The capital of Spain, located in the heart of the
Iberian Península and right in the center of the Castillian
meseta, is 646 meters above sea level and has a population
of over three millions.
A cosmopolitan city, a business center, headquarters
for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament
and the home of the Spanish Royal Family, Madrid also
plays a first-rate role in both the banking and industrial
sectors. Most of this industry is located on the southern
fringe of the city, where important textile, food and
metal working factories are clustered.
Madrid is known by an intense cultural and artistic
activity as well as a quite lively nightlife.
The grand metropolis of Madrid has its origins in the
times of the Arab Emir Mohamed I (852-886), who ordered
the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the
Manzanares River. It later became cause of a dispute
between the Christians and Arabs until it was conquered
by Alfonso VI in the XIth century.
By the end of the XVIIth century, a defensive wall
was built for the protection of the new outlying areas,
tracing the roads of Segovia, Toledo and Valencia.
During the 18th century, under the reign of Carlos
III, the great arteries of the city were designed, such
as el Paseo de la Castellana, Paseo de Recoletos, Paseo
del Prado and Paseo de las Acacias.
At the beginning of the XIXth century, Joseph Bonaparte
undertook the reform of la Puerta del Sol and its surroundings
and the commercial street known as la Gran Vía was built.
In the 1950's the north-south boulevard called Paseo
de la Castellana was extended and modern buildings were
erected housing the major financial institutions.
What remains today of the distant past are mainly Baroque
and Neoclassical structures anad buildings of the XVIIth
and XVIIIth centuries, such as la Plaza Mayor (Main
Square), el Palacio Real (Royal Palace).