The Puerta del Sol is the hub of Spain’s radial road system, and its iconic clock has made it a tourist destination in its own right. In addition to the park’s pleasant open areas and quaint eateries, visitors may see a few of Madrid’s most recognizable landmarks, such as the bear statue and strawberry tree near the park’s entrance on Calle Alcala.
Everyone will have a good time in Puerta del Sol. Both young and old are invited to enjoy the area’s rich history, fascinating buildings, and tranquil settings. All of the events that take place here are family-friendly. The average visitor spends approximately two hours here, but if you want to learn everything there is to know about the place, you’ll need much more time.
There are a few things to remember when you visit Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Getting there by car is out of the limit since all except emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles are prohibited from entering the plaza. The plaza is conveniently accessible via rail, thanks to the Sol metro station, which terminates exactly in the middle of the area.
When you visit Puerta del Sol, you’ll be in close proximity to a number of other must-see landmarks. The Museo de las Ilusiones Madrid is to the south, while Plaza Mayor is to the west.
To the east of the plaza lie the parks of Parque del Retiro and Buen Retiro, as well as the National Museum of Art and the Prado. To the north lies the old market plaza of Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
Because it is a public square, Puerta del Sol does not charge admission. As a busy public gathering place, it’s open around the clock. Whenever you like is ok for a visit. However, if you want to make the most of your time at Puerta del Sol, you should go when the area’s many cafés, bars, restaurants, and attractions are accessible to the public.
A history of Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol didn’t always serve as a city square. In the 15th century, it served as a gate in the city’s defensive wall. This is where the name of the square originates from, as the rising sun would illuminate the gate’s entrance each morning as it faced east. The plaza became well-known in the 18th century due to the proximity of the post office.
The outstanding architects Lucio del Valle, Juan Rivera, and Jose Morer worked to give Puerta del Sol its modern shape in the 19th century. The square’s pedestrianization and center fountain were both 20th-century additions. The square’s prominence and centrality have made it a natural gathering place for protests at various times.
The declaration of the Second Spanish Republic is possibly the most momentous event to take place in Puerta del Sol. Thereafter, Left Republicans and Socialists formed a provisional administration and ran Spain for a few months until a more permanent one could be formed later that year.
The Second Spanish Republic abolished the Spanish monarchy and instituted a number of reforms, including the right to vote for women and the right to freely assemble and divorce.
The highlights of Puerta del Sol
There’s a lot to see and do at Puerta del Sol, but there are three main attractions you shouldn’t miss. The first is a statue of a bear and a strawberry tree known as El Oso y el Madrono. This statue represents the coat of arms of Madrid and can be seen at the beginning of the famous Calle Alcala, where locals and visitors alike congregate. Simply said, a trip to Madrid isn’t complete unless you check out the Prado Museum.
The Real Casa de Correos, or the official residence of the Spanish Postal Service, is another must-see while in Puerta del Sol. The iconic clock that heralds the 12 grapes eaten on the first day of the new year in Spain may be found here.
At long last, you can visit Kilometre Zero, the point where all main highways in Spain converge, and learn how distances are calculated in the Spanish capital. Here’s a short list of Puerta del Sol’s must-see attractions.
- Kilometre Zero
- The Clock of Puerta del Sol
- El Oso y el Madroño
- Church of San Ginés
1. Kilometre Zero
Six of Spain’s national highways are measured from the Kilometre Zero stone block. The little marker may be seen near Puerta del Sol, the exact center of the country. It’s also the beginning point for street numbers in Madrid, with the lower numbers representing streets that are physically closer to Kilometre Zero.
The first plaque went up in 1950; it was updated in 2002 and again in 2009. The Kilometre Zero slab is small and tucked away in the corner of the room, making it easy to overlook. Start by locating the clock tower, then scan the floor for the marker.
2. The Clock of Puerta del Sol
This iconic clock tower has been helping the people of Puerta del Sol since the 18th century, making it yet another landmark of the plaza. The clock tower building, which was originally part of the post office, is now the office of the President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid.
Curiously, the clock had been inaccurate for years. Back then, centuries ago, few Madrilenian citizens had their own personal timepieces. Many people used street clocks as a reference. Hence the inaccurate Clock of Puerta del Sol led to many complications. Finally, a watchmaker from the Spanish Navy was commissioned to design a clock that would accurately reflect the time of day. He completed the clock in 1866 and presented it to the museum.
3. El Oso y el Madroño
El Oso y el Madroo is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This tall monument at Puerta del Sol is called “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree” in Spanish.
The bear is on its back legs, foraging for strawberries in a green tree. Sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafé unveiled his creation to the public in 1967. Why a bear, though? A strawberry bush? Why?
The bear first appeared as a sign on the shields of Madrilenian knights in 1212. But the bear as a symbol most likely goes back even further than the Middle Ages. Ursalia, meaning “Land of the Bears,” was the Roman name for Madrid because of the abundance of bears in the area. This was during the period when Spain was a Roman colony.
King Alfonso VIII’s deed is symbolized by the strawberry. In 1222, the king decreed that the forestland around Madrid belonged to the city. The strawberry tree is a regional staple and was formerly thought to have curative powers.
4. Church of San Ginés
The Church of San Ginés, located near the Plaza del Sol, is among the city’s oldest religious buildings. References to this stunningly symmetrical church date back to the 9th century. The current structure, however, was constructed after a fire in 1645.
Alonso Cano and El Greco, two of Spain’s greatest artists, both have works on display at the Church of San Ginés.
Get some Chocolate with Churros at Chocolate de San Ginés, a chocolate business established in 1894, located just next to the cathedral. The typical Spanish breakfast consists of a mug of rich hot chocolate and several fried dough sticks.
No matter how you choose to spend your time in Madrid, a visit to Puerta del Sol is a must. Even if you want to spend the remainder of your time in Madrid avoiding tourist traps, you should not miss out on viewing one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.