Madrid has the double distinction of being not only the capital, but also the largest city in Spain.
It is located on the river Manzanares, which winds its way through the center of the country. If you are considering Spain and Madrid in particular, as a holiday destination, here are a few interesting facts that will make it a whole lot easier to make up your mind.
Madrid gets its name from the Arabic “magerit” which means ‘place of many streams.’
2. Madrid’s official symbol
Madrid’s official symbol is a bear rearing up on its hind legs and feasting on berries from the madroño tree. The symbol is a metaphor for Madrid’s growth and represents the possession and importance of wood which is essential to build a country.
3. Madrid Aquasur
For the water babies out there, Madrid has an amazing open-air pool, the Aquasur, with five giant slides and summertime will find youngsters thronging here!
Hotel near Aquasur: Hotel Egidio Las Provincias, Fuenlabrada.
4. Madrid’s Bullfighting Museum
If non-aquatic sports are more your thing, the Bullfighting Museum (Museo Taurino) is a great place to get an insight into the sport – its history and changing trends in dressing style. Something that very few people know is that, among its many exhibits, it also has on display the costume worn by Manolete who was gored to death at a young age in Linares’ bullring.
5. Real Madrid
Ever wondered which is the world’s most successful football club of the 20th century? Well, according to FIFA it is Real Madrid FC. Their stadium is called Bernabéu, and it is in Chamartín, in the North of Madrid. No worries about finding a place to sit, this stadium can hold 85,000 spectators.
Hotel near Santiago Barnabeu stadium: Hotel Rafael Orense, Madrid.
6. Warner Brothers Movie World
If you have a sudden longing to visit Disney Land while in Spain, the Warner Brothers Movie World at Madrid comes pretty close. It is open for six months in summer and has five themed parts – Old West Territory, Hollywood, DC Super Heroes, Cartoon Village, and Warner Bros. Studios.
Hotel near Warner Bros Movie World: Hotel Sercotel Pincesa de Eboli, Pinto.
7. Madrid Tapas
For the foodies among us, Madrid’s tapas are a must-try. There is some interesting history attached to them, dating back to the 13th century. Stagecoach drivers would stop off at a tavern to take a break with a glass of wine after completing another long and often dangerous leg of their journey. After many such stops, they would get so drunk and eventually become such a menace to other travelers, that the government actually passed a law forcing them to eat something along with their drink. This snack would usually be a piece of bread and ham placed on top of their glass. These tapas (tops or lids) have now evolved into a delicious edible tradition that can be enjoyed even now.
Of the extraordinary variety available, two of the most popular tapas are boquerones en vinagre (marinated anchovies) and empanada (pastry filled with tuna and tomato), which is definitely a winner. If you cannot stomach that much food you can split raciones (larger versions of tapas) which usually consist of chorizo (sausage), jamón serrano (cured ham), tortilla de patata (potato omelette), and champiñones con ajos y jamón (mushrooms with garlic and ham), among a group of your friends.
8. Madrid Restaurants
A relaxed approach to life and work then, is just an extension of such refined culinary traditions. Spaniards and especially the good citizens of Madrid are quite happy not being limited by the rigid timetables followed so religiously in other cultures. So don’t be too surprised if you walk into a restaurant at 3 in the afternoon, expecting to find it empty, and find a cheery local family settling down to a three-course lunch complete with wine and coffee!
9. Madrid Taxis
Getting around Madrid by taxi is quite an interesting experience. Downtown Madrid has them aplenty, as long as the sun is shining. But if you are trying to get a taxi in a downpour, you may not succeed easily. Madrid’s taxicab drivers apparently have no great faith in their vehicles ability to protect from the rain and therefore will promptly vanish from the streets!
So many reasons to head off to Madrid, come summer. I’m quite sure you will not be happy with just one visit!
Photo of Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, Spain, by Kozumel