Plaza Mayor, Madrid main square. Fernando Madariaga / © ICEX
Madrid is situated in the centre of the country and is an Autonomous Community consisting of a homonymous single province where the capital of Spain, Madrid, is located. It has an area of 8,027.69 sq. kilometers / 3,099.5 sq. miles and a population of 6,498,560 inhabitants.
Madrid’s agricultural output is centred mainly on the production of seasonal vegetables to supply the big city: asparagus, melons, watermelons and strawberries.
Beef and milk are its chief livestock activity.
Increasingly, wine is produced in the south, from the west to the east of the region. The DO Vinos de Madrid makes the capital of Spain the only capital in the world to give its name to a Designation of Origin for wine.
Read more: Wines from Spain.
Madrid region was visited by 4,494.486 foreign tourists in 2012.
The Monastery and Site of El Escorial, the University and Historic Old Town of Alcalá de Henares, along with the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, have been listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage sites.
The capital is home to three of the most important art museums in Spain: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Modern Art Museum. 2008 saw the inauguration of CaixaFórum, a multidisciplinary art center located half way between the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía Museums. Not far from the latter is La Casa Encendida, a culture centre specializing in avant-garde art and young artists.
The Peñalara peak, glacier lakes and cirque in the mountains range to the north of the province are also well-worth mentioning.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Cuenca Alta Río Manzanares and Sierra del Rincón.
More info: Turismo de Madrid.
Outgoing and open-minded, the city is home to important art galleries, museums, mansions and a magnificent Royal Palace. The Monastery of El Escorial, and historical cities such as Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez or Chinchón, are all located within the Autonomous Community.
Some world-famous natives of Madrid include: the author of El Quijote, Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616); the writer Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645); the playwright Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681); José Echegaray (1832-1916), playwright and 1904 Nobel Prize for Literature; playwright Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954); philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955); the painter Juan Gris (1887-1927); poet Pedro Salinas (1891-1951); and tenor Plácido Domingo (1941).
The celebration of San Isidro, patron saint of the city, takes place in Madrid on the 15th of May every year.
Madrid’s most traditional dish is cocido madrileño, a chickpea based stew, which is a combination of stews from other regions; the region's second most typical dish is callos (tripe).
The Spanish tapeo tradition, which consists of eating tapas or snacks as appetisers, has long been practised in Madrid where the mid-morning tortilla (Spanish omelette) and caña (small glass of beer) are perhaps the more traditional choices. Other popular tapas include grilled prawns, fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce (patatas bravas), garlic prawns, mussels, croquettes, marinated anchovies, etc.
The very best of Spanish and international cuisine can be enjoyed in Madrid. It has deservedly been called the "best port in Spain" for the quality of fish that reaches its kitchens from the coast.
Among its fruits, Aranjuez strawberries and melons from Villaconejos are worth a special mention.
Torrijas, bread soaked in milk and fried in batter with honey or sugar and wine, is the regional sweet dish par excellence, and is usually eaten at Easter. A traditional breakfast or afternoon snack consists of hot chocolate with churros or porras (flour fritters).
Wines from Madrid and the aniseed-flavoured liquor from Chinchón, which comes in four different varieties, are the perfect accompaniment to a good meal.