Madrid, Spain is one of the world’s most important centers of culture and the arts. With an area of almost 8 million square meters and with a population of over 6 million people, Madrid is the home of beautiful architecture, priceless pieces of art and the setting of some of the world’s most significant events. If you are traveling on a Eurail pass be sure to include Madrid in your travels.
History of Madrid
The first settlements in the Spanish capital dated back to around 1000 BC. The first inhabitants were Iberian and Celtic tribes, but they encountered a slow growth in population due to the harsh weather. During the age of Roman occupation, Madrid only served as an entrance to the other areas of Spain. According to archeological evidence, Visigoth tribes settled in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire.
The present city of Madrid owed its initial developments to the Arabs when Emir Mohammed instructed the construction of important structures in order to protect Arab citizens and army soldiers from Christian soldiers during the 800 AD. Today, Madrid is, to date, one of the biggest Christian cities in the world. The expansion of Madrid preceded the discovery of America when gold was flowing abundantly from different Spanish colonies.
Madrid was the European Capital of Culture in 1992.
Things to do in Madrid
A trip to Madrid can start with a visit to Plaza Mayor. The plaza served as the market square during the 15th century. But this changed when Phillip II renovated the area and made it the setting of festivals, carnivals, bullfights and important ceremonies of the Spanish empire. The Prado Museum is one of the world’s greatest art galleries, housing works by Spanish painters like Velazquez, El Greco and Goya and foreign painters like Rubens, Botticelli and Bosch. Other museums are the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Museo America and Museo Sorrolla. For bullfight enthusiasts, one of the most important bullrings in Spain is located in Madrid – the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas.
Getting to Madrid
Arriving by air, Barajas Airport located 7 miles away from center of the city. Madrid is a major travel hub for flights from the Americas, making it a good entry point into Europe. By rail, there are direct train services to destinations throughout western Europe.