also plaza del sol, the epicenter of Madrid,and must be there when in the city. The km zero of Spain, the stores, restos, all around it are all leyendary, plenty here in VT but if need details let me know, lived four years there,visit every year,and have family living there:
its a must to be while in Madrid and at night the area is tops.
Puerta del Sol is where the Zero Kilometer marker is located – on the pavement outside the building called the Comunidad de Madrid Presidency. It is at this point that the length of the Spanish roads are determined, starting at zero from this point. It is a popular place for people to take photos.
The stone in the pavement looked very new to me, especially when I began to compare it to other photos online that showed a worn and faded stone. I am not certain that it has been replaced, but it sure looks like it to me.
The official symbol of Madrid is a bear on its two hind legs eating from a madroño tree (strawberry tree, although I didn’t think strawberries grew on trees). This bronze statue was created by Antonio Navarro and this symbol can be found on the official coat of arms for Madrid that dates back to medieval times.
It is a favorite photo spot for tourists and, I must admit, it was high on my must-see list when visiting Madrid. It was smaller than I thought and I learned that it had recently been moved to a new location in the Puerta del Sol, away from the shopping area and to the east side, closer to the road leading to the financial district. There are conflicting accounts of why the bear and tree are part of the symbol, perhaps because of the many bears that used to roam the area (not too many nowadays!), but it is not known for certain.
Our first day touring Madrid ended at the Puerta del Sol, the geographical center of both Madrid and Spain. It is famous for its Zero Kilometer status, its bear statue, and where everyone eats twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve – one for each chime of the clock at midnight. There is an equestrian statue of King Charles III in the middle of the square at Puerta del Sol.
Historically, Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) was one of the main gates of the early Madrid city wall, but as the city grew the gate wound up being in the middle of the city instead. So now it is more of a central square than a gate. It is the site where in 1808 there was an uprising against the French forces that were occupying the city. The next day there were many executions of those that participated in the uprising, as depicted in Goya’s famous Third of May painting, which can be seen in the Prado Museum.
There is also a busy metro stop at the Puerta del Sol: Sol. This is a large station with three connecting lines (1, 2, and 3).
This lovely square is the heart of the city. It's so centrally located that this could be your starting point to any location in Madrid. The statue of the bear and the strawberry tree is the symbol of Madrid and a popular meeting point. You will enjoy the dynamic nature of this square at any time during day or night. The square is always crowded with people and if you like people watching, this could be the perfect spot.
I enjoyed watching (and covertly photographing) the numerous 'street artists' who wandered Plaza Puerta del Sol.
I'm used to seeing the odd 'statue' or the odd historically-relevant character ('gladiators' around the forums in Rome, Vikings in York). But I've never been anywhere with such a large number of 'street artists' and such a variety.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse? Was in I in Disneyworld??
Spongebob Squarepants (x 2). Huh?
Charlie Chaplin? What's he got to do with Madrid?? And why the moving tree?
Smurfs? Aren't they from Belgium? Perhaps they were on holiday....
The silver man was accompanied by a very large cross...he was having a sneaky cigarette when I noticed him, chatting with the gold man, so I've no idea whether he got up onto his cross, or whether he just posed carrying it. Very odd.
I found the chattering animal heads attached to flowing fabric covering their operators strangely disturbing; no idea why.
If you want your photo taken with them you'll have to pay. Or you can be sneaky like me, and take photos from afar. Your choice. :-)
The first place we visited was the Puerta del Sol in the evening. We returned a couple of times during our stay. This square is always crowded and has plenty going on. People in costumes pose for photos, there are buskers, celebrating students, excited children and just generally lots of activity. We had a look at the famous bear and strawberry tree statue which is the symbol of Madrid. On New Year's Eve apparently crowds stand around the clocktower on the Real Casa de Correos and eat a grape on each chime of midnight for good luck in the coming year. There are streets thronged with shops, cafes, restaurants, bars leading off this square in every direction. Metro station - Sol.
This is indeed the heart of Madrid. Everyone comes here to ring in the new year for example. I wanted to see the last of the Tio Pepe signs, but it had gone :(
Certainly a happening place, and most places in Madrid radiate out from here.
Huge Metro interchange
This is often called the Time Square of Madrid. Tons and Tons of people hang out here at all times of the day. This is where your gonna find the guy who eats a sword or the statue guy. This place is surrounded by souvenir shops and bars and stores of all kind. Want to find some free entertainment then come here and you'll find it. Come here at night and there's a buzz in the crowd. A must see sight of Madrid, and don't forget to take a photo of the "Tio Pepe" sign that's been there since the early 1900's !!!!
Puerta del Sol was the first place that I headed to after checking into my hotel.
I arrived by Metro, and the first thing that I saw on walking up the metro steps was the famous Tio Pepe advertising board
It was Saturday afternoon, and the place was buzzing with locals and tourists. As it was a month to Christmas, workmen were busy installing the Christmas lights and decorations. In front of me was a large Christmas tree.
The Puerta del Sol was one of the gates into the city - its most eastern point. As the city expanded, it is now considered the centre of Madrid city.
Around the square and on the many streets that lead off Sol like bicycle spokes, are many bars, restaurants and shops.
In the square were post card and souvenir stands, street artists, buskers, hawkers, locals queueing for lotto tickets, and a few beggars.
Probably one of the best times to visit this square is New Years Eve, when the citizens of Madrid pack tightly into the square, facing the clock above the Casa de Correos. It is tradition that a grape is eaten on each of the 12 chimes at midnight to bring good luck for the following Year. The celebrations are televised nationwide.
I passed through Sol a few times during my weekend break, and it was always busy both day and night. It never felt threatening though - I felt quite safe.
Part of the square is hidden by hoardings, this is where a new rail line and station are being constructed- it's work has been delayed due to unearthing archaeological sites.
UPDATE - my last visit was July/Aujust 09, a week after the new station opened.
This was probably the most I had in Spain, just roaming the streets of the Puerta Del Sol district. It is where all the action of Madrid is.
There are lots of local specialty shops and a big El Corte Ingles, so you won't have any shortage of shopping, or tapas.
As Sue and I continued our walk in Madrid, having no idea of what we were really looking for but just taking in the sights, we noticed that the number of pedestrians was getting larger and larger. As usual, we don't do any planning when we visit a city so had no idea that this Monday, January 5th was actually a public holiday to celebrate the 'Three Kings', and things were starting to heat up!
I never found out until after returning to Canada that Christmas celebrations in Spain start much later than those in English-speaking countries and also continue onward a bit longer. Instead of Santa Claus stealing the whole show, in Spanish-speaking countries, the focus is more on the Baby Jesus as well as his parents and the Three Kings (Wise Men). Rather than Dec. 25th being the big day for gifts, the custom in Spain is to hold a Three Kings procession on January 5th and the children finally get the majority of their goodies on the Feast of Epiphany held the next day, January 6th. I had been wondering why the Christmas theme was hanging on for so long during our trip!
One of the main features of the Procession of the Three Kings is the showering of the crowds with gifts of sweets as they pass by. If we had stayed around a bit longer we too could have grabbed some of the 7,000 kilograms of sweets that were to be tossed from thirty passing carriages, according to the plans!
In the Sol area, near Plaza Mayor, we watched as preparations of a large stage and speakers were underway and thousands of citizens were getting into position for 'the big show' soon to come.
This bronze statue is the official symbol of the city. On September 2009 this statue was returned to its original location at the East side of square (this was location when it was placed here in 1967, so it has returned home). The symbol is interesting and it seems that there used to be many bears around Madrid. And strawberry tree seems to be have actually been a hack berry tree which was once in abundance around Madrid.
This is the most central square just a short walk from the Plaza Mayor. Long time ago it was one of the city's gates. The square is actually almost semi circular in shape and owes its current form to the major renovation between 1854 and 1860. Because it central location this is good area to stay, and there are many hotels, hostels, restaurants....On the square you will see building known as the Real Casa de Correos with famouse clock. The clock is the famous because all Spanish turn eyes to on New Years Eve, guzzling down a grape to each of its twelve chimes at midnight.
Puerta del Sol is probably the most central square in Madrid. On this site used to be one of the city’s gates which was decorated with the image of the Sun. One of the city’s most famous landmarks is on this square – the Bear and the Tree statue (El Oso y El Madrono) which is the symbol of Madrid. On one side of the square is the Real Casa de Correos which was built during the 18th century.