Seeing as it was founded over a thousand years ago, it makes sense that Madrid has such a storied history. Aside from its long past, its large size and international flavour means there’s so much to discover about the Spanish capital that it’s almost impossible to condense the weird and wonderful Madrid facts that give the city its colour into a list. But, ever the triers, we at Orbzii wanted to give you the cocktail party knowledge before you even head to the city. Here are our eight favourite things you probably didn’t know about Madrid!
Madrid is one of the only places outside of Egypt to have an Egyptian temple
Templo de Debod stands in the heart of Cuartel de la Montana Park. It was originally built in the 2nd Century BC in Egypt to honour the god Amun and the goddess Isis, and was added to over the years by various rulers, including Augustus of the Roman Empire. The temple was sealed off and abandoned in the 6th Century CE after the local rulers converted to Christianity, where it remained undisturbed until the 20th Century when the Egyptian government wanted to build a damn that would have wrecked it, so donated the structure to the Spanish. It was shipped over and rebuilt brick-by-brick, and was opened to the public in 1972, keeping the structure’s original orientation from East to West.
Madrid’s patron saint was married
San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Labourer), the patron saint of Madrid and of labourers, has his Saint’s day on the 15th of May, when the entire city celebrates. The events usually start a few days prior to the 15th and last around a week, with street parties and other events throughout the Madrid area.
Over a hundred miracles have been attributed to San Isidro, but one less known fact about him was that unlike most other saints, he was married to Maria Torribia, another figure who is close to being canonized by the Pope. The story goes that after their son fell down a well and was miraculously saved by prayer, they took a vow of abstinence and spent the rest of their lives in different houses.
Madrid has a statue of the devil
Located 666m above sea-level in Retiro Park, this statue of Lucifer (known as ‘The Fallen Angel’ in English) is a representation of the angel being exiled from paradise. It was sculpted in the late 19th century for the Paris World Fair, and then placed in its location in 1885.
Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, the statue is cast in Bronze and is over 2m high, with the entire monument stretching over 7m. For a deeply Catholic country, it attracts very little controversy, with most locals fond of the statue.
Madrid is home to (possibly) the oldest continually running restaurant in the world
Sorbino de Botin, in the heart of Madrid, has been running continuously since 1725, meaning most people consider it the oldest restaurant in the world. Having been patronised by both Mozart and Hemingway, the latter including it in his novel The Sun Also Rises, it’s seen its fair share of famous names and faces over the years.
While it’s impressive the restaurant has been running for nearly 300 years, the cellar is almost another two centuries older than that and is still in use. The flame in the oven has also been burning, unextinguished since the restaurant opened, which makes it older than most countries. This is done to keep it at a hot enough temperature so roasting their signature dish – the suckling pig – is possible in the morning.
Madrid is the least cloudy capital in Europe
Sun-seekers, get ready for some great news: Madrid has around 250 cloudless days a year, making it the most cloudless capital in Europe. This is thanks to its mountainous location and the propensity of rain and cloud to break over to the East of the country, and means you’re likely to catch a decent tan from your Madrid trip.
There’s a ‘ghost’ metro station
Chamberí Metro Station was one of the original eight metro stops that were inaugurated in the early 20th century. It closed in 1966, but has been operating as a museum for over a decade now. The line still passes through the station, but heading down into the building it’s like stepping into the past, with brickwork, billboards, and turnstiles remaining untouched for decades. There was some vandalism in the 90s, but everything that was damaged was lovingly restored in the mid-2000s just before the museum was reopened.
Puerta del Sol is the centre of the country (for roads)
Much like Charing Cross in London, the major roads in Spain all start from the centre of Puerta del Sol, known as Kilometre Zero. It’s also the starting point for Madrid’s numbered streets: if a number is low, it’s closer to the centre.
The little slab that commemorates the beginning of roads A1 – A6 is easy to miss in the bustling square. If you want to stand in the literal heart of Spain, then you need to head to the clock tower – the stone is just underneath it. The original plaque was placed there in 1950, but a newer version was laid in 2002, although this was oriented the wrong way – a mistake fixed in 2009.
The Bank of Spain has an interesting defence mechanism
Located in the heart of the city, the Bank of Spain is an imposing and beautiful building. Opposite is the just as stunning Cibeles Fountain. Although these two might not seem linked, the fountain actually plays a very important part in the security of the bank. Underneath it is what the bank refer to as the Chamber of Gold, where Spain’s gold reserves and other precious goods are kept. This is protected by the usual steel doors and armed guards, but in the event the alarm goes off the area gets sealed off and the fountain starts to drain, directly into the chamber. So, if you’re planning a heist in Madrid, you might want to bring your goggles!