Your Madrid Guide! - Madrid City Travel Guide

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Although prehistoric and Roman remains have been found, Madrid was first mentioned in written sources during the 10th century. At that time it was called Magerit and was a Moorish fortress. It was conquered for the first time in 939 by Ramiro II of León. In 1083, Magerit fell to Alfonso VI of Castile and became a Spanish fortress maintaining the border against the Moors. Occasionally it served as a meeting place for the Castilian court.

The Habsburgs

The rule of Habsburg dinasty in Spain began in 1516 when Carlos I was crowned King of Spain. After the battle of Pavia in 1525, the King of France, Francis I was captured by the Spaniards and held captive in Madrid for a year. He was imprisoned at the Torre de los Lujanes (today the oldest preserved building of Madrid).

After the Spanish victory over the French in the battle of Saint Quentin on 10 August 1557, King Felipe II ordered the construction of El Escorial Monastery 30 miles northwest of Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, and in 1561, he made Madrid his capital because of its central position within the Iberian peninsula. During the reign of Felipe II, the city was enlarged, the streets widened, and several squares built. However, he preferred to spent most of his time at El Escorial from where he ruled his vast empire until he died there in 1598.

During the rule of Felipe III (1598–1621), the Court was briefly moved to Valladolid, but in 1607 Madrid finally became Spain's permanent capital. In the 17th century, known as the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century) Madrid began to grow rapidly. The royal court attracted many of Spain's leading artists and writers to Madrid, including Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Velázquez. In 1605, the first part of Cervantes' Don Quijote was printed in a house in the Calle Atocha by Juan de la Cuesta. The Plaza Mayor (Main Square) was built in 1619.

The Bourbons

In 1734, Felipe V ordered the construction of a new Royal Palace on the same site of the former Alcázar that had been previvously destroyed by a fire. Construction began in 1738 and lasted until 1764. During the reign of Carlos III (1759-1788), many of Madrid's finest buildings and monuments, including the Prado, and the Puerta de Alcalá were constructed. In 1789, Madrid had a population of 140,000.

In 1808, during the Peninsular War, Napoleon's troops took Madrid. The French were driven out briefly by a popular uprising on May 2, the same year, but they suffocated the rebellion and ruled the city until 1813. During the French occupation extensive building took place in Madrid, but the war left the country devastated.

In 1868, the old city walls were taken down in order to enlarge the city, and by 1884, the population of Madrid had reached 400,000.

The 20th Century.

In 1910, the construction work of the new Gran Vía began. Hundreds of houses and blocks were leveled and construction lasted for more than 10 years.

In 1919, the King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the first line of the metro underground between Puerta del Sol and Cuatro Caminos. The new city bullring called Las Ventas was built in 1929, and the first bullfight took place in 1931. The Telefónica building (88 meters high) in the Gran Vía was also built in 1929 and remained the tallest building in the city until 1953.

During the II Republic, in the early 30s, the whole country was in a state of turmoil that led to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Madrid was the major republican stronghold during the conflict, and the city was besieged by Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces for two and a half years. Madrid finally fell in late March 1939 and the war ended on April 1.

After the war, General Franco centralised political and economic power in Madrid and the city grew rapidly. In 1947, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home of the Real Madrid, was inaugurated. In the late 1950's the first two skyscrapers were built at the Plaza de España. The Torre de Madrid (Madrid's Tower) became the tallest building in the city at 142 meters (465 feet). In 1960, the city reached 2.2 million inhabitants, and by 1970 the population had grown to 3.1 million. Franco died in 1975, and Spain was transformed into a democratic constitutional monarchy with Juan Carlos I as King.

On 23 February 1981, a military coup d'état took place when armed men stormed the Congreso de los Diputados holding all congressmen hostage, but King Juan Carlos denounced the coup on television and it soon failed. That same year, Picasso's Guernica returned to Spain from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, and was put on display at the Prado Museum. In 1992, the painting was moved to the Reina Sofía Museum where it is today on display.

The 21th Century.

On March 11, 2004, Madrid was shocked by a series of train bombings against the commuter train system that resulted in the killing of 191 people and more than 1,500 wounded. Two months later, in May, Prince Felipe, the eldest son of Juan Carlos, married former TV news presenter, Letizia Ortiz at the Almudena Cathedral.

To the north of Madrid, where the former Real Madrid's tranning grounds were located, four new skyscrapers have been built and the whole complex is known as "Cuatro Torres Business Area". The Caja Madrid Tower (250 meters), Cristal Tower (249 meters), Sacyr Vallehermoso Tower (236 meters) and Space Tower (223 meters) are the tallest buildings in Spain.

Madrid was one of the cities that bade to be the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, although the honor was finally awarded to Rio.

Recent mayors of Madrid.

- Ana Botella (2011-)
- Alberto Ruiz Gallardón (2003-2011)
- José María Álvarez del Manzano y López del Hierro (1991-2003)
- Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún (1989-1991)
- Juan Barranco Gallardo (1986-1989)
- Enrique Tierno Galván (1979-1986)

Notable people from Madrid:

- Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). Writer born in Alcalá de Henares, author of Don Quixote.
- Lope de Vega (1562-1635). Writer.
- Tirso de Molina (1570-1648). Writer.
- Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645). Writer
- Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681). Dramatist poet.
- José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955). Philosopher.
- Plácido Domingo (1941-). Opera singer (Tenor).
- Javier Solana (1942-). Politician and NATO Secretary General from 1995-1999.
- Julio Iglesias (1943-). Singer.
- José María Aznar (1953-). Politician and President of Spain from 1996-2004.
- Penélope Cruz (1974-). Actress.
- Iker Casillas (1981-). Football goalkeeper captain of the Spanish national team.
- Alberto Contador (1982-). Cyclist, 3-time Tour de France winner.

Notable people from Spain:

- Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar "El Cid" (1045-1099). Knight and hero of the Spanish Reconquest.
- Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). Discoverer of America. Was he really Italian?
- Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476-1526). Sailor and explorer. The first man to circumnavigate the world.
- Hernán Cortés (1485-1547). Military Leader, conqueror of Mexico.
- Diego de Velázquez (1599-1660). Painter.
- Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). Painter.
- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Painter.
- Salvador Dalí (1904-1989). Painter.
- Angel Nieto (1947-). Motorcycle racer, winner of 13 Grand Prix World Championships.
- Severiano Ballesteros (1957-2011). Golfer, winner of five major championships.
- Antonio Banderas (1960-). Actor.
- Miguel Indurain (1964-). Cyclist, 5-time Tour de France winner.
- Pau Gasol (1980-). Basketball player, 2-time NBA Champion.
- Fernando Alonso (1981-). Formula 1 driver, 2-time World Champion.
- Rafael Nadal (1986-). Tennis player, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles.

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