Puerta del Sol
The Bear and the Madrono Tree © Wikimedia Commons
One of the most well-known plazas in the country, Puerta del Sol is the historical and geographical heart of the city. Named after Madrid's eastern city gate of the same location; the 15th-century entryway earned its name by being bathed in the rays of the rising sun due its eastern position. Littered with famous landmarks, Puerta del Sol is home to the famous Spanish clock tower whose bell marks the beginning of the New Year. The official symbol of Madrid, the El Oso y El Madroño, a 20-ton statue of a bear eating fruits off a Madrono tree, as well as a large equestrian statue of King Carlos III are also on display. Unmistakable is the luminous Tio Pepe sign, a longstanding hallmark of Puerta del Sol, and more discreet is the kilómetro cero marker on the pavement, which signals the official starting point of six of Spain's major highways and symbolically places Puerta del Sol at the centre of Spain. This geographical importance is mirrored politically and socially: the plaza is a popular site for rallies and protests, and remains an important venue for social gatherings, festivals and events. Madrid's most famous plaza is well worth a visit and the area is popular with tourists, with many hotels nearby.
Transport: Metro to Sol Station