‘I have never been to a city where there are fewer reasons to go to bed and if I did go to bed, to sleep.’

Ernest Hemingway


Madrid is almost at the center of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the capital of Spain and its elevation of about 2,120 feet makes it one of the highest capitals in Europe. In the words of a local proverb “From Madrid to heaven, and heaven a little window from which to see it”


Main Airport: Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Madrid public transportation is considered cheap, efficient, and safe. It consists of the Madrid Metro -which runs underground, the “Metro Ligero”-light rail, and the train system.

To travel on Metro de Madrid, passengers need a Public Transport Card (TTP) loaded with tickets for the journey selected.


The origin of the current name of the city comes from the 2nd century BC. The Roman Empire established a settlement on the banks of the Manzanares river. The name of this first village was “Matrice” (a reference to the river that crossed the settlement). In the 8th century, the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula saw the name changed to “Mayrit”, from the Arabic term ميرا Mayra (referencing water as a ‘tree’ or ‘giver of life) and the Ibero-Roman suffix that means ‘place’. The modern “Madrid” evolved from the Mozarabic “Matrix”, which is still in the Madrilenian gentilic.

Philip II (1527–1598), moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court became the de facto capital.

Madrid was under the French troops during the Napoleonic Wars until on May 2, 1808, the Spaniards started the Guerra de la Independencia


Madrid: Museo del Prado

Madrid: Palacio Real

Madrid: Parque el Retiro


Family-owned bar/restaurant. Notice that the tortilla is moist and warm/room temperature. Specialty is Bocadillo of Carne Asada. Ask Alberto when a good time for you to come is, as it does get very busy with locals. Granadilla embodies the essence of what we’ll aim to do over the next month-live Espana by cultural immersion. We’ll avoid bubbles of luxury and rather immerse ourselves into the essence of Espana.

Atocha Train Station and Greenhouse

Madrid’s first railway station was inaugurated on 9 February 1851 under the name Estación de Mediodía. The station was rebuilt in 1892 by an architect Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who collaborated with Gustave Eiffel, and engineer Henry Saint James, The station adopted the name Atocha after the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Between 1984-1992, architect Rafael Moneo remodeled the old part of the station into a botanical garden of over 400 species, spread over 4000 square meters.

Atocha Station Memorial

This cylindrical monument and underground space is a memorial to the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 attacks. The tower is constituted of 15,000 pieces of glass that connect the indoor space to the street above. 

“The Atocha Train Station Memorial is a 36-foot tall cylinder that rises directly out of the ground, in the form of a tower that is illuminated at night by lamps shining from the base of the construction. Floating balloon-like inside the cylindrical structure is a colorless film that is inflated by air – inscribed with thousands of messages of condolence that were made in the days and months after the attacks.”

Booksellers on Cuesta de Moyano

These booksellers have existed for hundreds of years. In 1919, they were moved in and around this location. Although the booths were updated in 1984, the traditional facades were maintained.

Bosque del Recuerdo

On 04 April 2004, several of the bombers of 11-M took their own lives, killing a police officer while committing suicide. The number of the dead thus is 192. 

“There are two main monuments in Madrid to the 192 people who lost their lives in the train bombings in the capital. The 191 people who lost their lives in the tragic events of 11th March 2004, the devastating bombing attack on Madrid commuter trains which is known in Spain as 11-M, are commemorated in the ‘Bosque del Recuerdo’ – ‘the Forest of Remembrance.’ This living monument is made up of 192 olive and cypress trees, one for each person who died on that day, with a tree also planted in remembrance of the police officer who died in the suicide bombing in the Leganés flat on 3rd April 2004, where seven of the terrorists blew themselves up to escape capture. The memorial was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain as the ‘Bosque de Los Ausentes’ – ‘the Forest of the Departed,’ on the first anniversary of the devastating attack, on 11th March 2005, in Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro, just a short distance away from Atocha railway station, where most of the bombs exploded. The forest is surrounded by a channeled stream, with water as the symbol of life. It was re-named the Bosque del Recuerdo the following year at the request of the victims. The third anniversary of the bombings, on 11th March 2007, was marked by the unveiling of an imposing glass monument just outside Atocha, an 11-meter high hollow cylinder, constructed with massive blocks of transparent optic glass. Inside the cylinder, the deep blue chamber known as the ‘Vacío Azul’ – ‘Blue Vacuum,’ is separated from the top of the dome by a membrane inscribed with some of the thousands of messages of condolence that were written after the attacks. It is officially known as the Monumento a las Víctimas del 11-M, as a homage to the 192 dead and the 1,824 people who were injured in the bombings. Mauro Gil-Fournier, from the Estudio FAM architects studio in Madrid which designed the monument, describes the Vacío Azul as a silent space, where people cry inside. The inauguration by the King and Queen was a solemn ceremony: there were no speeches, just a three minutes silence for those who died and were injured, and a cellist playing the Pau Casals composition, ‘El Canto de Los Pájaros,’ which was also played at the inaugural ceremony for the ‘Bosque de Los Ausentes.’”

Retiro Park

Parque del Buen Retiro, literally “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”, or simply El Retiro). The park was first established in 1505. The Count-Duke of Olivares commissioned the park in the 1630s, worked on by Cosimo Lotti, a garden designer who had worked under Bernardo Buontalenti on the layout of the Boboli Gardens for Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Water was a distinguishing trait of the garden from the outset: the great pond, Estanque del Retiro, which served as the setting for mock naval battles and other aquatic displays, the great canal, the narrow channel, and the chamfered or bellflower pond, created —along with the chapels— the basic layout of the gardens. Buen Retiro was described as “The world art wonder of the time”, probably the last great creation of the Renaissance in Spain. Buen Retiro became the center of Habsburg court life at a time when Spain was the foremost power in the world. During the reigns of Philip IV and Charles II, several magnificent plays were performed in the park for the royal family and the court.

The gardens were neglected after the death of Philip IV in 1665, but have been restored and changed on many occasions, notably after being opened to the public in 1767 and becoming the property of the municipality in 1868.

Lucifer Sculpture

This is perhaps the first and only sculpture representing Lucifer. It is the 1878 work of Ricardo Bellver. The placement of it in Retiro was by Duke Fernan Nunez, despite public controversy. The sculpture sits 666 meters above sea level. The serpent has seven heads, representing perfect evil. The sculpture also has bullet holes from the civil war.

Crystal Palace

The Palacio de Cristal, in the shape of a Greek cross, is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, which is decorated with ceramics. Its domed roofs make the structure over 22 meters high. The glass palace was created in 1887 to house exotic flora and fauna as part of an exhibition on the Philippines, which was then still a Spanish colony. The exhibition spilled out into the park itself and included a reconstruction of a native Philippino village. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions organized through the Reina Sofia Museum

Velazquez Palace

Situated in the middle of the Buen Retiro Park, the 19th century Palacio de Velázquez was originally built for a national exhibition to celebrate the mining, metallurgy, ceramics, glass-making, and mineral water industries. When the exhibition was over, the government decided to maintain the pavilion, which is intended to use as a museum for overseas exhibits. Nowadays, it is owned by the Ministry of Culture and is used for exhibitions organized by the Museo Reina Sofia. The building is named after its architect, Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, who was also responsible for the Palacio de Cristal in the same park and several other buildings in Madrid.


Pond with memorial

Sheep markers

These markers date back to a law from 1273, at the time of King Alfonso X. As livestock owners needed to move their herds south for the winter, the Honrado Consejo de la Mesta (Honorable Council of Livestock Owners) was founded. These established set paths were maintained for livestock. As these became obsolete, they vanished. They were established in 1995, and are primarily utilized by hikers and bikers. At the end of autumn each year, the Fiesta de la Trashumancia (Flock-moving Fiesta), more than 2000 sheep are ceremoniously walked through these markers.

Puerta de Alcala

Carlos III wanted to build a monumental entry into Madrid. The architect Sabatini proposed two designs, of which Carlos III could not decide which to use. Therefore both sides are different. Notice the bullet holes

Cibele Fountain

Built-in 1782, the Cibeles Fountain has been standing in this emblematic square since 1895. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, it depicts Cybele, the Great Mother and Roman goddess of fertility, atop a chariot drawn by two lions.

It is situated in the center of the Plaza de Cibeles, the square to which it has lent its name, and is flanked by four magnificent buildings: Buenavista Palace (the Army’s General Headquarters), Linares Palace(which accommodates the Casa de América cultural institution), Cibeles Palace (which was previously the main Post Office and is now Madrid City Hall and a cultural center called CentroCentro), and the Bank of Spain. The goddess and the lions were made with purple marble from the town of Montesclaros, in Toledo, and the rest of the monument was carved from stone from Redueña, an area 53km to the north of Madrid, close to the La Cabrera mountain range.

The goddess is the work of Francisco Gutiérrez, while the two lions, which represent the two mythological characters Hippomenes and Atalanta, were sculpted by French artist Roberto Michel. It was originally designed not just as a decorative element, but also as a source of water for the city’s houses. It had two standpipes that were in operation until 1862. One pipe provided water for the official water carriers, usually Asturians and Galicians, who carried water to the houses. The other was for the general public. Horses drank from the basin.

The goddess is also an icon for Real Madrid F.C. fans, as the cups the Madrid team wins are celebrated with her, as are the successes of the Spanish National Football Team.

Neptune Fountain

Cervantes by Andersen

Congress and Lions

Puerta Del Sol (bear, clock, Carlos III)

The first electric light was in 1875, the first streetcar in 1897, first metro in 1919.

Old Post Office. Built at the time of Carlos III. Legend has it that the devil appeared to workers because Carlos III selected a French architect instead of a Spanish one.

In Franco’s time, the building was used as police headquarters.

Today it houses the government of Madrid.

Clock story. Trains. For years, the clocks had kept the incorrect time. Then three were built…all keeping different times. “If the new clock in the Puerta Del Sol continued to work as it has thus far, it will not displease anyone, since the hours it shows on its three dials are completely different, so that everyone can choose the time that best suits him.” Finally, Losada made a proper clock in 1866.

Bear and the Madrono Tree

In 1202, Madrid soldiers fighting against Moors hailed a flag with a bear. Most likely a she-bear. The seven stars represent the little dipper (Ursa Minor). The bear is “depicted with its hind legs solidly on the ground, symbolizing the church’s dominion over the fields, and its forward paws poised on a tree, in the representation of the State’s claim of lumber and hunting.”

Carlos III

As King of Spain, Charles III made far-reaching reforms such as promoting science and university research, facilitating trade and commerce, and modernizing agriculture. He also tried to reduce the influence of the Church and avoided costly wars. His previous experience as King of Naples and Sicily proved valuable. He did not achieve complete control over the State’s finances and was sometimes obliged to borrow to meet expenses. Most of his reforms proved to be successful and his important legacy lives on to this day.

Historian Stanley Payne wrote that Charles III “was probably the most successful European ruler of his generation. He had provided firm, consistent, intelligent leadership. He had chosen capable ministers….[his] personal life had won the respect of the people.”

End on kilometer zero.

“Getting around Madrid – Your Guide to Madrid’s Public Transport System.” Citylife Madrid, 26 Apr. 2022,’s%20public%20transport%20consists%20of,rest%20of%20the%20Madrid%20region.

John William Bailly 25 April 2022

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