Puerta del Sol is one of the most important of Madrid’s squares. It is the place where young people meet; where people stop off to go to the Plaza Mayor and old Madrid; a place to shop in department and smaller stores and on 31st December, the New Year is brought in to the chimes of the Puerta del Sol clock.
The design of the Puerta del Sol, as we see it today, was begun in 1859 and was the culmination of the opening of Plazas (and destruction of old buildings!) throughout Madrid by José Bonaparte,
brother of Napoleon. Some of the other notable plazas were Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza del Oriente (where the Royal Palace is). It is said that up until this time the main centre of Madrid was the Plaza Mayor, which was oriented to communication with the south and south east of Spain but with the new development of the Puerta del Sol, this focus changed towards the north: Barcelona and Europe.
The new buildings of the Puerta del Sol have some interesting features; running from the East to West side of the square, along its northern points you can see that the square is curved. The buildings that occupy this side of the square have a certain style – the lowest level consists of a split level shops; the first floor apartments all have arched style balconies, followed by 2nd and 3rd floor apartments which get progressively less stylish and the whole building is crowned by an ‘atico’ which all feature a balustrade.
From the Puerta del Sol you can easily walk to Plaza Mayor; walk up calle Arenal to Opera and the Royal Palace; walk up calle Alcalá to the Spanish Parliament or walk to Plaza Santa Ana. If you’re looking for shops, then walk up Calle Carretas, where you’ll find El Corté Inglés, FNAC, Zara, Trajes Milanes, Cortefiel and the fabulous coffee shop La Mexicana.
Of interest – el Oso y el Madroño (the bear and evergreen green), symbol of Madrid which is often used as a meeting point for young people in Madrid. The Casa de Correos built, between 1766 and 1768, was the first home of the post office and is now the headquarters of the Community of Madrid; the first Spanish stamp was apparently created in this building. Outside you’ll find ‘kilometro cero’ where Spain’s 6 national roads are apparently measured from.
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