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Spanish in Madrid

Learn Spanish in Madrid

Madrid, city of grand avenues and open spaces, smacks the visitor with its huge dimensions from the very first moment. From the eight-lane Paseo de la Castellana, cutting through the core of the capital, to the gigantic Spanish flag waving placidly at Plaza Colón, to the colossal Royal Palace, the largest royal residence in all of Europe, to, even, the latest development in the new financial district, towards the northern end of the city, where the Cuatro Torres Center stands out in the horizon line from well over 100 kilometres in the distance.

Torres Kio

A new city, by all accounts, that is not going to charm any visitors who come looking for millenary ruins or tales of dungeons and dragons of the Middle Ages. In exchange, the capital offers precisely this — a highly internalised sense of being at the heart of the Empire. And if such empire is now defunct, there is still a country, there is still a language, there is still a sphere of influence, which revolves around the axis devised in Madrid

Or perhaps that is just what people in the city will have you believe. Nevertheless, there is a palpable feeling of decisions being taken in the capital of Spain, of a circle of prominence gravitating around the place, exerting their influence, pulling some strings, making the calls. Because there is something special — hard to describe, impossible to pin down and yet unequivocally there — about great capitals. And unmistakably, Madrid is included in the list of great capitals of Europe.

The Capital of Spain

In many ways, Madrid is the perfect capital for Spain, insofar as the country, as such, is a fabrication that dates back to the end of the XV and the first quarter of the XVI century — roughly the time when Madrid gained in prominence and turned from an unimportant village into one of the most prominent cities of the new country.

Following the unification of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, the conquest of the Taifa kingdom of Granada and, furthermore, the wars of annexation of the kingdom of Navarre, Spain consolidated its position as a political unit towards 1525, with the imposing figure of Charles I, later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. While Charles maintained the capital of the Spanish Empire in the historically pivotal city of Toledo, Madrid was favoured by his son, Felipe II, as the administrative centre, and so, ever since 1561 the city has been right in the middle of the mix.

Puerta de Alcalá

Consequently, a tour of the city will take you to few places dating back to anything before the XVI century. Which also explains the monumental dimensions found in many of the buildings that shape the landscape of the city. Conceived from scratch and always thought to enhance the urban area of the great capital, projects such as the Plaza Mayor in the heart of town, or the Puerta de Alcalá, in what used to be the outer confines of Madrid, Retiro Park, as well as the now-disappeared Palace of El Buen Retiro, or churches such as that of st Francis the Great, or the basilica of St Isidro, were all intended to add grandeur to what was historically a plain settlement.

Madrid is, then, a capital that has gained in richness, in tradition, in standing, at the same rate as the country of which it serves as administrative centre has developed a shared identity. No other city in Spain will offer a more global view of the country than Madrid, precisely because the regionalist past of Madrid is far less exciting, far less glamorous and relevant than the latter. Madrid has profited like no other place from the 500 years of history of Spain as a unit and, as such, it fulfils an admirable role as the capital of Spain.

Cosmopolitan Centre

Madrid is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Europe. If you are looking into the possibility of taking a Spanish language course in Spain then Madrid might be the right city to do it, not only because, as the capital of the spanish speaking world it boasts extraordinary resources and facilities, but also because the range of idioms, dialects and varieties of spanish you will be able to experience in the city has no end.

Madrid is home to an enormous community of immigrants from all over the world who add to the flair of the city, providing it with a whirling sense of Babylon, where all cultures and all traditions meet. This is specially true of Latin American countries, richly represented in all strata of society in Madrid. From the delicacies of Peruvian food to the variety of Mexican tequila to the cultural diversity offered by the Casa de América, the vast cultural output of an entire continent is at the tip of your hand in Madrid, regardless of whether you stay for a year, or you come only to do a summer camp in Madrid.

But the extent of the cosmopolitan feeling of the capital of Spain is not reduced to its foreign population. While you might feel a strain of Catalan supremacy on some occasions in Barcelona, or perhaps a certain pride in the remoteness of a forgotten town in Andalucía, the population of Madrid is largely the product of an important internal migration that has seen people from all over the country settle there. This has contributed to the diversity and tolerance of the city, a place where seldom will you find a gator, someone whose heritage places them in Madrid for several generations. And even if you do find one, they will likely be apologetic about it!