The Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) is Madrid’s most central point, one of its most famous sites and a great place to people watch!
Both as a visitor and a resident in Madrid, Puerta del Sol was a place I frequently visited– passing through on my way to another neighborhood, meeting friends or having a drink at one of the many cafes in the surrounding area.
A Short History of Puerta del Sol
As Puerta translates to “gate” you can imagine what the original function of the space was- as a gate in the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century. As the gate faced the east, the name derives from the sunrise which decorated the entry each morning.
What to See in Puerta del Sol
A central focus point of the square is the Casa de Correos (House of the Post office), which was built between 1766 and 1768. This historical red brick building currently functions as the headquarters for the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community. As well, at its highest point, it contains the famous clock tower which is a focus of any Spanish New Year’s Eve. The ringing of its bell marks the time for the traditional eating of 12 grapes!
Right in front of the Casa de Correos you will find Kilometer Zero, which is the center of the radial network of Spanish roads, also a popular spot for tourists to take pictures with. As well, it is a symbolic place for protests to begin.
Another famous site is the statue of King Carlos III (r.1759-1788), built in 1997.
Next to it there is a main fountain, which is a popular spot to sit during a sunny day and watch a few of the many street performers working for a few euros! Plus, the plaza is always a really beautiful place to sit- whether it is springtime…
–or the lights of Christmas are out!
Perhaps the most famous of the statues in Puerta del Sol is El Oso y El Madroño (the bear and the strawberry tree). This is a symbol of the city, but actually there is no clear reason why. The statue depicts a bear eating fruits from a tree, not something you often see in Madrid. Legend has it that there were many bears in the fields and forests around Madrid and, paired with the strawberry tree (which is actually a hackberry tree) it became the emblem of Madrid in the Middle Ages.
Where to Go From Puerta del Sol
Anywhere! The literal central location of Puerta del Sol allows it to be the perfect spot to venture of on adventures in literally any direction. In almost any direction you will find a number of bars, restaurants and shops. As well, it is a short walk from one of Madrid’s most famous squares, Plaza Mayor.