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Running in Madrid: the city of the Bear and the Strawberry tree

A world city and the capital of Spain, Madrid was founded in the 9th century, before becoming one of the main financial centres of Southern Europe. Modern buildings stand side by side with neo-classical constructions and medieval remains. Running in Madrid means admiring the leaning towers of the Puerta de Europa, the Puerta del Sol, and the ruins of the ancient Arab walls.

Walking or running through the streets of Madrid, you may see the Bear and the Arbutus on the Puerta del Sol
The Bear and the Strawberry Tree on the Puerta del Sol

Mayrit means "abundance of watercourses". This is what the Arabs called the plain near the Sierra de Guadarrama, where the present-day Madrid is located.

In the 16th century, Philip II chose this place to establish his court.

However, long before that, in 865, Emir Mohammed I ordered the construction of a kasbah in the town of Mayrit, on the banks of the Manzanares river. Until 1083, with the conquest of the city by Alfonso IV of Castile, Madrid professed the Muslim faith.

Because of the existence of the river in this otherwise arid region, the city's first coat of arms bore the motto "I was built on water. My walls are of fire. These are my insignia and my coat of arms". Since the 13th century, the symbol of the town has been the bear with its strawberry tree. The bronze statue of the plantigrade and its tree, sculpted in the 20th century, can be admired on the Puerta del Sol!

Very close to the geographical centre of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid lies on the Meseta plateau, between 600 and 700 m above sea level. As a result, it is the second highest European capital, after Andorra la Vella. The city is in constant motion, with a chaotic atmosphere all its own. However, there are pleasant green spaces to relax in, as well as magnificent squares and streets lined with magnificent monuments, silent witnesses to the various events that have marked Madrid's history.

From Habsburg to Bourbons

Despite the strong Moorish presence in the Middle Ages, there are few remains of Madrid from this period, apart from some ruins of the Arab walls, visible in the Cuesta de la Vega. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Habsburg dynasty, in a true spirit of austerity, maintained a sober architecture in the city. The king was kept out of sight, and the walled palaces and convents of Madrid reflected this protocol. Towards the Plaza Mayor there are still several buildings from this period, the last vestiges of a humble and secretive Madrid.

In 1701, Philip V, the first of the Spanish Bourbons, arrived in Madrid. He began a real urban renewal, adapting a tortuous and obscure city to the more extravagant tastes of the European courts of the time. Running or walking around Madrid, you will discover several of these sumptuous 18th and 19th century monuments around the Fuente Castellana.

Cibeles Fountain, 18th century
Cibeles Fountain, 18th century

The Paseo del Brado and the Buen Retiro Palace, built later, are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During your visit to Madrid, you will also admire, among the buildings from the Bourbon period, the imposing Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which has one of the largest circular bases in Christendom, or the Salesas Reales convent, commissioned by Queen Maria Barbara of Portugal to retire there.

Culture and sights in Madrid

Today, Madrid is above all a living capital. As such, there are exceptional cultural sites alongside real architectural curiosities, as well as living spaces designed for the pleasure of passers-by, including the Atocha station, the oldest in Spain, which houses a tropical garden!

A must-see in Madrid: walk to the foot of the Temple of Debod
The temple of Debod

In the heart of the city, you will also discover the Temple of Debod, an authentic Egyptian temple dating from the 2nd century AD, dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun. It was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in the middle of the 20th century, as it was one of the many ancient sites saved from destruction when the Aswan High Dam was built.

You will also cross the famous Puerta del Sol, a historic square that is also the point of departure for the capital. On your walk through Madrid, we will then take you to the foot of the Metropolis building, built at the beginning of the 20th century in a French Beaux-Arts style. Its round tower is covered with thousands of gold leaves!

Madrid skyline
Madrid skyline

Finally, from a cultural point of view, although the Spanish capital has many attractions, Madrid is essentially home to major museums. Especially the art galleries, which are one of the city's main tourist attractions. The "art triangle" is made up of three reference centres: the Prado Museum, which is one of the richest in the world in terms of painting, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum.

Among the alternative museums, don't miss the Sweet Space Museum, a truly interactive and innovative excursion exploring the question of taste. The IKONO art gallery, which questions the senses of touch, smell and sight, and the Museum of Illusions, which plunges you into a maze of optical illusions!

Modern Madrid

Among the best places to run in Madrid are the Retiro Park, Juan Carlos I Park and Casa de Campo. Dotted with green spaces, the city is continuously improving its viability and accessibility. As a result, it is now possible to enjoy the Gran Vía, Madrid's historic thoroughfare, both on foot and by bicycle.

Running along the Gran Vía can be a challenge at weekends, when tourists flock there.
Gran Vía

Madrid Río, a gigantic recreational and cultural area located alongside the Manzanares River, has recently been renaturalised. As a result, it is home to a surprisingly diverse fauna. A run through the Cuatro Torres Business Area will undoubtedly appeal to aficionados of futuristic neighbourhoods. We will take you around the four skyscrapers that form the heart of Madrid's business district. These were built on the grounds of the former Real Madrid sports complex!

Run with Runnin'City from Puerta del Sol to Cuatro Torres!

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