“De Madrid al cielo”: what does this Spanish expression mean?

The notion that Madrid is a great place turned into an expression that quickly became the most popular one in Spain’s capital city: “de Madrid al cielo”. That is, “from Madrid to the sky”. The citizens of Madrid use it constantly to brag about their city, just as if there was nothing else that needed to be said. The truth is, it is difficult to come up with something that conveys the same meaning: when we visit Madrid, it feels like flying up to the sky. But what does this Spanish expression mean? And where does it come from? Let’s find out. 

From Madrid to the sky: between history and legend

Panoramic view of Madrid with a mountain range in the background

Panoramic view of Madrid with a mountain range in the background. | Shutterstock

The first theory regarding the origin of this Spanish expression goes back to a time period where Madrid was not the city we know today. In fact, it was quite different; it was not even the capital of Spain yet. Its sewerage system left a lot to be desired, so you can imagine how the streets smelt before the 18th century—the same streets now tourists fall in love with every day. Some people ascertain it was then when the original expression originated: “de Madrid, el cielo” (“from Madrid, the sky”). This version is actually quite harsh. It means that the only enjoyable thing about Madrid is something that lies far away from the city: the sky. 

Were that the case, this reproach could have evolved into a compliment during the reign of Carlos III of Spain (1716-1788), when the city experienced a massive growth. In fact, the monarch introduced a series of diverse amendments, and he would come to be known as “the best of Madrid’s mayors”. Little by little, the city’s general state improved and it eventually became the capital of Spain. Now people could finally say: “from Madrid to the sky”. 

However, the first recorded document of this expression can be found in the writings of Luis Quiñones de Benavente (1581-1651), a renowned playwright from the Spanish Golden Age. In his play Baile del Invierno y del Verano, we can read the following verses:


For both Summer and Winter

In Madrid are only fair,

From the cradle to Madrid

And from Madrid to the sky.


On another note, some people prefer to assign a magical meaning to “de Madrid al cielo” by linking it to one of the most popular legends in Madrid: the one that tells how the souls of the deceased citizens of Madrid gather every night at the hill of Garabitas in Casa de Campo to rise together to the sky. So, once again: from Madrid to the sky. 

There is no place like Madrid

Panoramic view of Madrid under a beautiful sky

Panoramic view of Madrid under a beautiful sky. | Shutterstock

That is precisely the meaning of this expression: there is no place like Madrid. It does not necessarily downplay the rest of the cities and towns in Spain. However, the capital city is always full of possibilities. When it comes to art, history, and most of all, culture, Madrid is second to none. There are endless experiences we can enjoy when we visit Madrid, from museums to all kinds of cultural activities. “De Madrid al cielo”. From Madrid to the sky.

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