Puerta del Sol began its days as the site of one of Madrid's easternmost gates. The gate was adorned with a figure of the rising sun – hence the name Puerta del Sol, which translates as “Gate of the Sun”. Today, the square is the throbbing heart of the city and provides a backdrop for political marches and public celebrations, while also being a popular place for people to meet.
The open and spacious pedestrian area is an ideal place for a moment's rest while you watch the locals go about their daily business. Once you're there, take in the attractive old buildings that rise up all around you. You'll note that there are a number of statues here too, not least the monument to King Carlos III which is the square's centrepiece. The statue commemorates the king responsible for commissioning much of the city's public works.
The grand red and beige building is the Real Casa de Correos, built in the mid-18th century for the postal service, later the headquarters of the Interior Ministry and the police. It still serves an administrative role today as the seat of the President of the Community of Madrid.
Another edifice you won't fail to notice is the iconic clock tower which leads the New Year's countdown for the entire country. The tradition is to eat one grape for each of the 12 chimes of the bell on the stroke of midnight. Just in front of the tower you’ll see a plaque which marks “Kilómetre Cero”. This is officially the midpoint of Spain’s road network, and many consider it to be the centre of Spain.
If you wander over to the east side of the square you're likely to see a crowd of people hanging around near a statue. This is the Bear and the Madroño Tree, a popular rendez-vous point for locals and the symbol which appears on the city's coat of arms. Once you've seen this statue, you'll start seeing the symbol everywhere you look!
Puerta del Sol is served by the metro. There are bars and restaurants on pretty much all the streets that lead away from it and makes a great starting point for a walk around Madrid.
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