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.
From Rafaelhoteles Atocha, VT members Santi (Redang) took us for a walk to Puerta del Sol. It was a nice walk. We passed the Atocha station, Centro Reina Sofia National Museum, Caixa Forum Madrid Cultural Centre, Botanical Garden, and Prado Museum. Before we got to Sol we decided to have a Tapas lunch, then we continued on.
When we arrived the first thing I saw of Puerta del Sol was the statue of Carlos III, the hustle and bustle, the commuters running toward Sol metro station, the Japanese tourist following the tour director carrying a flag, red roofless tourist bus, the blind busker with Labrador dog, police patrolling on foot. It was a busy sight. The ambiences were definitely electrifying.
We are now standing in the heart of Madrid historic square of Puerta del Sol. It is the starting point for us as tourist to take photos of the bustling activities. In Sol you will find many great shops, restaurant, café, hotels, and the twenty ton statue Bear eating strawberry fruit (Madrono), Kilometre Zero. You will see the old 18th century Post Office with the clock tower. I’ve heard from the grapevine at New Year the Madrid people consume 12 grapes for 12 wishes whilst listening to the countdown from the clock bell. They have to consume one grape per second, luckily for the Madrilènes it’s not orange they have to consume.
The Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and Royal Theatre are close walking distance from Puerta del Sol square.
In May 2nd and 3rd 1808 the famous uprising against the French happened in the square when Madrid’s people fought against Napoleon soldiers and many died. Today protesters are still using the square to rallies and protests against violence and war.
This attractive statue in bronze and concrete of a bear and madrona (strawberry )tree was installed in 1967. It is the badge or symbol of the city, and it weighs 20 tons!
I was a bit confused about a strawberry tree -as far as I was aware, strawberries grew on plants. I now realise that Medrona or Arbutus is a species of tree, whose fruit slightly resembles a strawberry!
Look out for this coat of arms on manhole covers, taxi cabs etc around the city.
Another popular place for a rendezvous, or watching people taking photos of each other posing against the statue.
A beautiful Square and the center of Madrid, The Sun Gate. There are huge and famous buildings around . A very busy area. You will find here the Post office, radial network, the statue of the bear and the madrono Tree, and the famous clock tower whose bells mark the traditional New Year's Eve celebrations.
Puerta del Sol isn’t beautiful as Plaza Mayor but it’s occupied by people day and night! This is the “point zero” of spanish road network. What you can see here except the large ugly Tio Pepe sign are:
-the statue of Carlos III riding a horse
-the big clock on the red building, it’s the clock where many locals gather on new years eve. The custom says that they count down the last 12 seconds while eating 12 grapes!
-the historical Post Office of the city that was built in 1766 and housed the Franco’s ministry of Interior and Security. Now, it houses the offices of government of Madrid Community. In front of the building is the sign of “zero point”
-the statue of the bear reaching for strawberries from a madrono tree, a symbol of Madrid because once Madrid had a lot of bears and madrono trees.
From here you go and enjoy the nightlife at the nearby pubs or do shopping during the day. El Cort Inglés department store is right there but also two pedestrian streets that will satisfy your wife’s desire for clothes and empty your wallet :) I noticed many street artists at these streets. The area is also full of budget hotels and hostels. Some of them are nice, some others are…oh my god :)
This area represents the very heart of Madrid. For two reasons, first because it contains the kilometre cero (the mark from which distances from the city are measured). Also because it has been the chief meeting place over the years. Before newspapers, people came here to find out the latest news or gossip. Also there was one of the largest brothels here, another attraction for men from out of town to visit.
Still Madrid's most popular meeting spot is by the monument with symbols of Madrid ( a bear and a madrano (strawberry tree). Whilst you are here look out for the Tio Pepe sign that lights up at night.
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