The Puerta del Sol is both the physical and cultural centre of the city and of the country. Here we can find ‘Kilometer Zero’ and the city life in this place are very lively. Underneath the place is a big Metro, a train station and an underground hall which is the biggest in the world at 15- meter high and 20- meter wide dimensión.
Its name, which means Gate of the Sun in Spanish, runs contrary to its physical shape. A grasp of history would be helpful to reconcile the conflicting facts. In the 15th century, there stood a wall that had an administrative purpose and a gate that provided access to the city. Watching from the city, the sun rose above this gate everyday. Later, when Madrid grows, the place became a little square but Madrilenians kept referring to it as a ‘gate’.
In the mid 18th century, the Bourboun king Ferdinand VI asked the French architect Jaime Marquet to design a new building in the Puerta del Sol to serve as the headquarter of Royal Post Service and known as Casa de Correos since then. Its facade shows a combination of two colours: the red of the bricks and the white of the limestone. At the top, a pediment and a clock towering above it, dominate the Puerta del Sol.
Later, in the mid 19th century, this building of the Puerta del Sol was the seat of the Ministry of Interior and State Security. In order to leave a security area, they rebuilt the square as it appears today, demolishing two churches: the Buen Suceso one and the San Felipe one. That is when the Puerta del Sol adopted its semicircle shape. The foundations of Buen Suceso Church are now visible underground, at Sol Station.
The Real Casa de Correos is the oldest building located in Puerta del Sol in Madrid. It was built in the second half of the XVIII century by the French architect Jacques Marquet. One of the most important aspects of this monument is its clock located in a little tower at the top of the building. Every 31st of December, this clock plays an important role by giving the twelve chimes that form part of the New Year’s tradition of the grapes.
The building exhibits the bright colors of the materials used in its construction: bricks from Jarama and limestones from Colmenar de Oreja. The most prominent part of the façade is its central part with the main entrance, with a round arch, and the tower with the clock.
In front of the main door of the building there is a plaque that shows the Kilometer 0 of the city, which is the origin of the radial highways of Madrid.
Plaza Puerta del Sol, 7. 28013. Madrid, Spain.
By bus: lines 3, 5, 9, 15, 20, 50, 51, 52, 53, 150 and M1.
By subway: Lines 1, 2 and 3, Sol stop.
By train: Cercanías, Sol stop.
The building is located in the center of Madrid and can be seen anytime during the day.
The clock tower of the Puerta del Sol is very important in Madrilenian and Spanish citizens. It strikes the official time for the whole state and is the main character of the New Year’ Eve of the country: at midnight, when the bell rings twelve times, the people in the square and at home eat twelve grapes, one each time. The Puerta del Sol also houses all kind of manifestations.
As we said, the Puerta del Sol is the kilometer 0. A plaque on the ground, just in front of Casa de Correos, marks the right place where the main Spanish roads start: the road to Burgos and Basque Country northward, to Barcelona northwesterly, to Valencia eastward, to Andalusia southward, to Extremadura and Portugal southwesterly and to Galicia nortwesterly. The numbering of the streets of Madrid starts at the Puerta del Sol as well.
There are two important sculptures in the Puerta del Sol. One of them is ‘la Mariblanca’, a mythological figure representing Venus, Afrodita or the goddess of fortune. The city received this sculpture as a present gave by an Florentine merchant in the 16th century. You can find it at the west end of the Puerta del Sol, at the beginning of Arenal road, but this is only a replica: the original one remains in the City Museum.
The other great sculpture in the Puerta del Sol is ‘El Oso y el Madroño’, that is, ‘The Bear and the arbutus’. These figures are present at the city coat of arms, remembering the time when huntig was an important activity in the wooded area that today forms the Casa de Campo, Pardo Mountain and Dehesa de la Villa. This sculpture is located at the east end of the Puerta del Sol, at the beginning of Alcalá road.