The History of Madrid

The First Settlements
The first settlements around Madrid dates back to 1000 b.c. between the rivers Jarama and Manzanares. In this time the area was inhabited by small Iberian and Celtic tribes, but the tough climate did not attract important settlements to the area. When the Romans occupied the Iberian Peninsula (from 218 b.c.) the area around Madrid was used only as pass trough to other areas of Spain.
After the fall of the Roman Empire a small number of Visigoth tribes settled the area according to archeological founds.

Moorish Epoch
The Town of Madrid as we know it today has it origins from the Arabs. The Emir Mohamed I (852-886) ordered the first important construction in the town. The Arabs build a fortress and town wall to protect their army and Arab citizens from Christian attacks. During the next 200-300 years the area is under constantly attacks from Christians, which is the reason why the town in this period doesn't undergo any important expansions (compared to other Arab towns in Spain).

Re-Conquest & Christian Period
In 1083, after many years of demanding warfare were the town constantly changed from Arab to Christian town, Alfonso VI finally conquered Madrid. The few Arab constructions in the town (such as the mosques) are thrown down, which is the reason why Madrid has very few reminds from the Arab period.
A long period after the conquest of Madrid the town was without importance in the Spanish kingdom. In 1202 the small town was converted into an official community by Alfonso VIII but the area was mostly known as a hunting ground for rich people. Madrid didn't change it status until 1561 where Philip II decided to establish the royal Court in Madrid, which at the time was still a small town. The town was soon after declared capital and Philip II started the construction of important palaces and monasteries (i.e. San Loranzo de El Escorial). The new status of the town also attracted many nobles and state officials.

During the golden age, the period after discovering America, Madrid expanded rapidly financed by the gold coming in from the new continent. In the 18th century under the king Charles III (also known as the best Mayor of Madrid) the town changed its appearance. Important constructions such as the Puerta de Alcala, Paseo de la Castellana, El Prado and the Royal Palace were build.

The 2nd of May 1808 Napoleon entered Madrid where the citizens without luck tried to fight back the French troops. Today there is central square (Plaza Dos de Mayo) named after this resistance and it is also a local holyday in the community of Madrid. In the rest of the 19th century the town was expanded and at the end of the century the road and railway today connecting Madrid with all the rest of Spain was initiated.

20th Century and Today
At the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th century an economic crisis had its hold all over Spain. This period was also dominated by the political instability throughout the whole country, which culminated with the Spanish civil war from 1936-39.
After the civil war, during the dictatorship of General Franco, the economy in Madrid slowly recovered and the town started to grow again. Under Franco all the national institutions were centered in Madrid and the town is said to have been privileged by the dictator.
In 1978 after the dead of Franco the political transition to a Parliamentary monarchy was started and the king Juan Carlos I was established as king with home in Madrid.
Today Madrid is a modern metropolitan capital and still economical, industrial and governmental center of Spain. The town was named culture capital of Europe in 1992 and is a serious candidate for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Apartments in Madrid

More about Madrid


Spain Forum

Get advice, ask and discuss topics with your fellow travelers at Madrid.

ClassifiedClassified Ads

Buying or selling something? Offering a service or in need of one? Check out our classifieds.

Poll & SurveisSurveys & Polls

Surveys on various aspects of Spain and Spanish life. Make your voice heard!

NewsSpain News

Keep up-to-date with Spanish news by reading articles about what is currently occurring in Spain.