Spain’s Kilometre Zero Marker, Madrid

The Kilómetro 0 marker in Puerta del Sol

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since ancient times, distances across a certain territory were all measured from an imaginary focal point, often marked by a monument. It is this centuries-old tradition that yielded copious markers in countries all over the world, transcending cultures and geographic context. Among them one can find Kilometre Zero in Madrid, an unassuming plaque marking the center of Spain, and whose significance far-exceeds its minuscule size.

To the surprise of many, the old adage “all roads lead to Rome” isn’t just a mere statement that highlights the importance of a given place, but also a reference to a real-life monument that once stood in ancient Rome.

 

During the Roman era, a milestone entitled “Milliarium Aureum” served as the place where all roads across the empire were purportedly converged to, as well as a fixed location from where distances to other major cities were measured to and from. While the famous marker was never actually recovered, it was the precursor of numerous zero mileposts that now adorn tens of cities around the world.

 

Much like 1st century Rome, the Spanish capital boasts its own modern-day version of Milliarium Aureum, aptly named Kilometre Zero. Located in Puerta del Sol, one of Madrid’s most notable squares, the monument has been providing a frame of reference, from where distances to all cities in Spain are measured. Though it vehemently proclaims to be the center of Spain, the country’s actual geographic centroid can be found 10 kilometers to the south, in Cerro de los Ángeles.

 

Somewhat counterintuitively, since the entire marker comprises a small-sized stone embedded within the pavement, it is far from being easily findable as one might expect.

 

To find the origins of this impactful stone, we must go all the way back to the 18th century. It was during this time that six roads were paved from that very point, with milestones denoting the distances to the central location installed along the way.

 

Later, under the reign of Spanish king Carlos III, the Real Casa de Correos (Royal House of the Post Office) was built, and the Kilometre Zero was formally erected a couple of meters northwards. It was done so as a measure to facilitate the then newly-created postal system. Whether inadvertently or not, the clock affixed on the nearby post office is said to determine the official time in Spain.

 

First installed in 1950, the ornate plaque denoting the Kilometre Zero was replaced in 2002 as part of renovation works, during which it was erroneously positioned 180 degrees off course. This blunder was then rectified in 2009 amid a road maintenance project, and ever since, the famed, yet hidden marker attracts tourists queuing up for a photo-op.