What is La Puerta del Sol?
La Puerta del Sol the epicenter of the city of Madrid and Spain as a whole. Madrid was chosen to be the capital of the country, among other things, because it was dead center in the middle of the country, and la Puerta del Sol is the center of Madrid.
It has long been an important site in the city of Madrid. It was once the site of one of the main gates into the city from where the square gets its name, and the main building, La Casa de Correos has always been used as one of the main government buildings of Madrid. this building is currently the main governmental building of the Community of Madrid (different than Madrid city hall).
Kilometre Zero Stone Slab
Right in front of the Casa de Correos, there is an interesting little stone slab that, even if it’s just for the story, you should check out. The “Kilometro Cero” or the zero kilometer point is the exact point from which Spain‘s six national roads start. The original stone was placed in the plaza in 1950 and was replaced in September 2009 because of wear and tear.
El Oso y El Madroño
La Plaza del Sol is home to one of the most famous symbols of the city of Madrid: the Bear and the Strawberry tree (El Oso y el Madridño). The statue is a 20-ton bronze statue of a bear eating from a tree. The bear is a brown bear and the tree is a strawberry tree.
Madrid used to be known as ‘Ursaria’, which means ‘land of the bears’ in Latin and was a densely forested area. the bear and the strawberry tree have been the symbol of the city from the medieval era.
At the top of the Casa de Correos, there is a tower, and at the center of that tower is a clock. This clock is famous in Spain, as it rings in the new year every year. However, this clock which every Spaniard depends on to let them know when the calendar year is over has been notoriously unprecise.
Gowing back a couple of centuries, it was rather uncommon to own a personal watch as they were very expensive, so people depended on public clocks to tell the time. The clock of la Puerta del Sol was infamous for being incorrect. It got so bad in fact that eventually a watchmaker from the Spanish Navy was commissioned to create an accurate clock that kept the time correctly. The clock was ultimately donated to the people of Madrid and was inaugurated in 1866. Since then the clock has kept perfect time.
Just a few meters from la Puerta del Sol, next to the Church of San Ginés is a small café that has had a giant effect on the image of Spain across the globe.
Spain is well known around the world for several of its dishes and goodies: tortilla de patata, Paella, tapas, etc. One of these famous Spanish edibles is Chocolate y Churros (hot chocolate and Spanish funnel cake). It is the most famous Spanish breakfast and almost a tradition for the Spanish people. Well, the reason for this is this charming café. San Ginés was established in 1894 and has been doling out little else ever since.
The church this bar is named after is also an interesting stop to make near the Puerta del Sol. The Iglesia Parroquial de San Ginés de Arlés is one of the oldest religious buildings you will find in Madrid. Some iteration of a church has stood in the same spot since the ninth century. The church is dedicated to an interesting saint, St. Genesius of Arlés, who is the patron saint of notaries and secretaries. There is also a stuffed crocodile on display inside that was brought back from the Americas as a gift.
The Statue of King Carlos III and La Mariblanca
Apart from the emblematic El Oso y El Madroño statue, there are two other famous and important statues to see.
One is the Marblanca: a reproduction of the Mariblanca statue, with the original being on display at the Municipal Museum. It depicts the goddess Venus / Diana the Hunter. this statue supposedly marks the spot where the original fountain of the square was located.
The second is the statue of the Bourbon King Carlos III It was placed at the center of the square as a gesture of Madrid’s appreciation for the improvements he commissioned for the city.