Old City
Plaza Mayor - Today when kids walk into the Plaza Mayor, a lovely enclosed square lined with outdoor restaurants, it's hard to imagine that over the years this plaza has been the site of bullfights, tournaments, royal ceremonies, carnivals, miracles, theater performances and the execution of heretics during the Inquisition. The center of the plaza is dominated by a dramatic statue of King Felipe III on horseback, looking very much the elegant 17th century Spanish nobleman with ruff and sword. In December, there's a huge Christmas market, where you can buy creche figures and Christmas decorations.
Walk the old city - From the Plaza Mayor, go out the southwest gate, and walk down Calle de Toledo. Wander through the old streets, with names like "Calle Lechuga" (Lettuce Street) or "Calle de los Cuchilleros" (Knifemaker Street). Continue walking down Calle de Toledo (passing by Caramelos Paco candy shop) to La Latina metro stop. Or go west at Plaza de Puerta Cerrada and continue on Calle del Segovia, and turn right on Calle del Cordon (pedestrian street) to Plaza de la Villa.
Plaza de la Villa - For a taste of the old Madrid, visit Plaza de la Villa, three different buildings, three different centuries. On the eastern side of the plaza is a 15th century brickwork tower, Torre de los Lujanes (once held prisoners), 16th century Casa de Cisneros on the south side, and on the western side, a 17th century Hapsburg Casa de la Villa (Town Hall).
Tip: This is a great neighborhood to look for the tiled plaques on the streets around the plaza, for example Calle del Codo (Elbow Street, illustrated with ), Calle del Cordon (String Street).
Convento de las Carboneras (Plaza del Conde de Miranda, 3) - Right around the corner from the Plaza de la Villa is the convent, "Las Carboneras" (Monasterio di Corpus Christi) founded in 1760 and still in operation today. The convent is closed, but you can purchase sweets made by the nuns (the boxes come through a little brown revolving door) - almond biscuits, toncillo de cielo (caramel dessert), naranjines (orange sweets).
Puerta del Sol - Puerta del Sol is a busy area, with several streets converging in the center on the plaza. In the 16th century, Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) was the eastern gate of the old city - the city ended here.
Madrid Bear statue - On the north side of the plaza (at Calle del Carmen) is a bronze statue of a bear. The bear is poking his nose into a strawberry tree (madrono) - this statue is the symbol of Madrid madrono has an nye. The bear appears on lots of Madrid stuff - the logo for the Atletico Madrid soccer team, Madrid flag and coat of arms, manhole covers.
Kilometer marker - On the south side of the Plaza (in front of the Casa de Correos), kids can put their feet on the "Origen de las Carreteras Radiales." Distances to all towns in Spain were traditionally measured from this point, kilometer O - think of this point as the center of Spain.
La Mallorquina - Every time you pass by this bakery, the sweet smells of delicious pastries will draw you in. You can go upstairs and sit down, but the best thing is just take out a selection of pastries and eat them outside - Try the madrilenas, bambas de nata, ponchos surtidos, rosquillas, and candies in the shape of violets.
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