If you drive into the capital of Spain, you can read in one of the bridges that cross the M-30 a quote from the poet Quiñones de Benavente: “De Madrid al Cielo” (“From Madrid to Heaven”).
But before we go so high, we´ll tell you that the lands occupied by the capital appeared, or it would be better to say, emerged from the sea 500 million years ago. At some point, when the waters withdrew from the Peninsula, the Castilian plateau appeared, an extensive plain with some hills here and there. Today, the archeologic findings tell us how people used to hunt mammoths between the rivers Jarama and Manzanares.
But Madrid, as it is, did not exist until the Middle Ages. Some say that its name comes from the fortress Magerit, built in the year 856 by the emir of Córdoba. Others say that the Arabs could’ve taken over a castle with this name, but the name was already there before they arrived, they just took hold of the place and altered the original name when it finally became Madrid.
Buildings, parks, squares and roads have been constructed over the centuries, they were extended over the hill that went from the Arab settlement, today the entrance towards La Castellana from the Gran Vía, as well as over the closer places that today constitute the centre of the city, that is, the so call “Madrid of the Austrians” (a name used for the old centre of Madrid).
As the city grew, the walls disappeared. First it was the one of the Muslims, then the one that the Christians had built in the very same place and of which you can still see the remains of its foundations in Cuesta de la Vega, not very far from the Cathedral of the Almudena. In fact, this is the oldest construction in the city.
Since 1561 when Felipe II made Madrid the capital of his Spains (that’s the way the king was, he wasn’t happy with just one Spain) there was no more walls. There was no need for them, because Madrid was surrounded by a huge imperium that protected it and filled it with gold, silver and obviously with plenty of rogues that usually come with the smell of them precious metals.
This allowed the village to grow as far as el Prado, which is where the locals went for walks in the days of Felipe II, Felipe III, Felipe IV and all the kings who follow. Until we get to the enlightened eighteenth century and to the romantic nineteenth century, in which, between wars, they built new and grandiose constructions around the place. Carlos III, who arrived in 1759 from Italy, wanted to get Madrid to the same level of that country so full of art and style. There, to prove it, are Alcala’s Gate, the Royal Palace and its gardens, the statues that decorate it… but we tell you about all of this places in some other of our audio guides.
The grand child of Carlos III, Fernando VII, known as the “narizotas” the “big nose”, among other nicknames that his nature (let’s say… difficult) earnt him, insisted on creating one of the greatest Art Museums in the World, making his grandfather’s dream come true. There we have the Prado Museum since 1819.
Madrid didn’t stop growing there. With the railway came the stations… and Madrid had a few. Like Atocha and the North station, nowadays a very large shopping centre.
You can also find in this city, la Puerta del Sol, the kilometre zero (where all the roads of the country begin), la Plaza Mayor also call Barrio de las Letras (The Literary Quarter) because it’s where some of Spain’s greatest literati have lived and written over the years like Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca…
In 1877, the city reached the figure of 400.000 inhabitants. An ideal number to create a perfect breeding ground for diseases such as rabies, quickly transmitted thanks to the large number of stray dogs that roamed its streets.
Today, Madrid has more than 3 million inhabitants, large and monumental administrative buildings, an important trade to supply its neighbours and thousands of tourists that, every year visit this city and from which, one of its poets said that he would go from here to Heaven because there was nowhere else better to go to…
And to finish with, one of our usual curiosities: In this city you can find the oldest restaurant in the world!!! Casa Botín, established in 1725 and where the painter Francisco de Goya worked as a dish washer…