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The site of Madrid has been occupied since prehistoric times and archaeological research found a small Visigothic village nearby. In the mid-9th century, Muhammad I. of Córdoba constructed on the place of Madrid a small castle, where the Palacio Real stands today. The Moors built a citadel al-Mudayna around this castle. They named the area after the nearby Manzanares River, which the Muslims called al-Majrit, source of water. From this came the name Majerit, later spelled Madrid. The city was founded by the Moors, who traveled across the Mediterranean from North Africa to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. With the surrender of Toledo to Alfonso VI of León and Castile, the city was conquered by Christians in 1085 and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown. During the Christian Reconquest, Madrid fell to a Castilian king, but it would not be named the capital city of Spain until 1561. Madrid has been the country's capital continuously since 1606.
Today the population of Madrid is 3.142.000 people. Medieval architecture is preserved in Madrid, mostly in the Almendra central, including the San Nicolás and San Pedro el Viejo church towers, the church of St. Jerome, and the Bishop's Chapel. Nor has Madrid retained much Renaissance architecture, other than the Bridge of Segovia and the Convent of Las Descalzas Reales. Many of the historic buildings of Madrid date from the Spanish Golden Age which coincided with the Habsburgs reign (1516–1700). Philip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561 and transformed the town into a capital city. These reforms were embodied in the Plaza Mayor, characterized by its symmetry and austerity, as well as the new Alcázar.

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