Madrid is famous for its exceptional art galleries, never-ending nightlife, incredible style, dynamic music scene, and hedonistic population. There are other aspects of this wonderful capital city that you may not be quite so familiar with, however.
The oldest recorded name of the city is Magerit, which comes from the name of a fortress constructed on the Manzanares River in the 9th century A.D. and means “place of abundant water.” Madrid has the distinction of being the highest capital city in the entire continent of Europe. It is situated on a plateau 650 metres above sea level, right in the centre of Spain. Rainfall is sparse, occurring mainly in autumn and spring, and producing only about two showers and/or thunderstorms a month in summer. As a result, Madrid enjoys more cloudless days than virtually any other city in Europe.
Madrid has a Golden Triangle composed of three art galleries located within easy reach of each other. They comprise the Prado
,which has 4,000 works of art including paintings by Botticelli, El Bosco, Velazquez, and Goya. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
houses works by the likes of Renoir and Van Eyck. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
is home to 20th-century Spanish art, including Picasso’s iconic Guernica.
Madrid may be more than 300 km from the sea, but it has a beach
. In an astonishing feat of urban renewal, sections of the M-30 motorway that bordered the Manzanares river have been buried, creating 43 kilometres of underground tunnels, and the banks of the river have been turned into a huge greenbelt. The 8km oasis encompasses hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, football pitches, gardens, a BMX track, climbing walls, a 20,000-capacity concert area - and a beach.
Famous people. born in Madrid include the actress Penelope Cruz, the football manager Rafael Benítez, footballers Fernando Torres and Raul Gonzalez, opera singer Placido Domingo, and father-and-son singers Julio and Enrique Iglesias.
Madrid does not normally spring to mind when you think of green cities, but it should. No other European city has a greater number of trees or a bigger concentration of green area per resident. Madrid also has the second-greatest number of aligned trees in the world, with 248,000 units, surpassed only by Tokyo. Casa de Campo is an enormous, 1,700-hectare urban parkland to the west of the city, the biggest in Spain and Madrid's chief green lung.
Madrid is home to the most prestigious football team in the world. La Liga football club Real Madrid
, which plays its home games at the Santiago Bernabéu, was selected by FIFA as the best team of the 20th century, having won a record 9 European Cups. The team’s supporters are referred to as Madridistas or - bizarrely - Merengues (Meringues).