When visiting a European capital like Madrid, you hope to discover architecture attesting to its history. In the capital and its nearby provinces there are remains from the Roman Empire, like the aqueduct in Segovia, Visigothic relics in Toledo, remains of the medieval walls of Madrid or symbolic buildings of the Habsburgs and the Bourbons. But the most surprising is glimpsing an authentic Egyptian temple, dating back more than 2,000 years and sitting in the center of the city. We’re talking about the Temple of Debod, the only Egyptian temple in Spain.
This structure from the 2nd century BC was a gift from Egypt and has become one of the greatest hidden treasures of Madrid. But what’s buried under the ruins of this temple? Who did it worship? And how did it end up in our city? We reveal the history of the Temple of Debod.
The History of the Temple of Debod
The Nubian Valley, a desert region in northeastern Africa through which the Nile River flows, contains the memory of one of the most prominent ancient civilizations, the Egyptian civilization. This was a
land of wealth and splendor whose architecture still shows, centuries later, its immense power and knowledge. Pyramids, temples, and monuments were built in a nation of kings who achieved wonders like Abu Simbel, the Temple of Amada or the Temple of Kalabsha, to name just a few.
The Temple of Debod was one of the wonders built in lower Nubia 200 years before the common era (BC). It was built under the order of the Nubian King Adijalamani de Meroe in tribute to the god Amun and goddess Isis.
The pharaohs of the Ptolemaic dynasty later reformed the temple and after the conquest by the Roman Empire it was expanded and remained active until its closure in 635 AD, after Nubia’s conversion to Christianity.
In recent history an unexpected turn of events threatened to make this temple and other jewels of Egyptian culture disappear. News spread around the world that Abu Simbel was in danger, however not only this impressive temple, but many others from the region of Nubia were also condemned to disappear due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The recent emergence of Lake Nasser threatened to bury under its waters all of these architectural gems, leaving us with nothing more to remember them except in the pages of books.
In 1960 UNESCO called on other countries in the world to save the temples, and that was the beginning of the story of the great journey of the Temple of Debod to Madrid. Spain was one of the countries involved in the rescue and to say thank you the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser offered the temple as compensation for its help in 1968.
It’s difficult nowadays to imagine the odyssey of moving the temple stone by stone across the Mediterranean to its location on the Mountain of Príncipe Pío, near Plaza de España.
It was inaugurated in 1972, after two years of a complex reconstruction, and became a representative place in the city. The temple’s original orientation was taken into account, from east to west, and although in its initial decades in the city it wasn’t taken care of as it should have been, the conservation of the temple and maintaining a secure zone to avoid acts of vandalism is now top priority.
Visiting Madrid’s Temple of Debod
Whether you’re the type of person that likes to play things by ear, or if you prefer to carefully plan out your days, we’ve got information that’ll help you enjoy your visit even more.
Location of Temple of Debod and How to Arrive
In a park filled with gardens and some of the best views of the city, you’ll discover this temple whose surrounding area has become a meeting point for locals and visitors to relax, appreciate the atmosphere or enjoy the Temple of Debod at sunset, when it really shows its impressive beauty.
Its privileged location, near the Plaza de España Skyline, makes it easy to visit during your stay in the city.
Here’s how to arrive to the Temple of Debod in Madrid with public transport:
- Metro: Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10), Ventura Rodríguez (L3)
- Buses: 1, 2, 74, 25, 39, 46, 75, 138, C1, 3, 44, 133, 148, C2
- Renfe: Príncipe Pío
- Tourist Bus: Route 1. Stop 10 – Templo de Debod
- Bicimad: Station 115
- Cercanías: C7 Príncipe Pío.
- Address: calle Ferraz 1.
Visiting Hours of the Temple and What to See Inside
The exterior can be visited at any time, but to visit the interior of the temple you’ll need to know the visiting hours.
Hours from Tuesday to Sunday and Holidays: from 10AM until 8PM (20:00).
The last entry for visits is 30 minutes before closing.
Closed Mondays and the following holidays: January 1st and 6th, May 1st, December 24th, 25th and 31st.
Inside the temple you can read some information about its decoration, and there are also models and videos to help you learn the history of this sacred place.
On the second floor there’s a model of the original construction of the temple with the other temples of Nubia.
Admission is free.
Tips for Visiting the Temple
Due to high temperatures in summer and to protect its conservation, in the summer season it’s recommended to visit the temple earlier in the day, as it sometimes closes in the afternoon on very hot days.
The visit to the temple doesn’t take much time, and there usually isn’t much of a wait to get inside.
It’s the perfect place for photography, to have a picnic nearby or to enjoy and contemplate one of the most beautiful sunsets in Madrid.
There’s a viewpoint behind the temple where you’ll find a privileged panoramic view of Casa de Campo Park, the Royal Palace and Madrid River.
The Sunset at Temple of Debod
Without a doubt it’s a popular hour and one in which more people gather around the temple. It’s one of the most photographed places of the city because the colors of the sky and its environment enhance the beauty of this structure.
The reflection of the tones of the sky and of the temple itself in the water that surrounds it makes a picture of overwhelming beauty.
Lighting Schedule of the Temple of Debod
And after enjoying a beautiful sunset, you can keep marvelling at the illuminated temple. The hours vary depending on the season and follow the lighting of the rest of the city.