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Running in Madrid: the city of the Bear and the Tree

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

En marchant ou en courant dans les rues de Madrid, vous entrapercevrez peut-être l'Ours et l'Arbousier sur la Puerta del Sol
The Bear and the 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 modern-day Madrid is located. In the 16th century, Philip II chose the area as the site of his court.

But long before that, in 865, Emir Mohammed I had ordered the construction of a kasbah in the village 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 town's first coat of arms bore the motto "I was built on water. My walls are made of fire. These are my insignia and my coat of arms". Since the 13th century, the town's symbol has been the bear and its strawberry tree. The bronze statue of the plantigrade and his 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. This makes it Europe's second highest capital, after Andorra la Vella. The city is constantly on the move, with a chaotic atmosphere all its own. However, there are plenty of pleasant green spaces in which to recharge your batteries, as well as magnificent squares and streets lined with sumptuous monuments, silent witnesses to the various events that have punctuated Madrid's history.

From the Habsburgs to the Bourbons

Despite the strong Moorish presence in the Middle Ages, little remains of Madrid from this period, apart from a few 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 remained out of sight, and Madrid's walled palaces and convents reflected this protocol. A number of buildings from this period still stand near the Plaza Mayor, the last vestiges of a humble and secretive Madrid.

In 1701, Philip V, the first Bourbon of Spain, arrived in Madrid. He embarked on a real urban renewal, adapting a tortuous and obscure city to the more extravagant tastes of the European courts of the time. As you run or walk around Madrid, you'll come across several of these sumptuous 18th- and 19th-century monuments around the Fuente Castellana.

Fontaine de Cibeles, XVIIIème siècle
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 can also admire the imposing Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which has one of the largest circular bases in Christendom, and the Salesas Reales convent, commissioned by Queen Maria Barbara of Portugal as a retreat.

Culture and places of interest in Madrid

Today, Madrid is above all a living capital. As such, it is home to exceptional cultural sites that stand side by side with real architectural curiosities, as well as living spaces designed to delight passers-by. One of these is Atocha station, Spain's oldest, and home to a tropical garden!

Une visite incontournable à Madrid : marcher jusqu'au pied du temple de Débod
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 Amon. It was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in the mid-twentieth century, as 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 starting point for all roads leaving the capital. During your stroll through Madrid, we'll then take you to the foot of the Metropolis building, built in the early 20th century in the French Beaux-Arts style. Its round tower is covered in thousands of gold leaves!

Skyline de Madrid
Madrid skyline

Finally, from a cultural point of view, while the Spanish capital has many attractions, Madrid is essentially home to major museums. Pinacoteques in particular are one of the city's main tourist attractions. The "art triangle" is made up of three reference centres: the Prado Museum, one of the richest in the world when it comes to 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. There's also the IKONO art gallery, which explores the senses - 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, Juan Carlos I and Casa de Campo parks. Dotted with green spaces, the city is constantly improving its viability and accessibility. As a result, it is now possible to enjoy the Gran Vía, Madrid's historic thoroughfare, on foot or by bike.

Courir dans la Gran Vía peut être un défi de taille le week-end, quand les touristes s'y amassent.
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 surprising diversity of wildlife. And a run through the Cuatro Torres Business Area is sure to please aficionados of futuristic districts. We'll take you around the four skyscrapers that make up the heart of Madrid's business district. These were built on the grounds of the former Real Madrid sports complex!

Run, walk or cycle with JOOKS, from Puerta del Sol to Cuatro Torres!

Find all the routes in the city of Madrid in the JOOKS application.

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