Surprising facts you never knew about Madrid

Sandra Oberg

General, Relocation and Global Mobility, Travel, Travel News, Work & Play Guide

Madrid is a gorgeous city and should be on everyone’s travel bucket list if visiting Spain. You’ll find everything that most business travellers would wish for on a trip — fascinating historical places, incredible traditional food, and energetic city life. The city has an amazing blend of tradition and history, but with a very modern urban lifestyle. Madrid also has some secrets and hidden gems dotted around the city. Here are some surprising facts you never knew about Madrid… You’ll be totally spoilt for choice on where to visit! 

Surprising facts you never knew about Madrid, Spain.
Courtesy of Ömer Karakus – Unsplash.com

Madrid goes back to the ninth century

Unsurprisingly, Madrid is one of Europe’s most historically rich cities. However, did you know that the history of the city goes back all the way to the ninth century? The place we now know as Madrid was inhabited by prehistoric humans. Many ancient objects have been found along the banks of the river Manzanares, such as large mammal remains and axes. Some of these objects can still be viewed today at the National Archaeological Museums.

Madrid also goes back to Egypt. You may have heard of Temple of Debod? This is an Egyptian 2200-year-old shrine that was presented to Spain as a sign of gratitude for the help they provided in saving the Nubian temples.

There are some excellent museums to visit if you want to explore the fascinating history more in detail. Here are just a few of them: Museo Arquelofico Nacional, Naval Museum, and Museo de Historia de Madrid — all worth a visit!

The Spanish King does not actually live in the Royal Palace in Madrid

If you have already entered the grand Royal Palace in Madrid, you may already know: The king of Spain doesn’t actually live there! Although the Palacio Real is still the official royal residence, the members of the royal family have been living and receiving guests in the more modest mansion Palace of Zarzuela since 1962.

Palacio Real in Madrid.
Courtesy of Hernan Gonzalez – Unsplash.com

Why is the city’s symbol a bear?

You can’t say you have been to Madrid and not seen the statue of El Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree). The statue is here because it’s the official symbol of Madrid. You may wonder, why a bear?

Nobody really knows for fact why the bear and the tree is the symbol of Madrid. However, it’s known that there lived many bears in the fields around Madrid and there were many trees that looked like strawberry trees. But that isn’t very a fun story behind it though, is it?

Here’s another theory! It originated during a 13th-century hunting conflict between the church and the people. This resulted in the agreement that the land was owned by the church and the people of Madrid owned everything above the ground. This resulted in the image of a bear and a tree and the symbol of Madrid was born.

The statue of El Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) in Madrid.
Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena – Unsplash.com

Madrileños — ‘Gatos’ (cats)

Have you heard the story about why Madrilenoes are being called cats?

This nickname comes from a legend from the 11th century when Madrid was under the Arabic domain. The Christian troops of King Alfonso VI approached one of the gates of the walls, in order to surprise the enemy.

One of the soldiers managed to climb the city walls by inserting his dagger between gaps in the stones as foot-holds. Then he ran to the fortified tower and changes the Moorish flag for the Christian one.

He did so with the agility of a cat and the rest of the soldiers begin to call him ‘Gato’ (cat). In memory of this feat, he and his successors assumed the name of ‘Gato’.

There you have it, one of the most interesting facts you never knew about Madrid. And a quite interesting reason why they are very often called cats.

A beach in Madrid? Yup!

It may not be a real beach, but you can still enjoy a beer on a fluffy cushion. You’ll be surrounded by dim lighting to get a tropical atmosphere, whilst covering your feet in that warm white sand.

The restaurant Ojala is a cosy and exotic restaurant in the heart of Madrid. The bottom floor of the restaurant is an improvised chill-out “beach area” to bring the beach closer to you when you’re enjoying the fun city life.


Now when you’ve read all of our surprising facts you never knew about Madrid — time to start thinking of where to stay. Be sure to choose the most comfortable accommodations for you. Browse our accommodations in Madrid for your utmost convenience.