such as Cordoba, Valencia, etc there is not a lot of medieval architecture to be found here.
The Plaza Mayor or the central square of the city goes back to the year 1576. The plaza covers an area of 423 ft × 308 ft. The buildings surrounding the open plaza house cafes and shops.
The Museum Triangle of the city consists of three world-famous museums. These are the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. Madrid is also noted for its parks that act as lungs for this city. Two that are worth mentioning are the Royal Botanical Garden and the La Casa de Campo.
The El Rastro is a market that comes alive once a week on Sunday mornings and is the largest flea market in Madrid.
As a center of learning, Madrid holds a respectable position in the world. The Complutense University of Madrid was established in 1293 and is regularly ranked as the top university in Spain. Other universities in Madrid are noted for their thrust towards quality education in different fields such as theoretical physics, humanities, and the technical disciplines. The Madrid campus of the IE Business School is noted for the quality for its MBA program.
Madrid is a city of sport lovers. It is the city of perhaps the most iconic of all football clubs – Real Madrid. For football lovers, a visit to the city is incomplete without a pilgrimage to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where Real Madrid plays its home games.
Madrid Open, held in the month of May is a premier tennis tournament on the ATP circuit. Past winners include legends such as Roger Federer, who is also the current title holder.
Bullfighting is a popular event, it is held in the month of May at the Las Ventas Bullring. The venue is considered to be the epicenter for this sport and has a seating capacity of 25,000.
Food lovers are in for a gala time here. If you’re a meat lover then do make it a point to check out the pork dishes served in Madrid. Local favorites include Oreja de Cerdo, made from pig ears; Sopa de Ajo, which is a hearty soup; and Callos a la Madrileña, which is a dish of beef tripe.
The city of Madrid is conveniently located for visits to popular destinations close by. Many of these are World Heritage Sites. Alcalá de Henares, the city where Miguel de Cervantes was born, is around 30 km away.
The nearby town of Chinchon is a place where time has stood still; an old fort and groves beckon visitors. The town of Avila accessible by train is steeped in history and is popular with visitors to Madrid.
Madrid truly deserves its place as one of the alpha cities of the world.