10 curiosities of Madrid that you should know

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Have you ever stopped to think what curiosities are behind a place, monument or object that you have visited? If you are already a Madrilenian, it is more than likely that you know the city in its entirety or, at least, almost; but, if you are thinking of making a visit to Madrid or, what is better, moving to the capital, you should know all the mysteries that are housed in it.

The truth is that many people who have been living in Madrid for several years are still unaware of the many places that hide a story behind them. Some may be part of a legend and others may truly be.

But, it can be said that in one way or another they have left their mark and leave no one indifferent, every time someone discovers a new curiosity in Madrid. Many of them can be discovered through a simple walk through the streets of the city; others demand your full attention to find out what’s behind it.

On the other hand, and in relation to the link you have with Madrid, you will feel more or less emotion and, of course, here imagination and creativity provide added value. It is exciting to discover something different and reflect on that history, that place that has left you speechless.

From Barbieri Real Estate, specialists in rental housing, we reveal some of the many curiosities that this mysterious city houses.

secrets and curiosities of madrid

The most mysterious stone in Madrid

If you are one of those who have a fondness for the pleasant walks that are enjoyed in the city center, you may not yet know the mystery of the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Servites. Next to the Plaza Mayor, is this ancient temple that dates back to the year 1212, indicating that it has also been an old Muslim mosque.

It can be said that the facade of the current Church is not a striking place that people stop to look at, but they should do so because it hides a secret that very few or almost no one could notice with the naked eye.

Here the main facade is not the protagonist, but its rear. When you get to it, you will find its wall, the arrangement of its stones is also somewhat peculiar, but you only need to show all your visual acuity to find a unique ashlar and different from the rest.

mysterious ashlar in a church

Next to the sign that indicates the name of the “Travesía del Biombo” there is an old window with iron bars; just in its lower right corner is the mysterious ashlar that contains a series of letters, although not very legible.

Experts say that it belonged to a tombstone that was used for the reform of the church in the fifteenth century, but… to which tombstone? The truth is that this is the unknown that is still open and that is where the excitement of this place lies. Finding a ashlar containing some letters, difficult to understand and of unknown origin.


The bear and the strawberry tree

From the heart of Madrid, one of its most striking and representative icons can be found, which is now 55 years old since its inauguration on January 10, 1967. You probably already know that its author was Antonio Navarro, that it is made of bronze and that it weighs 20 tons.

But do you know its origin? We must go back to the 13th century since after several disputes between “the Villa de Madrid and the Church over some land”, an agreement was reached and it was decided that the Villa would keep the trees and the church with the pastures. For this reason, the strawberry tree was included, as an accompaniment to the bear.

Its most fascinating secret is that it is not a bear, but a female bear. It is worth highlighting the statement made by López de Hoyos, when in his Declaration of Arms he pointed out that “the bear of the coat of arms of Madrid is based on the seven stars that make up the constellation of the Great Bear.

the bear and the strawberry tree

The truth is that the church did not react favorably to this statement and did not want to recognize the true gender of the animal that the sculpture represents next to the strawberry tree and over time it has been passed to the male. 


The Secrets of the Sun Gate Clock

Like every December 31, the famous Puerta del Sol clock ushers in the new year. A tradition that has been with us for many years and that makes us look in amazement at the great clock that houses Madrid. What perhaps people have not stopped to think about is the great story that it has to tell.

Did you know that before it existed, the people of Madrid looked at the time in the now defunct Church of Good Success?, located in the current Apple store. But, in 1866 and after three years of work by the great watchmaker José Rodríguez, Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the Puerta del Sol clock on the same day as her birthday.

The time precision is exquisite since it is only delayed by four seconds per month and every week it is reviewed by a group of expert watchmakers. The truth is that the great clock has suffered some incidents that almost made it disappear. For example, when in 1928 one of his weights fell through the floor and reached the Governor’s office.

clock unveiling

We must not forget that during the Civil War, it also suffered some damage due to the impact of bombs. And even in 1952 Venezuela wanted to buy it from Spain, although without any success.

But, since 1962 and as previously mentioned, this iconic watch accompanies all Spaniards on the last night of the year and is the true protagonist. And, you should know, that he has also been a protagonist in the field of cinema, in the first sound film of Spanish cinema “The mystery of the Puerta del Sol”, from 1929.

The mysterious dragon of the shield of Madrid

A very busy and busy street in Madrid comes with Calle López de Hoyos, named in honor of Juan López de Hoyos, a writer and humanist and also a teacher of Miguel de Cervantes himself.

In the 16th century, he left evidence of having seen a coat of arms of Madrid with a frightening dragon on the “keystone of a door located in the Plaza de la Puerta Cerrada”. Arriving in the 19th century, they decided that this mythological animal would become part of the coat of arms until 1967 when they discovered that its presence had not been verified historically.

dragon on the shield of madrid

However, some shields can still be seen in various parts of the city in which the presence of that dragon that became part of the city’s shield and accompanied the bear can be seen.


The secret door of the mouse Pérez

Sometimes the small details are those that make the difference and have a story to tell. In this case, we are talking about one of the illusions of any child when a tooth falls out and he places it under his pillow because the next day the tooth fairy will have left him his well-deserved gift.

The truth is that this character is from Madrid and lives on Calle Arenal, 8, where the Pérez museum house is located. But the most curious thing is that it is probable that the tooth fairy also accesses the subway, since at the entrance of the Banco de España Metro, where there is a small door seven centimeters high with a lintel that looks like candy and, Due to its size, it usually goes unnoticed by the vast majority.

door to the little mouse perez metro

Whether the story of the little mouse Pérez is a legend or not, he continues to be a character much loved by all children and what better opportunity than to make them smile by taking them to that tiny access door through which Mr. Pérez accesses the metro, like a good Madrilenian that he is .


The arrows on the ground of the Gran Vía

From one of the busiest streets in the capital, the Gran Vía, there is a peculiar story that, probably, very few know. Due to the number of people that usually walk the street throughout the day, it is difficult to pay attention to the small details, but this one is worth telling.

At the height of the Primark store, on the zebra walk next to number 32, two arrows approximately one meter long can be seen carved into the ground. To do this, you have to go right to number 31 Gran Vía, where the Hyatt Center hotel is located. On its roof is Diana the Huntress, the goddess of the hunt. She appears surrounded by five dogs and pointing her bow.

arrows on the ground

That is why it can be seen that his first two arrows ended up on the pavement of the Gran Vía. If you don’t believe it, come closer and see for yourself. Seeing is believing!


The Pacific Powership

In the Pacific neighborhood is another of the most fascinating places in the city by the hand of the engine ship. Initially, it was built to solve any incident related to the electricity supply of the metro network, being able to mobilize the entire metro network and light the facilities.

Currently, the infrastructure is preserved perfectly and in detail. It is a real pleasure to walk through this place, while observing its control panel, its bridge crane… and everything preserved as it would have been in operation until yesterday. In addition, today it belongs to the well-known Platform Zero, which allows you to visit it for free.

A highly recommended visit in which you will be able to appreciate engines with a history that were once a key tool for moving ocean liners and later moved the entire Madrid metro.

One of the last water trips

Before telling its story, you should know that the water trips correspond to the underground channels that were built to supply water to the city and date back to the Muslim era. They allowed the supply of water until the creation of the Canal de Isabel II.

One of its labyrinths can be found in the heart of the capital from the Villafranca Palace, in the Latina neighborhood. In the basement of the building, you can take a tour where you can see 20 meters that were part of the Christian wall of the 12th century.

trips of water
A medieval QANAT under the former mansion of the marquis of Villafranca in Madrid (Spain).

There, you will be able to observe a real fragment that was part of the water journeys that were even used as a cellar, due to its underground condition and the conditions of the gallery.


The Eiffel Tower that was in Lavapiés

Just reading its title makes it surprising that a monument starring France had a replica in Madrid. To do this we must move to the Lavapiés neighborhood and to the 18th century, when in 1889 the raising of this monument was celebrated in France.

The inauguration of the Eiffel Tower was gaining fame from every corner until it arrived in Madrid and, of course, the people of Madrid wanted their own. Thus, the month of August arrived and with it one of the traditional festivities of the capital, with the festival of San Lorenzo.

Eiffel Tower in madrid

In this way, funds were raised and with a traditional version a 20-meter-high Eiffel Tower was built, made of wood and adorned with various fabrics. Over time it was renamed “the infidel tower” but the truth is that it caused many sensations and was also news in the press, with various excerpts published as El Liberal or La Monarquía.

The pharaonic legacy of Madrid

Did you know that in Madrid there are vestiges of one of the most amazing civilizations in the history of mankind? I tell you!

Twenty centuries of sunsets bear witness to his legacy. It was ordered to be built by the Nubian king Alijadamani of Meroe in honor of the god Amun and the goddess Isis. At 2,200 years old, the Temple of Debod is configured as the most archaic monument in the capital, being the oldest building in Madrid. In 1968 it was transferred stone by stone from Upper Egypt, as a symbol of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in the face of the flooding of the Nile at the Aswan Dam.

It has elements of Roman origin such as the doors of the temple, added after its construction. To the west of the Plaza de España, it finds its rest in the same location that it was in its place of origin, surrounded by a small pond that simulates the waters of the Nile.

Inside it is the sanctuary of Alijadamani, next to it a vestibule, an antechamber, the south corridor, the Osiriac chapel with the reliquary of Osiris and the crypts.

There are many people from Madrid and tourists who come to contemplate its beauty, take a selfie, reflect on the passage of time or contemplate its unique sunset.

Legend has it that at nightfall a black cat appears near the temple, some say that it is Adijalamani himself reincarnated, others that it is the figure of the god Amun himself protecting the temple erected in his honor. If you see the cat, don’t bother him!


The best secrets, the most fascinating and the most enjoyed are those that are presented before your eyes without knowing, expecting or wanting it. And it can be seen that Madrid has many that are worth discovering.

At Barbieri Real Estate, specialists in rental housing, we offer you properties in the neighborhoods of Aravaca, Chamberí and Salamanca. Discover all our offer of available apartments in Madrid. 

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