For the world of business, Madrid is an attractive option for a number of reasons. In the capital of the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone, there are different areas and districts specializing in these activities. However, today’s most important financial hub in the north of the city was not the focus of this cultural visit held in March. On this occasion, the students of EAE Business School gained an insight in to Madrid’s financial district at the start of the 20th Century.
As our guide Berta explained at the start of the tour, it was at the time of the Second World War that the city’s financial district began to take shape along the Recoletos-Castellana axis, as it is known. Before then, the majority of business was conducted in the city centre, in Madrid de los Austrias, which is better known today for its wealth of tourist attractions. Therefore, the session began at Plaza de Ópera, before moving to Plaza de la Villa and the San Miguel market.
This district is very close to Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares. Since it was built at the start of the 20th Century, it has been one of the city’s most popular commercial, tourism and leisure hubs. An extensive selection of international fashion and restaurant brands line both sides of the street, alongside cinemas and theatres, particularly on the stretch between Plaza de Calleo and Plaza de España, which has earned the name of Madrid’s Broadway. The boulevard has always been intended as a meeting point for the city’s residents. From the very beginning, it has been home to leading department stores, top luxury brands, movie theatres and famous cafés.
Adriana Aliega, a student on the Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at EAE Business School, explained that she walks along these streets every day without knowing the history behind them “I live very close to Plaza de Ópera, where we started the tour, and I am really enjoying it because nobody had ever explained this perspective of the city’s trade”.
As the tour continued, the students walked along Carrera de San Jerónimo to Paseo del Prado, where they passed by the Neptune Fountain. At this point, the guide also emphasized the city’s wealth in terms of the museums available, and some of the students added that they had previously taken part in some of the other tours organized by the School, such as the visit to the Museo del Prado.
On Paseo del Prado, they also stopped in front of the Madrid Stock Exchange, which was the first such marketplace in Spain. As the tour guide Berta explained, the history of the Stock Exchange dates back to the Lonjas, typical traditional Mediterranean market buildings where traders sold their wares. It was King Joseph Bonaparte who decided to establish the first Stock Exchange in Madrid, with its first session being inaugurated thirty years later.
The financial tour of Madrid came to a close with some details about the history of the Bank of Spain, located in Plaza de Cibeles. As well as its history, functions and services, the School’s students also heard about the legends associated with the institution, particularly in relation to its armoured vault and gold reserves. Several reinforced doors protect the access to the vault, which is fitted with its own security features, including an alarm which releases the water of the fountain in honour of the goddess Cybele, after whom the square is named. However, as Berta joked, in the vault’s 70 year history, there has never been an attempted break-in that has raised the alarm.
“I would in the field of finance and I was really interested to find out about the evolution of the city”, explained Murilo Lippi, a Brazilian student taking the Master in Project Management. After some time studying in London, he decided that he wanted to live in Spain and, in particular, study at the School because of its reputation. “I really like the Master. The lecturers are extremely good and the networking opportunities it is giving me are the best”. Looking to the future, he plans to apply the knowledge he is acquiring in a company that gives him the option of building his career.
With students from Spain, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Bolivia, the group were very grateful to Berta for all her knowledge and the anecdotes she shared. “The School offers us a great opportunity with this kind of guided tour. At the end of the day, we are going to spend a year in Madrid and it is useful to find out about where we are living”.