Puerta del Sol – Once an Entrance Gate to Madrid:
Puerta del Sol (Spanish for Gate of the Sun), is a popular Madrid square with tourists and locals alike. At its centre lies the paving slab, just outside the Casa de Correos, that marks Kilometre Zero – the spot from which radiates the six main highways traversing Spain. So, Puerta del Sol is a good point from which to begin to explore this delightful part of the city.
Puerta del Sol Attractions
Visitors will find a number of attractions in Puerta del Sol. There is the large bronze sculpture of a bear eating the fruit of the madrone tree, for example. The name ‘Madrid’ derives from the Spanish word for this plant and the bear is a powerful symbol for the Madrilenos.
At the beginning of Alcala Street, in front of the Regina Hotel, you can pause and take in two outstanding examples of architecture. The statues on top these banks are interesting.
At the southern side of the square is a red-brick building. This was once the post office and is one of Madrid’s most important buildings. Built in 1768 and housing a giant clock with faces on each side of the tower, it is the central point for the New Year celebrations. During the traditional Festival for Eating the Twelve Grapes, the clock will chime out. The joyous occasion has been broadcast live from this point for over 40 years now.
Also in the square is the statue of Carlos III, honoured for his many public works programs. Here, too, is the Mariblanca statue of Venus. Actually, the sculpture is a replica of the original in the Municipal Museum.
A more recent addition to Puerta del Sol is the very modern SOL metro station in front of the statue of Carlos III.
Puerta del Sol – Past and Present
Like many medieval towns in the 15th century, Madrid was surrounded by a protective wall and Puerta del Sol was once the entrance to Madrid. Through the gate passed traders and visitors from all over the known world. It gradually grew to an important meeting place for important merchants and politicians. The gatehouse is long gone and the area was turned into a square in the late 19th century.
Because of its location and prominence, the Puerta del Sol still serves as the focal point for many political protests. But even without the protests, the square is abuzz with activity. Mimers and musicians keep the crowds entertained and Disney characters amuse the young ones with their little pranks. There is also a strong police presence here which probably hints at the number of pick-pocketing incidents that we’ve been warned so much about from day one of arriving in Spain.
In the Vicinity of Puerta del Sol
Not far away are dozens of shops, restaurants and other attractions. The El Corte Ingles department store is always a popular draw for tourists and the bars are busy from early in the evening until early the next morning. Some are just getting started at 1 a.m.! Street music is frequently ‘on the menu’ as well.
Puerta del Sol is just a short walk from the Plaza Mayor and the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) so you’ll be well positioned to enjoy those other fine sights of Madrid, too. Parliament is not far away and there are dozens of side streets full of shops and interesting restaurants to explore!
Map of Madrid: