In Madrid, all roads seem to lead to the Puerta del Sol - or rather, they all start from there, as indicated by the KM 0 sign on the pavement. Because it is such a central location, Sol makes for a great meeting point and a nice place to start exploring the city. There isn't that much to do besides looking around and taking pictures, and yet the place is always teeming with people and activity, which makes for a fun atmosphere.
I think most people will agree that the nicest building around the Puerta del Sol is the "Casa de Correos", dating back to the 17th century. On New Year's Eve, Madrileños gather around the Casa de Correos with 12 grapes, which they eat as the building's clock chimes, thus turning the Puerta del Sol into Madrid's Times Square. Also, while you're there don't forget to look for the statue of "El Oso y El Madroño" (the bear and the strawberry tree), which is the symbol of the city of Madrid.
Puerta del Sol (the gate to the sun), or better: simply called Sol, is the heart of Madrid. Its an overcrowded place of people hurrying to their work, the shops or just are there to meet up with their friends. Its a popular place of meeting. Its also at night the ultimate nightlife spot connecting the Plaza Santa Anna area to the La Latina barro and on the other direction thereyou walk into Chueca (a long walk though...) The plaza has the form of a half moon and in the middle of it there is a statue of Carlos the third on a horse. on the other side iof the street you find the ministery of foreighn affairs, the hughe red building with the big clock. This is the place where the madrelenes at new years eve gather to count down the minutes into the new year as they eat 12 grapes with their champaign enabling them to do 12 wishes for the upcoming year. In front of the building you can find the Zero-kilometer sign on the pavement. It symbolizes the idea that Madrid is the ultimate centre of the spanish trafficroadsystem, all the roads and highways in spain are measured in distance from this point in Madrid, that is, this sign on the pavement. On the other side of the road again, you fin next to the Court Ingless the symbol of Madrid: a statue of a bear reaching for the strawberries in the tree.
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.
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.
It's an absolute institution to try chocolate con churros here... and San Gines is undoubtably the best and most popular place in the city for it!!!
So popular - and big - is this place, that you pay first and they have a ticketing system for collection... *and* they serve the freshest yummiest chocolate (Spanish hot chocolate, which is very very thick and unlike any other I've tasted in another country) partnered perfectly with churros (a long stick of 'doughnut' type consistency... though far far better than any doughnut in my opinion). There are also porras, which are similar to churros, only thicker. Early evening prices are halved to cater for the local shopping crowd who wander by from Sol and Plaza Mayor
Coffees and a bar of the usual drinks are also available here, though most of the patrons you will find being consumed with chocolate!! The place is huge, across 2 floors, and being open throughout the night from Wednesday to Sunday (I'm told it closes at 7a.m. ish, but am sure to have been here after that time).... it gets packed full of people from all walks of life - old and young, families, party people, some in full costumes... a great place to meet people too. It's very close to Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, tucked down a little side street.
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.
The bustling center of Madrid is where you will find many fine buildings, shops with High Street Names, Hotels, bars & cafes. This place is a melting pot where tourists & locals collide. It can be very busy & crowded but it is nice to walk around & see the many sights
The Puerta del Sol is the geographical centre of Spain.
There is a stone slab which marks Kilometer zero. This is the starting point for the 6 main highways in Spain
It is a very busy square and is a popular meeting point for people of all ages.
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.
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 very center of Madrid, and it's usually packed with people. Because of this it is very common to find lots of people (usually inmigrants) trying to sale pirate DVDs and CDs, rip off accessories and things like that. Also there are many beggars around that area. Still don't let this get in the way of visiting the square. There you can find the famous Clock that all of Spain is watching to follow the countdown to the New Year. You will also find plenty of Souvenir shops in the area if you wish to get something from the city.
The semi circular junction of Plaza del Sol comprises of shops, bars and restaurants and serves as a great meeting point. This is where the statue of the bear can be found which is the symbol of Madrid, and just south of the bear you will find the statue of King Carlos III.
The Puerta Del Sol is also known for being the point from where all distances are measured in Spain - you can always find out how far you are from Puerta del Sol!
What I liked best about Puerta del Sol is that it has lots of side-streets all spread out around the square, some filled with busy cafes, some with shops, some with a never-ending choice of hostels, some with clubs....It's super, makes the centre very compact and easy to explore! =)
Plaza Mayor is just a 5-minute walk away!
This sculpture is the symbol of Madrid. it represents a bear eating the fruits of an arbutus, the name of the city comes from the name of the plant in Spanish ("madroño"). It is situated at Puerta del Sol, the main square of Madrid.
The Puerta del Sol is the geographical centre of Spain. There is a stone slab which marks Kilometer zero. it is outside the Casa de Correos.
Plaza Mayor is just a 5-minute walk away!
It is a very busy square and is a popular meeting point for people.
Puerta Del Sol is probably the most touristic place in Madrid, full of shops, street atrists, restaurants, and tourists' busses.
It is also known as the place where the New Years Eve is celebrated. The bells of Puetra Del Sol's clock will give you the sign so you know when to strat eating the 12 grapes, but.... The year 2006 will be remembered as the celebration with no grapes! There was no sign, there were no bells, only loud music, crowd, and bottles of wine and champagne.
When we realized that something's wrong we started eating the grapes very fast, but not the whole 12 were finished before we welcomed the new 2006.
Puetra Del Sol literally means "Sun Gate" and got it's name because it was the city wall's gate that was facing the rising sun, the East.
When in Madrid you can't avoid sometime going through the plaza called Puerta del Sol. And rightly so, its the center of the historic district and the center of spain for that matter. You can find the 0 Kilometer mark where all the roads in spain are measured from.
Also, a helpful hint for finding an address in Madrid. No matter where the street is in the main part of the city, the street numbers begin at the end that is closest to Sol.
Sol is the typical place where we meet our friends before going out to the many restaurants and tapas bars in the area. The two places to meet are either at the 0Km mark and under the clock, or by the statue of the bear, another symbol of Madrid. That makes them interesting places to people watch as well. So take a few minutes to look to look around!
There are lots of shops to do shopping at too, especially Calle Preciados which is a walking street that goes towards Callao.