Though inhabited since the Stone Age, the documented history of Madrid begins in the 9th century, when it was part of the Emirate of Córdoba, which was itself part of Al-Andalus, as the Iberian peninsula was known. The area was reconquered by Alfonso VI of León and Castile in 1083-1085, when it joined the Crown of Castile, and was used as an outpost against the city of Toledo, which was itself reconquered in 1085.

In the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon married and began the unification of what eventually became Spain. In 1561, Philip II moved the court to Madrid and the city became the country’s de facto capital (the official capital was Toledo), though there was a brief period of time (1601-1605) when the capital was Valladolid.

Charles III was responsible for modernizing Madrid in the 18th century, funding the construction of major monuments such as the Palacio Real, the Prado (which was originally meant to be a Natural Science Museum), and the Puerta de Alcalá, among others.

Plaza Mayor

Originally called the Plaza del Arrabal, the square dates back to the 15h century, when it was used as the main market of the town of Madrid. The square was remodeled in the 17th century under Philip III (who was following in his father’s — Philip II — footsteps). Work was begun by Juan de Herrera, but was completed by Juan Gómez de Mora in 1619.

Chocolatería San Ginés

One of the most famous churrerías in Madrid, Chocolatería San Ginés opened in 1894. As it is located next to a theater, it became quite popular as a post-performance stop to enjoy some churros with chocolate by those in attendance.

As it is located in an alleyway (Pasadizo de San Ginés), it became known as “the hidden one” during the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939). Today it’s a common tourist stop (though still a great place to get churros), but when it first opened it was mostly frequented by bohemians, writers, and artists.

Librería San Ginés

Located in the same alleyway as the chocolatería, the Librería San Ginés is an open-air bookshop. It was apparently been around since the 17th century, with the first known mention of it taking place in 1650. It mostly sells antique and second-hand books, spanning a variety of genres. And it’s just so cute.

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