Madrid Madrid Barcelona Seville Valencia   Plaza Mayor Puerta del Sol Gran Via Royal Palace Madrid Prado Museum Parque del Buen Retiro

Key city information

Population: 3.3 mln
Area: 606 km2
Time zone: CET UTC+1
Local date/time:


Madrid best places to visit:

  • Plaza Mayor (square)
  • Puerta del Sol (square)
  • Gran Via (street)
  • Royal Palace Madrid (palace)
  • Prado Museum (museum)
  • Parque del Buen Retiro (park)


Strategically located in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, the city of Madrit lies 650 metres above sea level on a series of hills that form the Manzanares River Basin. The mountains of the nearby Sierra de Guadarrama have a strong influence over its climate, helping to make Madrit one of the healthiest cities in Europe, with pleasant weather in spring and autumn.

During the Iron Age, Madrid was a small village lying along the river. The in Roman times, villas were built in Carabanchel and Villaverdes, remains of which can still be seen, whilst the Visigoths, populated the plateau of Castile; but Madrid itself was still just a village. The foundation of Madrid as a city was due to the Moors. Emir Mahammed (852-886) chose it was a strategic position from which to defend Toledo. Around the alcazaba (citadel) built by Mohammed grew up Moorish Madrid. In fact, the city’s very name is Arabic in origin –Mach-er-it-, referring to the abundance of waterways which existed underground here, generously irrigating the city and surrounding fields. After the Christian reconquest, its name was adapted to the Spanish language, becoming the medieval Magerit, later Madrid and, finally, with the passing of time, the definitive Madrid. The city was finally reconquered from the Moors in 1085 at the hand of Alfonso VI after various unsuccessful attempts. 

Madrid has always been a royalist city, faithful to its kings, and for this reason Alfonso VI and Alfonso VII gave it fueros, special privileges and rights, that were extended by later monarchs. 

19th- century Madrid grew at a quick rate, and it was to cope with this that it was decided to carry out a series of town planning measures in the city centre, with the creation of the Gran Via, and, I the outskirts the building of the “Ciudad Lineal” (Lineal City) by Arturo Soria. The opening years of the 20th century saw the development of Madrid into the symbol of the nation. The city was modernized, its infrastructures improved with the construction of the new sewage system, the introduction of electricity, paving of the streets and, most important, the opening of the Metro underground transport system in 1919. 

The Civil War (1936-1939), at its most intense in Madrid, was followed by the dictatorship of General Franco who governed the country until his death in 1975. During the 1950s, the skyscrapers of Plaza Espana were constructed, and the middle class districts in the suburbs of the city sprang up, whilst Madrid steadily absorbed the surrounding villages to form the present-day metropolitan area.

In 1950, Madrid had a population of one and a half million, and by 1960 this total had reached two million. After the approval of the Stabilisation Plan in 1959, the city entered a period of development. By 1970, the population of Madrid had reached three million. During the 1980s, the conversion of Madrid into a modem city continued with the transformation of zones such as La Castellana, Plaza de Colon and Plaza de Castilla.

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