As the central hub of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol makes a popular starting point for sightseeing tours of the city, with a vast number of hotels, hostels and tourist apartments lying on or near the plaza. The famous public square, laid out in its current form back in the 1850s, was once the site of the city’s gates, whose sun emblem gave the area its name – Puerta del Sol translates to ‘the Gate of the Sun.'
Not only is the square a key navigational landmark but it’s also home to a number of iconic sights. The 18th century Real Casa de Correos is best known for its monumental clock tower – the city’s principal timekeeper and the centerpiece of the city’s lively New Year’s Eve celebrations – and by its entrance lies the famous Kilometer Zero stone, the official starting point for Spain’s 6 National Roads, laid out in 1950. Take a moment by the legendary stone to ponder the square’s turbulent history - the 1766 Esquilache Mutiny, the 1808 resistance against Napoleon’s troops and the 1812 coronation of Fernando VII all took place on this very spot. A number of prized statues also overlook the square, most notably the ‘El Oso y El Madroño’ (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree), a bronze work by sculptor Antonio Navarro Santa Fe that is known as the official symbol of the city.
Despite its historic roots, Puerta del Sol and its surrounding streets are one of the most modern and liveliest areas of the city, with bars, restaurants and shops crammed in among the period architecture. With so many of the city’s principal attractions within walking distance, it’s the perfect location for a mid-sightseeing coffee break.