Madrid is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. It is full of historical landmarks, gorgeous churches, and unique museums, and it also has a vibrant nightlife. However, there is much about the city that most tourists don’t know. Here are five facts about Madrid that aren’t in every guidebook:
1. Although there is some debate among historians, the modern name ‘Madrid’ is most likely derived from Arabic ‘al-Majrit’, meaning ‘place of water’. The city was started in the second half of the ninth century AD by Muhammed I of Cordoba, who built his palace on the site on which the Palacio Real de Madrid sits today.
2. People from Madrid (or Madrilenos) are traditionally known as ‘gatos’, which means ‘cats’. The story runs that Madrid was captured from the Moors in the eleventh century by a man who could climb the walls, and who became known as the ‘cat’ for this ability. The nickname stuck for all inhabitants of the city. The name isn’t heard much today, but it is because of this that Madrid’s rugby team are called the Gatos de Madrid.
3. At two thousand, one hundred and thirty three feet about sea level, Madrid is the highest capital city in Europe. By comparison, the very top of the Empire State Building is only one thousand, four hundred and fifty four feet high. The second highest capital city is that of Kosovo, Pristina, at two thousand and eleven feet.
4. Madrid is the greenest capital in Europe, with more trees per inhabitant than any other city in the EU. It also has more trees and green space than almost any other city in the world.
5. Madrid’s bullring (or ‘Plaza de Toros’), Las Ventas, is the largest in Spain. It can seat nearly twenty four thousand people, and has its own chapel and operating theatres. It is more commonly used for concerts than bullfights nowadays, and has been booked out by bands such as Coldplay and AC/DC.
If you are planning a city trip, Madrid should definitely be on your list of must-sees.