Puerta del Sol is the heart of Madrid, the symbol of the capital city of Spain, popular rendez-vous point for locals and tourists, wonderful location where many important events take place, a testimony to the history of Madrid, the administrative and commercial center, really worth a visit at night, when bright lights and the colours of the overwhelming Movida Madrileña turn on.
This thriving social center of Spain's capital has a semicircular shape, its ancient origins date back to the 15th century and to the reign of Charles I who ordered a gate to be built for better access into the town; soon it became a meeting point and new buildings were built, originally to serve political functions, all around the 'door' (puerta) that, starting from the 15th century, was the entrance gate to the capital, its name, Spanish for 'Gate of the Sun' derives from this city gate decorated with a symbolic sun; over the centuries Madrid grew rapidly, the square was considerably enlarged and new elegant and imposing buildings were erected, the House of the Post Office (Real Casa de Correos, 1768), a work of the architect Jacques Marquet, is still today a splendid example of this. The square is embellished by monumental fountains and cultural icons that make it popular in Spain as elsewhere in the world such as the aristocratic palace with the giant neon of Tío Pepe's sign sitting above, the clock tower of the House of the Post Office (1866), its clock, known as 'Reloj de Puerta del Sol' is the most popular of Spain, the Equestrian statue of King Charles III, just in front of the House of the Post Office, the statue of Mariblanca and the statue of a female bear eating fruits from a strawberry tree (El Oso y El Madroño), this bronze statue, sculptured by Antonio Navarro, symbolizes the aristocracy and the fertile soil of Madrid. Another icon of Puerta del Sol is the plaque 'Kilometre Zero' (Kilómetro Cero) on the pavement at the entrance of the House of the Post Office marking the center of the Spanish road network and the starting point from where all the Spanish most important distances are measured and the starting point of the main roads of Madrid such as Calle del Arenal, Calle de Alcalá, Calle Mayor, Calle Carretas and Calle Preciados.
On the night of December 31 Puerta del Sol is full of magic, a great emotion to wait and celebrate the arrival of midnight while eating 12 grapes with all the crowds in time with the 12 chimes (campanadas) of the Reloj, one on each stroke, locals and tourists can't miss this traditional night, a wonderful scene that can be seen live also on TV or on Internet.