Madrid, Spain

The capital and largest city of Spain. Population (1991, greater city) 3,010,492.

The large and fast-growing Madrid metropolitan area, incorporating such industrial suburbs as Villaverde, Barajas, and Getafe, vies with Barcelona as Spain's principal manufacturing center. Major products include motor vehicles, aircraft, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, processed food, printed materials, and leather goods. - -

Large numbers of tourists visit the city each year. The traditional center of Madrid is the historic Puerta del Sol, a crescent-shaped square. Other major squares include the arcaded Plaza Mayor (begun 1617), where bullfights, executions of heretics, and other spectacles were staged in the 17th and 18th centuries; the large Plaza de la Cibeles, with fountains and a statue of Cybele (Mother Earth); and the Plaza de Toros Monumental, accommodating the bullring, to the northeast. The city has several tree-lined boulevards and is noted for its fashionable shops.

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Madrid became important only after the 10th century, when it was first mentioned as a Moorish fortress, called Majrit or Magerit, guarding Toledo to the south. The fortress (Alcázar), which stood where the Royal Palace now stands, was captured in 1083 by Alfonso I, King of Castile and León (reigned 1065-1109). Madrid remained small after the Reconquest until Philip II moved the court to the city in 1561. Philip III (reigned 1598-1621) ruled from Valladolid before Madrid became the official capital in 1607. Madrid subsequently grew rapidly and reached a peak of prosperity and importance in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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The Prado Museum, with exhibits of famous paintings by El Greco, Francisco Goya, and Diego Velázquez, is a major landmark. Other points of interest include the massive Royal Palace (1737-1764), used for state functions; the 18th-century church of San Francisco el Grande; the National Archaeological Museum; the National Science Museum; the Museum of the Spanish People; and Buen Retiro park, with botanical and zoological gardens. Located in the metropolitan area are Zarzuela Palace, residence of the country's monarch, and the Pardo, a palace built by Philip II (reigned 1556-1598) and formerly the home of Francisco Franco. The large granite Monastery of El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen, a monument commemorating those who died in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), are nearby.

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Major cities near Madrid:

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