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Quirky facts about Madrid we bet you never knew
05 September 2021 @ 17:51

DESPITE being its capital and welcoming the highest number of international tourists of anywhere in Spain, Madrid does not immediately leap into people's heads when they think of this multi-faceted, beautiful and fascinating south-western European country.

Madrid's iconic Puerta de Alcalá, the gateway to its huge, verdant Retiro Park (photo: Juan Luis Ferrandiz/Pixabay)

Rather like Canberra, Washington DC, Brasilia, Ankara and Rabat, when conjuring up images of a major Spanish city, it tends to come about third or fourth on the list after the likes of Barcelona, Sevilla, and perhaps either Valencia, Granada, Málaga, Alicante or Palma de Mallorca, depending upon whether you have a sightseeing tour or beach holiday in mind.

Just as the five mentioned above tend to find themselves shoved down the list behind the more famous cities in their countries – Sydney, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Marrakech.

But Madrid is the second-largest capital city in the European Union in terms of population (just over 3.2 million, only beaten by Berlin with slightly more than 3.5 million), and is the fifth-largest city and fourth-largest capital on the continent of Europe when counting the entire metropolitan area – Istanbul, with 15.2 million, tops the list, but for capitals, Moscow with 12.6 million is the biggest, followed by Paris (11 million) and London (9.3 million), then Madrid at 6.6 million.

And, considering it is a capital, Madrid is not as crowded as you'd expect, either: Out of the top 55 most densely-populated municipalities in Europe – not all of them cities – Madrid comes 29th.

Spain's capital, as well as being home to the 'Big Three' art museums – El Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemizsa – and the spectacular Royal Palace and huge, verdant Retiro Park, also houses some intriguing facts and features which not everyone is aware of.

For fans of useless but fun information, here are 10 little gems about Madrid we've unearthed.


It's the highest-altitude capital city in Europe


By a long way, in fact. It's not exactly perched on the tip of Mont Blanc, and it's definitely not another Cusco or La Paz, but Madrid is not as flat as you thought it was: It stands a whole 657 metres above sea level. So if it was right on the coast, it'd dominate the horizon when you looked at it from the beach, and it's a wonder Madrid isn't engulfed in clouds most of the time.

Its nearest rival in terms of height is Prague, at 399 metres above sea level, followed by Kiev, Ukraine at 179 metres, and Athens at 170 metres.


Che Guevara bought his famous beret in Madrid's oldest hat shop

We can even tell you the date and where to find the store.

Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Ché first visited the Spanish capital on June 13, 1959, when he made a pit-stop there en route to Cairo, Egypt.



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