Puerta del Sol – the Place Where All Spanish Roads Start
All roads lead to the Puerta del Sol. When you walk around Madrid, it’s just impossible to dodge it – sooner or later, you come to the square. The main square of the capital, whose name can be translated as “Gate of the Sun”, is situated in the heart of the city and is a meeting point of eight streets. It is considered km 0, a geographical centre of both Madrid and Spain. A bronze Km. 0 plaque is built into the pavement before the House of the Post Office. They say if you step on the mark and make a wish, it will certainly come true.
The Puerta del Sol is a special place for Spaniards, because almost all uprisings and revolutions in the country’s history began here. The square is still used as the main venue for demonstrations and protests.
Fortunately, the rallies are not held every day, so we could walk around calmly, rest by the fountains, and have fun with the kids. In the evening, the square is illuminated by three hundred spotlights and looks really magnificent.
By the way, that’s where the Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree – the official symbol of Madrid – is located.
Public Transport in Madrid
It’s easy to move around the city thanks to the well-developed transport infrastructure. We had no difficulties travelling by bus (low floors, wide doors, a special area for prams inside), but it wasn’t so hassle-free in the metro. Old stations in the historic centre are not equipped with either ramps or other facilities, so we had to bring both the pram and the kids down the stairs ourselves. By contrast, new metro stations have lifts which made our trips much more convenient. By the way, these stations are marked with special symbols on the map.
In Madrid, Uber is less developed and more expensive than in Porto. Moreover, most drivers refused to drive the boys without child safety seats. Thus we usually opted for the services of local taxi drivers (there’s a special app for calling a taxi) which was faster and more convenient.
We spent a lot of time in the Plaza Mayor, one of the most popular places in the Old Town. The square was built on the site of a city park and has a curious layout – its perimeter is made up of three-storey buildings connected by passages.
There were times when the Plaza Mayor was the place where many important city events were held – duels, military parades, inquisitions, public executions, and celebrations. The balconies of the buildings (there are over 450 of them) served as the stands for nobles and could hold up to 50,000 people.
The square is constantly humming with activity. Some cafes are open 24/7. Live music is playing here, and “live statues”, which Robert and Michael Jr were so fascinated by, are organizing short performances.
Museo de Historia de Madrid
The History Museum having a large collection of old maps, topographical city models, drawings, documents, and photos showing the stages of the capital’s development deserves a special mention.
We spent only about an hour there, but we were able to see what the familiar streets and buildings were like many centuries ago.