Madrid is the capital and most-populous city of Spain. It is the second-largest city in the European Union (EU), surpassed only by Berlin in its administrative limits, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the second-largest in the EU, surpassed only by Paris.
Madrid lies on the River Manzanares in the center of both the country and the Community of Madrid region, of which it is also the capital. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The mayor is José Luis Martínez-Almeida from the People’s Party.
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 Madrid. Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial centre and 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 8th most liveable city in the world.
Madrid houses the headquarters of the UN‘s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 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 Instituto Cervantes and the Foundation of Urgent Spanish (Fundéu BBVA).
While Madrid possesses modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Plaza Mayor, 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; many 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 has become one of the monument symbols of the city.
Feasts and festivals
The local feast par excellence is the Day of Isidore the Laborer (San Isidro Labrador), the patron Saint of Madrid, celebrated on 15 May. It is a public holiday. According to tradition, Isidro was a farmworker and well manufacturer born in Madrid in the late 11th century, who lived a pious life and whose corpse was reportedly found to be incorrupt in 1212. Already very popular among the madrilenian people, as Madrid became the capital of the Hispanic Monarchy in 1561 the city council pulled efforts to promote his canonization; the process started in 1562. Isidro was beatified in 1619 and the feast day set on 15 May (he was finally canonized in 1622).
On 15 May the Madrilenian people gather around the Hermitage of San Isidro [es] and the Prairie of San Isidro [es] (on the right-bank of the Manzanares) often dressed with checkered caps (parpusas [es]) and kerchiefs (safos) characteristic of the chulapos and chulapas, dancing chotis and pasodobles, eating rosquillas and barquillos.
The Madrilenian LGBT Pride has grown to become the event bringing the most people together in the city each year as well as one of the most importants Pride celebrations worldwide.
Madrid’s Pride Parade began in 1977, in the Chueca neighbourhood, which also marked the beginning of the gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual rights movement after being repressed for forty years in a dictatorship.
This claiming of LGBT rights has allowed the Pride Parade in Madrid to grow year after year, becoming one of the best in the world. In 2007, this was recognised by the European Pride Owners Association (EPOA) when Madrid hosted Europride, the Official European Pride Parade. It was hailed by the President of the EPOA as “the best Europride in history”. In 2017, Madrid celebrated the 40th anniversary of their first Pride Parade by hosting the WorldPride Madrid 2017. Numerous conferences, seminars and workshops as well as cultural and sports activities took place at the festival, the event being a “kids and family pride” and a source of education. More than one million people attended the pride’s central march. The main purpose of the celebration was presenting Madrid and the Spanish society in general as a multicultural, diverse, and tolerant community. The 2018 Madrid Pride roughly had 1.5 million participants.
Since Spain legalised same-sex marriage in July 2005, Madrid has become one of the largest hot spots for LGBT culture. With about 500 businesses aimed toward the LGBT community, Madrid has become a “Gateway of Diversity”.
Despite often being labelled as “having no tradition” by foreigners, the Carnival was popular in Madrid already in the 16th century. However, during the Francoist dictatorship the carnival was under government ban and the feasts suffered a big blow. It has been slowly recovering since then.
Other signalled days include the regional day (2 May) commemorating the Dos de Mayo Uprising (a public holiday), the feasts of San Antonio de la Florida (13 June), the feast of the Virgen de la Paloma (circa 15 August) or the day of the co-patron of Madrid, the Virgin of Almudena (9 November), although the latter’s celebrations are rather religious in nature.
The most important musical event in the city is the Mad Cool festival; created in 2016, it reached an attendance of 240,000 during the three-day long schedule of the 2018 edition.
Madrid hosts the largest plaza de toros (bullring) in Spain, Las Ventas, established in 1929. Las Ventas is considered by many to be the world centre of bullfighting and has a seating capacity of almost 25,000. Madrid’s bullfighting season begins in March and ends in October. Bullfights are held every day during the festivities of San Isidro (Madrid’s patron saint) from mid May to early June, and every Sunday, and public holiday, the rest of the season. The style of the plaza is Neo-Mudéjar. Las Ventas also hosts music concerts and other events outside of the bullfighting season.