We booked our flight to Gran Canaria through Madrid so decided to travel there a day earlier to explore the city. In the morning we went on a free walking tour of Madrid, where we learned a lot of interesting facts…
Tip: You Can Do A Free Walking Tour of Madrid at 10am, 11am or 2pm every day. Or if you prefer a more personalised experience, you can book a local guide to give you a private tour of Madrid here.
1. You’ll find a statue of a horse in Plaza Mayor. Back in the day people wondered why it always smelt so bad around the horse. Eventually they decided to open it up and found bird skeletons! It was later discovered that since the horse’s mouth was open, birds would go in through the mouth but not know how to get out so would end up dying inside.
2. In Madrid all cafes and restaurants open around mid-morning so keep that in mind when searching for a place to have your morning coffee.
3. In the centre of Madrid all the street signs have pictures which represent the street’s history.
4. The oldest restaurant in the whole world (according to the Guiness World of Records) is in Madrid. For €40 per head you can eat there like a king or queen.
5. Why is tapas called tapas? Apparently, once upon a time the king went on a trip to the South of Spain and stopped in a pub for a drink. It was very windy in the South so as the bar tender was serving the king his drink, lots of dust blew through the windows into the glass. The waiter didn’t want to disappoint the king so he covered the glass with a slice of ham. The king looked confused and asked “What is this?” so the nervous waiter thought fast and blurted out “Tapas!” which was derived from the Spanish word ’tapar’ meaning ‘to cover.’
6. How did tapas become popular in Spain? Hundreds of years ago poor farmers only had enough money at the end of the day to buy either food or alcohol so they would always choose alcohol. Since they were always drunk they stopped producing enough food for the people of the kingdom so the king decided that every drink served in a bar would have to come with some food, which solved the problem.
7. It took over 300 years for Madrid to build it’s first cathedral called Cathedral De La Armuneda (opposite the royal palace).
8. Madrid’s slogan is “I was built over water, walls made of fire.” There are underground rivers in Madrid which explain the ‘built over water’ part; and apparently, a lot of the buildings in Madrid (especially the older ones) were made out of the same stone that is used to spark a fire.
9. Flamenco dancing (which we saw in Seville and definitely recommend watching!) started in the South of Spain but Madrid ‘stole’ the tradition and became the Flamenco capital of the world.
10. There are over 3000+ rooms in the Royal Palace in Madrid making it the largest palace in Europe! Apparently the original palace was ugly because over time many different architects added a different design to it, so people would literally come from all over Europe to laugh at the ugly piece of architecture. It was then burnt down so the king decided a new palace would be built to replace it. The new palace was designed by 3 Italian architects who got their inspiration and ideas from the existing Palace of Versailles in France.
Tip: It is free to enter The Royal Palace in Madrid between 4pm-6pm Monday to Thursday but only if you are a European or Latin American citizen. Otherwise it’s a 12euros entrance fee.
11. Spain still has a king called Felipe VI and the royal family actually live in a smaller palace on the outskirts of Madrid because the king likes his privacy.
12. When in Madrid you must visit Mercado de San Miguel food markets for some delicious snacks. Also, order some churros with hot chocolate at San Gines Chocolateria in one of the side streets of Madrid.
13. The final but probably most important (and embarrassing) thing I learnt in Madrid was to not fall down the stairs! I clumsily missed a step on the way to the airport and fell onto my ankle with the weight of my backpack. If you’ve ever sprained your ankle you’ll understand how much pain I was in (ouch!) but I am so so grateful that it is now ‘healed’.
Although we learned some interesting facts on our walking tour of Madrid, we didnt really like the city that much (and this was decided BEFORE my ankle accident). We found it to be quite a boring place that’s far from all the nice parts of Spain so we were happy to only spend one full day there. This was our experience but I’m sure there are many people who absolutely love the city of Madrid.
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