Top 15 Further Facts About Madrid

Madrid is not only the capital city of Spain, but also the largest, and with so much to see and do here, if you're planning a visit, here's a few interesting facts to prepare you for your trip.

  1. Madrid's original name of Magerit derives from the Arabic word 'magira meaning 'place of many streams' or 'place of abundant water'. It's the most ancient of the recorded names and comes from a fortress built on the banks of the Manzanares River (on which Madrid now sits) way back in the 9th century.
  2. It became the capital of Spain when Felipe II of Spain moved his court from Toledo in June of 1561. There then came a brief period between 1601 and 1606 when Felipe upped and left for Valladolid, but since 1606 its standing as the capital of Spain has continued.
  3. The official symbol of Madrid is a gigantic bear rearing up on his back legs as it eats the berries of the Madroña tree. It's said that this symbol has been used metaphorically to represent the growth of Madrid and the importance of having wood as a resource.
  4. Madrid is located on a plateau on the banks of the Manzanares River, 300 kilometres from the sea and 650 metres above sea level, making it the highest capital city in Europe.
  5. Madrid is lucky enough to enjoy more cloudless days than any other city in Europe, so it's perfect for those of you who just love the sun. But temperatures vary, with winters often dropping as low as zero and August seeing them rushing up into the 40's.
  6. When the clouds do appear in the sky and it starts to rain, you'll find that all the taxis seem to disappear as Madrid's cab drivers vanish, taking their cabs with them.
  7. Madrid boasts two main railway stations: Chamartín in the north of the city and Atocha in the south.
  8. The history of Madrid Tapas stretches as far back as the 13th century, when drivers of stagecoaches would stop off for a break at a tavern, especially after negotiating long and dangerous stretches of road.  They'd often calm their nerves with a glass or two of wine, but after making several such stops, would end up inebriated and a danger to themselves and their passengers.  To stop this, the government declared that they had to eat when they stopped for a drink and so taverns started to offer small snacks, usually something like bread and ham, which they placed over the top of the wine glass.  These then became known as tapas (meaning tops or lids).
  9. Madrid has a fantastic open-air pool, the Aquasur, the ideal place to be when the weather gets hot.  With giant slides and cooling lagoons, there's plenty to keep water-babies and thrill seekers happy here.
  10. Madrid is home to three of the most famous art galleries in the world which are located in the so called 'Golden Triangle'.   With works from such Masters as Botticelli, Vealzquez, Renoir, Goya and the infamous Picasso, a visit to all three will ensure that you take in art that covers centuries and all kinds of styles.
  11. Lunchtime can be anytime in Madrid.  Madrileños have such a relaxed and laid back approach to life that they refuse to be regimented by timetables and will eat whenever they feel the urge. So don't be surprised to find them sitting down for lunch as late as three in the afternoon.
  12. The Museo Taurino is the place to go to learn all about the Spanish infatuation with bullfighting.  You'll discover the history, see the traditional bullfighting dress including the costume which was worn by the unfortunate 30 year old Manolete who was gored to death at Linares as he attempted to kill his fifth bull of the day.  Spain was in such a state of shock over his death, that General Franco ordered three days of national mourning.
  13. The most successful football team of the 20th century comes from Madrid.  Real Madrid FC have their home in a whopping 85,000 seater stadium known as Bernabéu which is located in the Charmartín area.
  14. And when Real win, the most exciting place to be is at the Fountain of Cibele. This amazing monument in the heart of the city is the place where the celebrations reach a peak. It's also the place where dignitaries gather during official visits.  Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2011 to the delight of the crowds.
  15. And finally, if you find yourself in Madrid at New Year, be sure to have a bunch of grapes in hand.  As Madrileños gather in front of the Casa de Correos building to hear the clock strike 12, they eat a grape for each chime, as it's said to bring good luck for 'El Año Nuevo'.
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