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Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Madrid, Spain, Europe

Founded: Castilians defeated the Moors and captured Madrid in 1083. Philip II made Madrid the capital of Spain in 1561.
Location: Province of Madrid, near the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. It lies on top of a sand and clay plateau known as the Meseta (from the Spanish word mesa, or table).
Time Zone: Spain is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Daylight Savings Time is observed late March to late October.
Elevation: At 2,100 ft (635 m) above sea level, Madrid is one of the highest capitals in Europe.
Latitude and Longitude: 40°26'N, 3°42'W. Madrid shares roughly the same latitude as New York City, New York, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Climate: Winters are cold, but mostly dry. Night temperatures often fall below 32 ° F, and snow occasionally falls on the city. Spring is warmer and pleasant although night temperatures remain low. Summer is often divided into two smaller seasons. Early summer is quite pleasant, but late summer in July and August is often unbearably hot. Autumn is a little wetter but more pleasant than summer.
Temperature: January is typically the coldest month, and temperatures range from 35 to 47°F (2 to 9°C). July: 6387°F (1731°C); September 5777°F (1425°C).
Average Annual Precipitation: 16.5 inches (419.1 mm)
Government: Mayor and city council
Weights and Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The peseta (about 125 pesetas per one US dollar). Notes come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 pesetas. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 500 pesetas.
Telephone Area Codes: Spain Country Code: 34; Madrid City Code: 91

1. Introduction

It is a balmy July night in Madrid, and the narrow colonial sidewalks of the Chueca neighborhood are crowded with fashionably dressed Madrileños. Many of them patiently wait in line to get a table at some of the better restaurants and tapas bars in the cosmopolitan neighborhood. In any other place, one might expect this pulsating scene during the early hours of the evening. But this is Madrid, and it is well past midnight. Madrileños, as its citizens are called, are just getting started.

Madrid has it all backwards, or so it seems. Between noon and 4:00 pm. the citizens of this sprawling city go home for a long lunch and a nap. Most shops close, and the city calms down a bit. These are the habits expected from smaller towns, sleepy provinces that have not been touched by modernization.

Yet, the ways of a modern world, with longer working hours, and less leisure time, have encroached on Madrid. Until recently, the entire city shut down during the afternoon. Residents returned to work at 4:00 pm. and stayed at their jobs until about 8:00 pm. After work, many of them retired to restaurants, coffee shops, and tapas bars for long conversations with friends and family. Today more and more stores and businesses stay open all day, and fewer people have time for long lunches, even less a quick nap. The city's night life, which made it famous around the world, has suffered a bit from Spain's attempts to catch up economically with its European neighbors. Yet, Madrileños don't give up easily. On any given night, especially on weekends, the streets continue to fill with late night revelers.

Madrileños, much like the citizens of many other capital cities, have been accused of snobbery. It is perhaps the weight of history that sustains this perceived aloofness. Madrid was once at the center of an empire that stretched over large parts of the globe. In the heart of Spain, it remained the center of cultural and political life for many centuries.

The city was actually founded by the Moors, who traveled across the Mediterranean from North Africa to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. During the Christian Reconquest, Madrid fell to a Castilian king, but it would not be named the capital city of Spain until 1561. Madrid suffered through all the ups and downs of an empire, including the occupation of the city by the French in the early 1800s. By the 1930s, Madrid was under heavy artillery fire, its citizens trying to defend the Republic after getting rid of the monarchy. Madrid eventually fell to the pro-monarchy forces (1939). From here, one of the most notorious dictators of the twentieth century, Francisco Franco, would rule the nation with a tight fist for more than three decades.

Madrid Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 2,900,000
Area: 606 sq km (234 sq mi)
Nicknames: Los Madriles (many Madrids) for its distinct neighborhoods. The people are called "Madrileños." Traditionally, Madrileños have also been called gatos, for cats. The nickname may have been coined during the Middle Ages to describe troops who scaled castle walls with the dexterity of cats.

Metropolitan Area

Population: 4,072,000
Description: Province of Madrid
Area: 1,942 sq km (750 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 58
Percentage of national population 2: 10.2%
Average yearly growth rate: 0%
Ethnic composition:

  1. The Madrid metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Spain's total population living in the Madrid metropolitan area.

Franco died in 1975, and the nation entered a new era. And so did conservative Madrid, which woke from a long slumber. Culturally repressed by a conservative leader, Spain flourished under democracy. From its cinema to literature, music, and art, Spaniards made headlines throughout the world. Madrileños knew they would not be left behind.

2. Getting There


Six major highways lead to all corners of the country.

Bus and Railroad Service

There are two main train stations in the city: Chamartín and Atocha. Trains from the north arrive at Chamartín, while trains from the south, east, and west arrive at Atocha. The station is also the terminus for the high-speed AVE trains, which travel south to Cordova and Sevilla. The railways in Spain are operated by the state-owned RENFE. Buses depart for destinations throughout Spain from two main stations in the Madrid area.


All domestic and international flights arrive at the Barajas International Airport.

3. Getting Around

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Madrid's Metro system is made up of ten lines. It is cheap and efficient but not the best way to get around in the summer months when the tunnels become unbearably hot. The metro operates from 6 am to 1:30 AM. Madrid has an extensive bus system with more than 150 lines. Buses stop operating at 1 AM. Taxis and buses known as buhos (owls) operate during the late night hours. There are 20 buho bus lines.

The Cercanías trains (greater Madrid light railway) serve the outskirts of Madrid and towns nearby. In Madrid the railway stations are underground, but they go above ground on the outskirts of the city. The modern trains are comfortable. They are equipped with heat and air conditioning. Prices vary on distance traveled.


Tourists and Madrileños alike use the Cercanias trains to visit the picturesque towns of Toledo, Segovia, Avila, El Escorial, and Aranjuez. World-class museums, bullfights, and flamenco dancing are also popular attractions.

4. People

Madrid was one of the fastest growing cities in Spain after World War II (193945), but growth leveled off by the late twentieth century. Population figures, which showed a small decline in the early 1990s, are expected to remain stable for the next 20 years. The city's population density is 13,419 per square mile). About 23 percent of residents are under the age of 20, while 11.3 percent are over the age of 60. Madrid is mostly inhabited by Castilians, people who have lived in Spain's central meseta for many centuries. Castilians are overwhelmingly Catholic and generally conservative. Spaniards from other parts of the country also live in Madrid, including Andalucians, Gallegos, Catalonians, and Valencians.

There are small numbers of migrants from Northern Africa and political refugees from Latin America and the Middle East. The city is overwhelmingly Catholic, and many of the city's holidays and celebrations are religious.

Castilian (castellano ) is the official language of Spain. In other countries, castilian is known as Spanish.

5. Neighborhoods

Madrid is often called Los Madriles because of its distinctive neighborhoods. La Puerta del Sol (Door of the Sun) is the heart of the city, a large crescent-shaped plaza that is the starting point for all roads in Spain. Eight roads converge there in a massive junction surrounded by shops, restaurants, and apartment buildings. Some of Madrid's most important streets begin there, meandering their way through colonial neighborhoods before ending in the far reaches of suburbia. Some of Madrid's most fascinating neighborhoods are clustered near La Puerta del Sol.

Lavapiés is one of the oldest, and poorest, neighborhoods. It is often said that Lavapiés is the most representative neighborhood of the city, the most "Madrileño." Residents like to bring chairs out on the sidewalk and sit for hours into the night, sharing stories with neighbors. The neighborhood has many restaurants, small shops, and markets, and has a lively art scene. Atocha lies next to Lavapiés. It is home to the Reina Sofía museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía ), and the bustling Atocha train station. Many art galleries are located here.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Madrid Cairo Rome Beijing
(Spain) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 4,072,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1083 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $119 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $55 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $14 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $188 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 11 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Marca Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 4,74,405 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established n.a. 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Closer to the heart of the city is cosmopolitan Chueca, which remains one of the most important meeting places for Madrileños who enjoy night-life. Chueca is a hive of activity, especially during weekend nights. Large numbers of people take over sidewalks and streets, and restaurants are full at midnight. Residents party well into the dawn hours. Nearby is the more sedate Huertas neighborhood, which also attracts its share of night owls. Huertas has many small restaurants and pubs, old mansions, hotels, and crowded streets.

Paseo del Prado, home to the Prado Museum, is an upper-class neighborhood defined by the large mansions along the streets. Salamanca, north of the Parque Retiro, is a wealthy and conservative enclave. Many of the city's expensive boutiques are here.

Even with 1.2 million housing units and low occupancy rates, Madrid suffers from inadequate housing. Most Madrileños live in apartments because they can't afford to buy homes. Especially in the old neighborhoods, apartments are small and lack basic necessities like heat. In the summer, cramped quarters become hot. In some of the poorer neighborhoods, people are forced to share communal baths.

6. History

People have lived in Spain's central meseta for thousands of years. In the late ninth century, with the arrival of the Moors from Northern Africa, an Arab town began to take shape in what is now modern Madrid. The Moors built a castle (alcazar ) on a hill overlooking the Manzanares River to protect their newly acquired territories. Residents followed the military and settled in the area. The Moors developed an intricate irrigation system, and agriculture bloomed. During the early stages of the Christian "Reconquest" of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid was attacked by King Ramiro II of León in 932. The Moors restored the town but remained under siege.

In a final assault in 1083, Alfonso VI of Castile and León captured Madrid. The town was now under Castilian and Christian control. Many Moors continued to live there until the final purge of Muslims and Jews from Spain in 1492. The town's Arab-Muslim character slowly faded over time. Madrid, which had been of marginal importance under the Moors, became home to many Castilian kings and grew in importance. By 1309, the Cortes (parliament) was operating within the city.

Madrid was already a large town when Philip II (15271598) made it the capital of Spain in 1561. Now at the center of Spanish power, Madrid began to grow rapidly. By the 1650s, more than 100,000 people lived in Madrid. Architecture flourished under the Habsburg monarchs, who directed the construction of many important structures that remain to this day. The Plaza Mayor, a huge square surrounded by five-story houses, was built between 1617 and 1619. It became the center of life for early Madrileños. Bullfights were held on the plaza, as well as trials and executions of the Inquisition (a general tribunal established in the thirteenth century for the discovery and suppression of heresy and the punishment of heretics).

The city continued to grow and prosper under the Bourbon Kings, especially King Charles III (17591788). Charles was not too fond of the city. He considered it dangerous and dirty and came close to moving the capital to Sevilla or Valencia. Yet despite his reservations, Charles stayed and passed laws to force citizens to clean up, inside and outside their homes. Acting much like a city planner, he engineered Madrid's continued growth and development. His contributions to Madrid would earn him the title of mayor-king.

Madrid's tranquility was shattered during the Napoleonic Wars when French troops occupied the city, and Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Joseph (18221891) was installed on the throne. On May 2, 1808, the War of Independence began as Spaniards rose against the unpopular Joseph and fought French troops in bloody skirmishes. The date is remembered as a national holiday, but France continued to rule Spain until the war ended in 1814 with the victory of the Spanish army and guerillas, aided by British troops. Ferdinand VII (17881833), who had been imprisoned by Napoleon, returned to Madrid in 1814 and began to redevelop the city.

By the 1850s, major projects ensured the city's continued growth. More than 31 kilometers (50 miles) of new canals brought fresh water into the city. In 1851, the first train departed from Atocha station on its way to Aranjuez. In 1861, the Castro Plan, more commonly known as the Ensanche (the widening), was formally adopted to guide the city's growth. The modern plan established areas for hospitals, cemeteries, hospices, and even jails. It assigned certain areas as working-class neighborhoods and protected the richer enclaves from undesirable urban uses. Yet despite the plan, Madrid was unable to prevent poor areas from developing outside planned zones. During this time, there were no major industries in Madrid, and workers spent most of their meager earnings on food. The bulk of the population lived in substandard housing, many without water and sewage facilities.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, nearly 600,000 people called Madrid home. Beautiful palaces, gardens, museums, and imposing government buildings dotted the city. In 1919 the city inaugurated the underground metro's first line. At the time, the service offered first and second-class tickets, a symbol of class differences in prosperous Madrid. By 1930, nearly one million people had moved into the city.

The 1930s were difficult years for Madrid and Spain. The nation was deeply divided by political ideology. Many Spaniards didn't want a monarchy and sought a more democratic form of government. Fascism in Europe was on the rise, and the Soviet Union sought to influence other nations with its Communist ideology. In 1931, Spain became a Republic; soon after that, the nation was divided by civil war. Fascists, the military, the Catholic Church and its conservative devotees championed the return of the monarchy. Collectively, these groups came to be known as Nationalists. A coalition of leftist parties that had narrowly won the 1936 elections and politically moderate Spaniards supported the continuation of the Republic. In 1936, civil war broke out. Francisco Franco, who had become a general at age 33, led the Nationalist forces. The Republicans could not muster a united front.

Epic battles were waged in Madrid during the civil war. The Republican government moved to Valencia, fearing that Madrid would crumble quickly to the Nationalist forces. But Madrid held up, despite heavy damage from constant aerial and artillery bombardments. With help from Nazi leader Adolph Hitler (18891945) and the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini (18831945), Franco's troops defeated the Republican forces in a final battle in Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco declared Spain a monarchy in 1947, but he remained the country's dictatorial leader until his death in 1975.

Under Franco, Madrid's position as the seat of power was further solidified. Franco quickly set to rebuilding Madrid while he ignored other regions of the country. With the region established as a growing industrial center, the city continued to grow rapidly, swallowing many of its own suburbs. By 1951, Madrid covered 205 square kilometers (79 square miles). The Urban Plan of 1963 directed growth to other municipalities in the metropolitan area, turning some of them into bedroom communities. During the 1960s, the automobile became a major mode of transportation, choking the streets and the air.

Franco's death in 1975 brought profound changes to Spain and Madrid. With King Juan Carlos (1938) leading the way, Spain embarked on a democratization process that affected every institution in the country. Free from the conservative constraints of a dictatorship, Madrid became a more cosmopolitan city during the 1980s and 1990s. Its elected leaders began to pay more attention to the environment and passed laws to protect the city's architectural treasures, air, and water.

7. Government

The government is made up of a mayor and 52-member city council (known as the Pleno or plenary). City Hall is located in the Plaza de la Villa in the colonial section of Madrid. The mayor and city council members represent three parties: Partido Popular (Popular Party), Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers Party), and "Izquierda Unida" (United Left). The conservative Popular Party won a majority for the 19992003 term and controls the Governing Committee.

8. Public Safety

Madrid is mostly a safe city although it shares the same social problems as other cities of its size. Madrileños have no problems staying out at all hours of the night, most without facing any problems. Some areas of the city, however, are notorious for prostitution and drug deals. Purse snatchers and pickpockets prey on tourists in crowded areas.

9. Economy

Madrid is Spain's second largest industrial center after Barcelona. It manufactures aircraft, electrical equipment, agricultural machinery, and leather goods. The city is the center of national government, finance, and insurance, and the nation's transportation hub. It is also one of the most important publishing centers of Spanish language materials in the world. Tourism is an important element of the economy. Wheat, vines, and olives are some of the agricultural products grown in the province of Madrid.

10. Environment

Reducing pollution and noise are two of the most important tasks identified by the government. The city has an extensive network of mobile laboratories and technicians who constantly monitor the environment. Two leading monitoring agencies include the Center for Acoustic Studies and the Ecological Patrol. The city has a formal plan to clear the air, protect open spaces, and restore historic buildings damaged by carbon particles. According to government figures, sulfur dioxide emissions were reduced by 3,174 metric tons (3,500 tons) and suspended particles by 727 metric tons (800 tons) annually between 1993 and 1999. The city uses seven treatment facilities to purify more than 16,000 liters (60,600 gallons) per second of wastewater. More than 907 metric tons (1,000 tons) of dregs per day are treated for agriculture and other uses. Gas (methane and carbon dioxide) obtained from the dregs is used to produce electricity to operate the wastewater treatment facilities.

11. Shopping

Madrid's shopping is more sedate and traditional than other European cities. Small boutiques and specialized stores command a major presence in the city. Small food stores, where expensive hams and olive oils from the region are featured, are found throughout the city. El Corte Inglés is just about the only department store similar to those found in the United States.

12. Education

Madrid is one of the most important centers of education in the country and home to some of its most prestigious universities. Among them are the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Open University).

13. Health Care

While Madrid has 56 hospitals and approximately five physicians per 1,000 residents, health care lags behind other major European cities. Many hospitals lack adequate staff and equipment. Madrileños suffer from an abnormally high rate of respiratory problems caused by pollution.

14. Media

Madrid is a major publishing center in the Spanish-speaking world. More than 30 publishers are located in the city, which is served by several daily and weekly newspapers, as well as dozens of magazines. El País, with a Sunday circulation of more than 1.2 million readers, is considered one of the world's best newspapers. It is published daily in some Latin American countries, and its weekly international edition is available in many countries of the world.

15. Sports

Real Madrid's soccer (futból ) club is considered one the world's most accomplished teams of the twentieth century. Its games against its nemesis, Barcelona, often sell out the 125,000-seat Santiago Bernabéu stadium in the northern end of the city. Madrileños also enjoy bull-fighting, and many other sports, including basketball, cycling (although not so much in the crowded city), horseback riding, tennis, and golf.

16. Parks and Recreation

With water fountains, lagoons, playing fields, and plenty of seating areas, the sprawling 350-acre Retiro is one of the city's favorite parks. The city has more than 40 parks, gardens, and many small plazas. Madrileños enjoy taking long walks and meeting friends at cafes or pubs. An important ingredient of city life is the Sunday afternoon stroll (paseo ) in parks or neighborhood streets.

17. Performing Arts

From flamenco dancing to bull-fighting (considered an art form by aficionados), Madrid has much to offer. Bullfights in Madrid are held at Las Ventas bullring, considered the mecca of bullfighting. Fans of flamenco often go to the small clubs of Lavapiés, where performances often don't get under way until well past midnight.

18. Libraries and Museums

Madrid is home to the prestigious National Library (Biblioteca Nacional ) and the Library of the Royal Palace, which has a recognized historic collection. Madrid has a long literary tradition. Each year, thousands of people attend the Madrid Feria del Libro (book fair), one of many events that continue to thrive in the city's lively literary scene. The city is also well known for its used bookshops.

Some of the world's most important museums are in Madrid. Foremost among these is the Prado Museum, which opened in 1819. The museum's thousands of paintings were collected by the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic Church over several centuries. About 1,500 paintings can be shown at a time. Some of Spain's most renowned painters are represented at the Prado, including Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Zurbarán, Ribera, and Murillo, and many other Europeans, like Rembrandt, Rubens, Botticelli, Rafael, and Tintoretto.

Picasso's Guernica, which had been housed in New York City, is now at the Reina Sofía museum, home of Spain's modern art. Works by Miró, Oteiza, and Julio González are part of the permanent collection.

19. Tourism

Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe, both for its attractions and low prices. Madrid, the hub of national transportation, is a starting point for many visitors. It is a lively city, full of cafes, pubs, clubs, and restaurants. Madrileños often party through the night and sometimes right past breakfast. World-class museums, cultural activities, festivals, and spectator sports can easily keep tourists busy for days. Many important towns are within easy reach, including Segovia, Chinchón, Avila, Aranjuez, and Alcalá de Henares, the birth place of Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.

20. Holidays and Festivals

January New Year ' s Day

Feast of St. Joseph

Good Friday

Labor Day
Feast of the Community of Madrid
Day of St. Isidro, the Patron Saint of Madrid


National Day

All Saints' Day

Constitution Day
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

21. Famous Citizens

Lope de Vega (15621635), playwright and poet of the Golden Age of Spanish literature (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), considered the founder of the Spanish national drama with hundreds of plays to his name.

Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Henao (16001681), Spanish dramatist and poet, the last prominent writer of the golden age of Spanish literature.

Jose Echegaray y Eizaguirre (18321916), Spanish playwright, statesman, and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1904.

José Ortega y Gasset (18831955), writer and philosopher known for his humanistic criticism of modern civilization, whose articles, lectures, and essays on philosophy and political discourse led to the fall of the Spanish monarchy in 1931.

Plácido Domingo (b. 1941), great tenor.

Julio Iglesias (b.1943), internationally renowned singer.

Carmen Maura (b. 1946), 1990 Felix Award (Spain's equivalent of the Oscar) winner for best actress and owner of a small art gallery in Madrid.

Because of its historic preeminence in national culture, politics and society, Madrid has always attracted some of Spain's most brilliant people. Most of Spain's authors and painters have studied or lived in Madrid for part or most of their lives. The city has also attracted literary figures from other nations, including:

American author Ernest Hemingway (18991961), who lived and worked in Madrid for a short time.

Spanish poet and writer Federico García Lorca (18981936), who studied in Madrid and spent most of his time in the city between 1919 and 1934, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (15471616), author of the epic Don Quixote, who is considered the greatest Spanish author.

22. For Further Study


Madrid's Underground Metro. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

National Library. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

National System of Spanish Railways. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

Postal Service. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

Prado Museum. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

Government Offices

Spanish Embassy
2700 15th St. NW.
Washington D.C. 20009

Community of Madrid. [Online] Available http:/ (accessed January 29, 2000).

Municipality of Madrid. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000). National Statistical Office. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Instituto de turismo de España
José Lázaro Galdeano 6
28017, Madrid, España


El Pais. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

Madrid Daily. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

The Broadsheet. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).

El Mundo. [Online] Available (accessed January 29, 2000).


Besas, Peter. Behind the Spanish lens: Spanish cinema under fascism and democracy. Denver, Colorado: Arden Press, 1985.

Carr, Raymond. Modern Spain, 18751980. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Cross, Esther and Wilbur Cross. Spain. Enchantment of the World Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Kent, Deborah. Madrid. Chicago: Children's Press, 1999.

Pérez-Díaz, V. M. The Return of Civil Society: The emergence of Democratic Spain. Harvard University Press, 1993.

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MADRID. Since 1561, Madrid has been the capital city and administrative center of Spain. At an elevation of 2,100 feet (640 meters), the city is located in the interior, near the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges in an area of sparse rainfall (17 inches, or 460 mm, per year) and of hot summers and cold winters by Mediterranean standards.

Prior to the reign of Philip II, Madrid had no particular significance as a city. Muslim rulers constructed a fortress, or alcazar, at the site, and a system of underground wells supplied water. Under Christian rule, Madrid developed to the east of the alcazar. It was among the places visited regularly by the rulers of Castile, who had no fixed capital city. Chronicles report that Queen Isabella I (ruled 14741504) held public audiences and dispensed justice in Madrid's alcazar, and the first Habsburg ruler of Spain, Charles I (15161556; also ruled as Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, 15191556), imprisoned Francis I of France in Madrid after his capture at the Battle of Pavia in Italy. East of Madrid, overlooking the fields, the Monastery of San Jeronimo stood, supported in part by royal donations.

By 1560, Madrid had grown to about 2,500 homes, or about 12,000 to 14,000 inhabitants. In 1561, Philip II (ruled 15561598) abandoned the tradition of a traveling court and settled in Madrid in the refurbished alcazar. He built the Escorial, at once a summer residence, monastery, and mausoleum, at a higher elevation northwest of the city to escape Madrid's summer heat. The complex, restrained in design, was the work of Juan de Herrera, and Philip II personally supervised its construction. Madrid itself was crowded with courtiers and administrators, and the people of Madrid were initially required to house them on the upper floors of their own residences. By the 1580s, the early theater works of Lope de Vega and Cervantes were being performed in Madrid; theater grew in popularity under the rule of Philip III (ruled 15981621), who briefly relocated the capital of Spain to Valladolid (16011606).

Although nobles were ordered to leave an increasingly crowded Madrid in 1611, the population had grown to over 100,000 by 1621. Madrid had no medieval city walls to limit its size, and it continued to expand. The San Jeronimo monastery was the eastern boundary of the city until Philip IV (ruled 16211665) constructed his own new palace, the Buen Retiro, outside the city proper and to the east of San Jeronimo. Philip IV departed from the more severe style of his grandfather Philip II; the elaborate grounds housed gardens, a lake, a theatre and a zoo. The first Bourbon ruler of Spain, Philip V (ruled 17001746), attempted to remodel the Buen Retiro in the French style. Later rulers settled in the Royal Palace, constructed at the site of the alcazar, which was destroyed by fire. Charles III (ruled 17591788) was the first to occupy the Royal Palace. An Enlightenment-era ruler, he opened the grounds of the Buen Retiro to the public and created an observatory, a botanical garden, and a Museum of Natural Science within the city.

Madrid played an important role in the development of Spain's economy from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The heart of the Spanish empire, Madrid was nonetheless remote from the coastal cities that provided for and profited from imperial trade. Madrid, in fact, had to be supplied overland, having no navigable rivers nearby. Transportation costs thus made Madrid's own production of any goods other than merino wool too expensive to be profitable. It was said that Madrid manufactured only reputations.

From 1561 forward, Madrid's consumption of both subsistence and limited luxury goods also affected the economic development of other cities of the interior, notably Toledo. This effect was not immediate; as late as 1615, when Part II of Cervantes's Don Quixote was published, Sancho Panza's wife could request a hoop skirt from either Madrid or Toledo. But Madrid's population grew significantly during the reign of Philip III. By the 1630s, the city reportedly held more than 200,000 inhabitants and was the only interior city of this size in Spain. Madrid's demand for foodstuffs caused shortages and high prices in Toledo and elsewhere, driving migration to the capital. Madrid became a consumer of both goods and people, yet its demand for goods was not sufficiently deep or varied to encourage the economic growth of the interior. In the seventeenth century, even within Madrid, 75 percent of the population lived at subsistence level.

Madrid was first and foremost a political city, a capital deliberately chosen to be an administrative center, and if it acted as an economic link between coastal and interior Spain, it also undermined the economic development of the interior. Madrid can thus be considered a contributor to Spain's economic decline in the seventeenth century, rather than an engine of growth.

See also Charles III (Spain) ; Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) ; Philip II (Spain) ; Philip III (Spain) ; Philip IV (Spain) ; Philip V (Spain) ; Spain .


Brown, Jonathan, and J. H. Elliott. A Palace for a King: The Buen Retiro and the Court of Philip IV. New Haven, 1980.

Elliott, J. H. Imperial Spain (14691716). London, 1963.

Glick, Thomas F. Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages. Princeton, 1979.

Lynch, John. Bourbon Spain, 17001808. Oxford, 1989.

Ringrose, David. Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 15601850. Berkeley, 1983.

Mary Hoyt Halavais

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"Madrid." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . 12 Dec. 2017 <>.

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"Madrid." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from


Madrid (mədrĬd´, Span. mäŧħhrēŧħ´), city (1990 pop. 3,120,732), capital of Spain and of Madrid prov., central Spain, and the focus of its own autonomous region, on the Manzanares River. The newest of the great Spanish cities, it lacks the traditions of the ancient Castilian and Andalusian towns. Lying on a vast open plateau, it is subject to extremes of temperature; the daily variation is sometimes 40°F (22°C). Madrid is almost in the exact geographic center of Spain and is the nation's chief transportation and administrative center. Its commercial and industrial life developed very rapidly after the 1890s and is rivaled in Spain only by that of Barcelona. Besides its many manufacturing industries, Madrid is foremost as a banking, education, printing, publishing, tourism, and motion-picture center. Many corporate headquarters are located there. An archiepiscopal see, Madrid also has a university, transferred from Alcalá de Henares in 1836.

The general aspect of Madrid is modern, with boulevards and fashionable shopping areas, but the old quarters have picturesque streets. Its landmarks include the huge royal palace; a restored 1850 opera house; the Buen Retiro park, opened in 1631; the imposing 19th-century building containing the national library (founded 1712), the national archives, and an archaeological museum; and three superb art museums—the Prado, which houses one of the finest art collections in the world; the Queen Sofía Museum of modern art; and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, housed in the renovated Villahermosa Palace. Also noteworthy is the modern Ciudad Universitaria [university city].

Madrid was first mentioned in the 10th cent. as a Moorish fortress. Alfonso VI of Castile drove out the Moors in 1083. The Cortes of Castile met in Madrid several times, and Ferdinand and Isabella as well as Emperor Charles V often resided there, but Madrid became the capital of Spain only in 1561, in the reign of Philip II. The city developed slowly at first, but it expanded rapidly in the 18th cent. under the Bourbon kings (especially Charles III). From that period date the royal palace and the Prado. At the beginning of the Peninsular War a popular uprising against the French took place at Madrid on May 2, 1808, and a fierce battle was fought in the Puerta del Sol, the city's central square. In reprisal, hundreds of citizens were shot at night along the Prado promenade. The events of that day were immortalized by two of Goya's most celebrated paintings, both in the Prado gallery. Madrid again played a heroic role in the Spanish civil war (1936–39), when, under the command of Gen. José Miaja, it resisted 29 months of siege by the Nationalists, suffering several bombardments and air attacks and surrendering, thus ending the war, only late in Mar., 1939.

See R. Levine, Madrid and the North of Spain (1989).

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"Madrid." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 12 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Madrid Capital and largest city of Spain, lying on a high plain in the centre of Spain on the River Manzanares. It is Europe's highest capital city, at an altitude of 655m (2149ft). Founded as a Moorish fortress in the 10th century, Alfonso VI of Castile captured Madrid in 1083. In 1561, Philip II moved the capital from Valladolid to Madrid. The French occupied the city during the Peninsular War (1808–14). Madrid expanded considerably in the 19th century. During the Spanish Civil War, it remained loyal to the Republican cause and was under siege for almost three years. Its capitulation in March 1939 brought the war to an end. Modern Madrid is a thriving cosmopolitan centre of commerce and industry. Industries: tourism, banking, publishing. Pop. (2001) 2,938,723.

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"Madrid." World Encyclopedia. . 12 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Madridamid, backslid, bid, did, forbid, grid, hid, id, kid, Kidd, lid, Madrid, mid, outbid, outdid, quid, rid, skid, slid, squid, underbid, yid •scarabaeid • Aeneid • nereid •spermatozoid •Clwyd, Druid, fluid •noctuid • rabid • carabid • ibid •morbid • turbid • wretched

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"Madrid." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 12 Dec. 2017 <>.

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