Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol, or “Sun Gate,” is Madrid’s beating heart. It was once at the eastern extremity of the city and the location of a medieval gate decorated with the rising sun, from which it gets its name. Today it’s the city’s main public square, hosting everything from political demonstrations to New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Stroll the square and admire the grand old buildings, gaze at the iconic statues and watch Madrileños go about their day. In the center is a statue of King Carlos III, who commissioned much of the city’s infrastructure and public works projects.
Turn your eyes to the Casa de Correos. The red and beige building was constructed in the 1760s and served as the city’s post office for several decades. It later housed the Interior Ministry and the police headquarters under Franco. Today it’s home to the Presidential Council of the Community of Madrid.
Look up to see the clock tower that all Spaniards turn to for the countdown on New Year’s Eve. It’s a local tradition to eat a grape for each of the 12 chimes at midnight. Find the Kilómetre Cero plaque in front of the tower building; the plaque marks the center of Spain’s six national roads.
At the eastern side of the square is Madrid’s most famous statue, the Bear and the Madroño Tree. It’s the symbol of the city and is on everything from the coat of arms to taxi doors. Head over to the replica Mariblanca statue that marks the spot where a fountain once stood.
Puerta del Sol is surrounded by busy streets packed with boutiques, bars and restaurants. Choose a direction and start exploring. It’s the center of the city and the place where locals and tourists alike stop to get their bearings and plan their day.