While preparing for our trip to Spain, I learned about kilometer zero. Considered the geographic center of Spain, the six major radial roads originating from Madrid are measured by their distance from this one spot. Many countries have their own kilometer zero, but in Spain, it is located in Madrid. When we set off on this beautiful morning, I hoped that we would find kilometer zero in our wanderings.
We first took the metro from our hotel up to Puerta del Sol, a major plaza in the heart of Madrid. We emerged from the metro to find a beautiful open area with flowers, a fountain, and gorgeous buildings surrounding us. Puerta del Sol is a hot spot for interesting street performers. We were greeted by Mickey Mouse and other childhood favorites, all trying to sell us balloons and other treasures for children. This was one of the most interesting.
Truthfully, I rather detest Barney as a character. However, I couldn’t resist the irony of Barney smoking. If I had been ready with my camera just five seconds earlier, the picture would have showed Barney smoking with his head still on. It was a strange juxtaposition; a childhood icon engaging in destructive behavior.
After enjoying the sights of Puerta del Sol, we made our way to Plaza Mayor. There is a tourist office there where we planned to buy Madrid cards for access to many of the sights and museums in Madrid. We were also looking for information on where to find Kilometer Zero. Plus, it is a major plaza in Madrid. We wouldn’t miss seeing it even if we had no other business to take us there other than enjoying the sights of the city.
Plaza Mayor was built in the early 1600’s during the reign of Philip III. It was called by several different names during the centuries between Philip III and today. It was given the name of Plaza Mayor at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The plaza is beautiful, but more stoic than the piazzas in Italy. Most of the buildings around the plaza are built with the red brick, with one showcasing beautiful frescoes in a more pastel color. Beautiful archways ring the plaza, with larger archways leading out to pedestrian thoroughfares outside of Plaza Mayor. Our children were excited to chase pigeons in the big open space, but they were notoriously absent. There were a few here and there, called flying rats by waiters in the restaurants ringing the the plaza. There were, however, children kicking soccer balls back and forth, a sight we saw in many of the open plazas in Spain.
In the bottom right corner of this picture you can see a modern portable building that looks very out of place in the midst of the historic square. This is the tourist office. The tourist office can provide you with maps and information about the city. It is also one of the few places where you can purchase a Madrid card for access to many attractions, and a tourist card which gives you unlimited rides on Madrid’s metro and bus system. We purchased a three-day Madrid card, although you could spend weeks in Madrid and only see a small portion of all the sites available to you. We also learned that Kilometer Zero was back in Puerta del Sol. We would make our way back there that day, but we had a few other stops to make first.
My husband looked forward to the experience of eating churros con chocolate with me and his children for a long time before we traveled to Spain. Here, on our first day in Madrid, he found a delicious chocolateria close to Plaza Mayor for us to enjoy this quintessential Spanish dessert. The chocolate cake was delicious. The churros were wonderful. The setting was magical.
Tucked away in a side street of Madrid, we ate outside feasting on the sights of Spanish architecture and decorative elements while being serenaded by an opera singer followed by an accordion player, both of who were skilled at their craft. After eating we followed the street down to a pedestrian walkway where a small bookstore sold beautiful watercolors of matadors battling the bull and flamenco dancers twisting and stomping with flourishes and flair.
Still in search of kilometer zero, we eventually made our way back to Puerta del Sol. It was later in the afternoon. It was crowded. My husband left the rest of us to battle the crowds and locate the kilometer marker we had come to find. In front of the clock tower on a building called “Real Casa de Correos”, which serves as the Spanish equivalent to the dropping of the ball in Time Square on New Year’s Eve, lies the marker of Kilometer Zero.
There were many tourists standing around waiting for the turn to take pictures of the famous zero kilometer marker. Our turn came, and my three beautiful daughters stood on the marker in their matching pink tennis shoes, solely to appease their mother. After we were finished taking the photo, I took a small moment to stand on the marker myself. I couldn’t come all this way and miss my chance to stand in the center of Spain, now could I?
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