Lawyer Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt explains why Madrid is a top place to buy and live in Spain.
Today I continue with my running series on top places to buy and live in Spain. I need to preface this article by admitting I have a soft spot for Madrid, having studied and worked there for almost decade. Madrid is like a second home to me, along with Marbella and Edinburgh.
The earliest historical record we have was that it was founded by Arabs as early as 865 A.D. The emir Muhammad I of Cordoba commanded a citadel to be built in the village of Mayrit (which means abundance of water in Arabic), next to the Manzanares river. The grounds of the current Royal Palace are built upon this citadel which gave birth to the city as we know it.
Over time Madrid would grow in size and importance, favoured by its central position in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1561, King Philip II would name Madrid as the capital city of the burgeoning Kingdom of Spain. Madrid would go on to rule the Spanish Empire (1500 – 1800), and most of the known world, over the next two and a half centuries, finally yielding its power to the British Empire.
Madrid, a city that never sleeps
During daytime you will see its inhabitants rushing to work in the wee hours of the morning, with its roads and avenues brimming with busy traffic listening to prime talk radio hosts rambling on politics and football. At dusk, it springs to life with a nightlife second to none. Madrid epitomizes the best of Spanish culture and spirit. Very few people can actually claim to trace back their ancestors to Madrid natives, but most newcomers quickly fall in line (and in love) with the city’s unique spirit becoming Madrileños, which is a lifestyle.
Madrid blends like no other city a discipline for hard work and a passion to live life at its fullest. It’s hard to befriend a madrileño, but if you manage it, they become friends for life.
Madrid will leave an indelible mark upon you.
- Madrid de los Austrias: This is an old quarter that now houses countless bars and restaurants. The city majors have wisely turned into a pedestrian walk – mostly – making it highly accessible. A nice selection of Irish pubs can be found there.
- Paseo de la Castellana: This wide avenue sports Madrid’s most important and prestigious companies and multinationals.
- Gran Vía: I have a soft spot for it as I lived nearby for almost 10 years. It is an avenue which houses all theatres, cinemas, and Broadway shows. It’s a perfect place to dot around if you crave culture.
- Velázquez, Serrano, and Claudio Coello: Similar to Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro, these three adjacent streets are ideal for luxury shopping lovers, housing the finest household names in fashion, très chic!
- Plaza de Colón: this great plaza has three giant stone sculptures which represent the three caravels (La Pinta, La Niña, and the Santa Maria) commissioned by the Catholic Kings. It commemorates the discovery of the New World by Cristopher Columbus in 1492.
- El Retiro: an assorted lush park with centuries-old trees, which seeds were brought by sailors from the far reaches of the Spanish Empire, which happens to have one of the few sculptures in the world dedicated to the fallen angel of Morningstar, Lucifer.
- Puerta de Alcalá: a landmark in Madrid.
Must-see places for art-lovers
In Madrid, you will be spoilt for choice.
Museo del Prado
Harbors what is likely Spain’s most important pictoric collection, treasuring countless masterpieces from renowned artist from all over the world (Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Rubens, Tiziano, Tintoretto, etc). The main highlight is Las Meninas, by Velázquez.
Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum
Named after its founder, a shrewd German businessman, it is located near the Prado Museum, It is known as part of the “Golden Triangle of Art”. It completes and complements the art collections of both El Prado and the Reina Sofia.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Aptly named after Spain’s honorary Queen, it houses modern art collections. The main highlights are works by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso including the world-famous Guernica painting (which depicts the horrors of war).
Must-see places for history buffs
Museo Arqueológico Nacional
It has a live-size reproduction of the famous Altamira cave paintings (Santander) discovered by an illustrious ancestor of the Botín banking family saga. It has an impressive collection of antiquities that span multiple time periods and civilizations.
Museo del Ejército
It houses Spain’s military memorabilia, spanning millennia, from Roman times, through the Spanish Empire (where the sun never set), to modern times. In it you will find El Cid’s famous sword, La Tizona.
To name my personal top tier:
- Torres Kio: These have now become a landmark of Madrid’s landscape, epitomising a modern and enterprising Madrid.
- Palacio Real: The Royal palace and its adjacent gardens (Jardines del Campo del Moro) are a sight to behold.
- Banco de España: a beautiful modernist building.
- Palacio de Cibeles: another modernist building.
Top English schools in Madrid
As the capital city, Madrid boasts some of the finest schools and universities in all of Spain. I collate below the best schools – in no particular order – for those pursuing a bilingual education in English for their children.
· Runnymede College: Founded by Mr. Arthur Powell (OBE) and his wife Julia in the 60’s, it regularly places its students in top UK and US Ivy League universities. It follows the English national curriculum. Very demanding and academic.
· Colegio San Patricio, Madrid. Founded by Irish nuns, it consistently ranks every year as the best-performing school in all of Spain (El Mundo). Its installations are second to none. Its privileged graduates attend the finest universities all over the world. It follows both the Spanish system and the International Baccalaureate. Strong emphasis on academics.
· British Council School of Madrid. Is the dean of all British schools in Spain, founded in 1940, shortly after the end of Spain’s fratricidal Civil War. It follows both the English syllabus and the International Baccalaureate. Run by the British Council, it adheres to British standards.
· Numont School: founded by Ms. Margaret Ann Swanson in the 60’s, it’s a primary school that offers an excellent education in English. The size of its classes has remained small over time, allowing its pupils to swiftly pick up a proficient education in English. They follow the English syllabus (English national curriculum). All teachers are native English-speakers. Its pupils then go on to join secondary in the other schools mentioned in this list above.
In the dark times that besiege Spain, Madrid acts as a shining beacon of freedom and hope for us all.
Madrid exemplifies what Spain could aspire to as a whole; a successful and well-run country that attracts billions of euros in foreign investments and creates thousands of high-paid jobs in its wake. A perfect place to live or work in, alas no beach – you can’t have it all!
“Madrid, si no es libre, no es Madrid.” – Isabel Díaz Ayuso
Loosely translated as: “Madrid, if it’s not free, is not Madrid.”
Isabel Natividad Díaz Ayuso (1978). Is a Spanish stateswoman and journalist serving as the president of the Community of Madrid since 2019. She is the president of the People’s Party of Madrid. She rose to prominence during the Covid-19 state-imposed confinement defending the rights of small business owners to open, which saved thousands of jobs and SME’s from the brink during the lockdown. She anticipated the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic – unlike the Spanish government – ordering to build a state-of-the art hospital (Isabel Zendal) in record time to treat Covid patients; her quick wit and resolute decision-making contributed to save thousands of seniors’ lives. In time, through her steadfast actions, she would rise to become the de facto leader of Spain’s opposition in all but in name. With a fiery untamed spirit, and an unbridled penchant for freedom, she is on course to become Spain’s first female president – on her own merits – without resorting to gender-imposed quotas.
Isabel is a politician in her spare time, nobody is perfect.
Other entries in this running series:
- Costa del Sol: your dream home in paradise – 8th April 2022
- Sotogrande, the pearl of Cadiz – 3rd June 2022
- Barcelona, the beautiful – 8th November 2022
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