The Spanish City of Madrid
Located in the middle of the Castilian plain, right in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, at a height of 2130 ft (650m) above sea level, the Spanish city of Madrid is known as the highest capital in Europe. The Mountains of Guadarrama are nearby, and the Manzanares River runs through the middle of the city.
The Spanish city of Madrid was initially occupied by the Iberians and the Romans. It was taken over by the Arabs in 852 CE, primarily to defend their capital Toledo from Christian armies. The Arabs called it Matrice, an Arab word for “stream” or “source of water.” In 1085, Madrid fell into Christian hands, and it remained a small settlement until Philip II made Madrid his capital in 1561. This Spanish city has continued to grow since then. City gates, bridges and new buildings gave it a new appearance throughout the eighteenth century; in 1835, the famous University of Alcala de Henares was transferred to Madrid, becoming the Universidad Complutense de Madrid; in 1857, Madrid’s gas lighting system was installed. In the last few decades, Madrid has continued to assert itself on the international scene as a cultural and commercial center of power.
The “Prado,” Madrid´s chief attraction, was commissioned in 1785 by King Carlos III as a natural science museum. By its completion in 1819, its purpose had shifted to displaying art gathered by royalty since the era of Ferdinand and Isabella. Works of the Spanish masters Goya, Velázquez and El Greco are featured here, along with other masterpieces of various Flemish and Italian artists. The Spanish city of Madrid´s modern art museum, the Reina Sofia, showcases Picasso´s famous Guernica, depicting the horror of the 1937 Nazi bombing of the Basque town of Guernica. Also on display are works by major Cubist and Surrealist painters like Juan Gris, Miro, Dali and Julio Gonzalez. The Plaza Mayor is a popular grand arcaded square in the center of Madrid. At the center of the square is a bronze statue of King Philip III. The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is the largest and most impressive palace in Europe. It has more than 2000 luxuriously decorated rooms, fifty of which are open to public viewing. Some of the rooms accessible to visitors are the expansive dining room, the Sala de Porcelana (china room), and the Salon del Trono (throne room), which has red velvet walls.
The Spanish city of Madrid’s largest festival is the Fiesta de San Isidro, during which locals pay tribute to the capital’s patron saint, San Isidro. They don traditional castizo clothes and feast on delicacies such as thick, steamy broth known as cocido, bitter aubergine, ice cream, bunuelos, and doughnuts. On street corners, Spanish bands play traditional chotis. The bull-fighting season also begins during this time. Matadors attempt to prove their worth in the Plaza de Toros Monumental de las Ventas. The bull-fighting season ends during the last two weekends in October (Feria del Otono). The 2nd of May Festival, celebrated on the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, commemorates the 1808 uprising of Madrid´s inhabitants against French domination with street parades, dancers and a marching band.