Capital of Spain
Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.2 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).
Madrid lies on the River Manzanares in the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The current mayor is Manuela Carmena from the party Ahora Madrid.
The Madrid urban agglomeration has the third-largest GDP in the European Union and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, environment, media, fashion, science, culture, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. Madrid is home to two world-famous football clubs, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the leading economic hub of the Iberian Peninsula and of Southern Europe. It hosts the head offices of the vast majority of major Spanish companies, such as Telefónica, IAG or Repsol. Madrid is also the 10th most liveable city in the world according to Monocle magazine, in its 2017 index.
Madrid houses the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), belonging to the United Nations Organization (UN), the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), and the Public Interest Oversight Board (PIOB). It also hosts major international regulators and promoters of the Spanish language: the Standing Committee of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, headquarters of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the Cervantes Institute and the Foundation of Urgent Spanish (Fundéu BBVA). Madrid organises fairs such as FITUR, ARCO, SIMO TCI and the Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week.
While Madrid possesses modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; a large number of national museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which complements the holdings of the other two museums. Cibeles Palace and Fountain have become one of the monument symbols of the city.
Restaurant and café scene in Madrid
Madrid is brimming with revamped markets where locals do their weekly shopping and meet friends for a drink and a bite to eat.
What are tapas?
In Madrid and other Spanish regions, tapas are bite-sized snacks served for free with a drink. This culinary tradition began in the thirteenth century, when King Alfonso X of Castile issued an order for taverns and inns to serve alcohol with a small helping of food, in an effort to reduce the number of drunkards on the streets. According to other sources, a slice of bread was used to prevent dust or flies from landing inside wine pitchers, and this was the origin of the noun ‘tapa’ in its culinary sense (for ‘tapa’ means lid in Spanish).
Most bars offer a saucer with olives, chips, nuts or a slice of bread with a cold cut on top. In others, however, tapas have grown in size and become more sophisticated, transformed into a unique culinary experience in their own right.
In addition to the tapas that come with your drink, you can order a ración or a media ración to share (at a charge, this time). Madrid classics include patatas bravas (deep-fried potato cubes in a spicy sauce), Spanish omelette, croquettes, aged cheese or Ibérico sausage.
What about drinks? When you go out for tapas in Madrid, these are the most popular choices:
- Caña: Beer in a tall, thin glass about 20 cl in volume. Madrid’s baristas are well-trained in the art of ‘tirar la caña’ – that is, serving draft beer.
- Chato: Wine in a small glass. Madrid offers a wide range of local wines, as well as world-class labels from all over the country.
- Vermú: Spanish vermouth is herb-marinated wine (Mediterranean herbs, especially wormwood). In traditional bars, it’s poured from the tap.
Eating in Madrid
This guide will help you navigate Madrid’s bars, cafés, restaurants and markets, providing all the information you need to make the most of Spain’s gastronomy.
Among the places you need to visit while in Madrid
Museo del Prado is possibly the most famous Madrid art gallery. It houses an extensive collection of works from the 12th to the 19th centuries. If you want to see everything you may need to visit twice to take it all in. You will see some of the worlds most talked about paintings including works by Goya, Rubens and Murillo. There's a whole room full of paintings from Goya's 'Dark Period' that is guaranteed to send a tingle through your spine - I found it quite creepy.
Detailed information about the Prado Art Gallery, Madrid.
Museo del Prado
Ruiz de Alarcón, 23
28014 Madrid, España.
Tel: +34 91 330 2800
Metro: Banco de España
(Red Line, L2) 10 minutes walk down Paseo del Prado; or
Metro: Atocha (Dark Blue Line, L2) plus ten minutes walk.