Puerta del Sol

Puerta Del Sol is one of the busiest places in Madrid, if not the busiest place, and this has a lot to do with its central location. The Gateway to the Sun, as this square or plaza of sorts is known in English, is actually heralded as the official center of Spain, and it is without question the heart of the capital city. The atmosphere is not entirely different than the atmosphere that you will find at New York City's Times Square, truth be told, and when a Madrid tour is what you have in mind, there is arguably no better starting point.

Lively and crowded both day and night, Puerta Del Sol serves as a popular meeting place, and its landmarks figure among the city's most identifiable. Many Madrid visitors choose to stay at one of the hotels near Puerta Del Sol. Due to the central location and the lively atmosphere, it's not hard to understand why.

The Puerta Del Sol has its own metro stop, and should you be relying on the metro system to get around town, then you will most likely visit this stop over and over again. Because of the square's central location, a number of different metro lines converge there, and you'll know that you're pulling into the station when you start to smell the gofres. Gofres are essentially big waffles that are served hot, and the Puerta Del Sol metro station is one of the best places to get them. You can drizzle chocolate on yours, add some ice cream on the side, or douse it with powdered sugar if you please, and it makes a great treat to go. In addition to gofre stands, a variety of shops can be found at Puerta Del Sol's metro stop, and these quirky shops sell all kinds of things.

Once you finish perusing the goods at the Plaza Del Sol's subterranean metro shops, you can take your gofre and head for the stairs that lead out to the open air. Stepping out of this metro stop is an experience in and of itself. You might be overwhelmed at first by the traffic, the people, and the general bustle. Should you be visiting at night, the bright lights are bound to impress. Regardless of the time of day, checking out the plaza's landmarks is recommended if you have the time to spare.

The Puerta Del Sol landmarks figure among the most recognizable Madrid attractions, and they include the lovely Casa de Correos building. This beautiful building was built in 1768 and originally served as the city's main post office. Today, it serves as the seat of the regional government. Meeting under the building's clock has long been popular with locals, and on New Year's Eve, hordes of people come to watch the clock strike midnight. With each gong, locals try to swallow a grape, which is harder than it might seem. One of the other Puerta Del Sol landmarks that serves as a popular meeting point is the statue of a bear nuzzling a madrone tree. Found on the northern side of the Puerta Del Sol, this statue is definitely worth checking out, as it has become the symbol of the city itself.

Rounding out the main Puerta Del Sol landmarks are the Tio Pepe sign that can be found atop one of the square's buildings and the statue of King Charles III. The Tio Pepe sign, or advertisement, has long overlooked the square, and when it was removed a few years back, public outcry led to its return. Tio Pepe is a famous Spanish company that produces some of the best sherry in the world. In fact, it's the world's top selling sherry brand. As for the statue of King Charles III, it depicts the ruler sitting proudly on a horse and looking towards the former post office. For those who are interested in the history of Spain, it is worth noting that under King Charles III's reign, which lasted from 1759 until 1788, the country went from being a collection of territories and kingdoms to a recognized nation.

Puerta Del Sol offers proximity to some of the best stores and restaurants in Madrid, as well as some of the city's top attractions, and this is part of the reason why so many tourists choose to base themselves in the immediate area. For those who are interested in staying at one of the hotels near Puerta Del Sol, the lively streets that lead to the square offer many an accommodations option. Both the Hotel Europa and the Hotel Moderno can make excellent travel bases when looking to stay near the Puerta Del Sol, and for those who are interested in money-saving hostals, the Hostal Alhambra is not to be overlooked. Between the Hotel Europa and the Hotel Moderno, the latter is more upscale, though both offer attractive accommodations and facilities that are well equipped and well priced. As for the Hostal Alhambra, it is one of the best hostals in town, partly because of its overall cleanliness, its very friendly rates, and its idyllic location.

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