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One could say the Puerta del Sol is literally the center of Spain. In this plaza, it is possible to find the survey marker from which road kilometer distances are calculated.
Madrid Orientation Map
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Read about my family's tapas tour in Madrid"

Visit the Pureta del Sol in the daytime and you will see a very busy, somewhat drab plaza that houses one of the main bus transfer stations of Madrid. Return to the plaza at night, however, and you will not be certain you are in the same place.

At night the plaza becomes awash in lights, giving the square almost the look of a fantasyland. Those Puerta del Sol shops you did not even notice in the daylight now beckon you with their large neon signs.

The Famous Tio Pepe sign at Puerta del Sol

Rising high above the square is the Tio Pepe sign. Long a hallmark of the Puerta del Sol, public outcry resulted when a few years ago the Pepe sign was removed. Today, the visitor can view the Tio Pepe sign standing proudly on its old perch.

Left: Bear and Madrona (strawberry) tree, bronze sculpture in the Puerta del Sol.

While shopping may be the main activity for most visitors to the square, one should be aware this is also a historic square of protest. It was here that the uprising against French occupiers started in May of 1808, and the square is used regularly today by one group or another to make their viewpoints known.

Note: While the protests I have seen in Spain have been very peaceful, I do not mix with or try approaching the crowds. When you do not know what the protest is about, or what groups might be offended by them, I just think it is prudent to move on.

Photo Right: Kilometer Zero. This marker, located in the pavement of the Puerta del Sol, is on the south side of the square near the clock tower. Amid all the pedestrian traffic, I could not find the marker. I had to ask a local to point it out to me. The marker is the official starting point of six of Spain's main highways.

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The information on this page comes from my 2003 visit to Spain
This page last updated March 2007