If you decide to take a walk around Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain on a December night, brace yourself for the crowd. I’m talking people-power crowd here, the kind that can topple you over should someone decide to shout “fuego!”.
Puerta del Sol is one of the most crowded squares in Spain, especially during the Christmas season. It is, after all, the heart of Madrid… a place where eight main streets converge.
It is no wonder then that it has become a meeting point for friends and families, and a place to just hangout and people-watch.
Since the Casa de Correos or Post Office is located here, the area was an important meeting place in the 17th-19th centuries. It was frequented not just by couriers coming from abroad and other parts of Spain but also by people who wanted to hear about the latest news.
The Casa de Correos, a building built in 1766, is now the head office of Madrid’s Regional government. Up on top is the clock that gives the 12 midnight chimes on New Year’s Eve for all of Spain.
Apparently, this clock marks the tradition of eating 12 grapes, one for each chime as seen here:
It is believed that eating grapes will bring about prosperity for the coming new year. Hmmm… this sounds interesting. But nothing beats the Pinoy tradition of making a lot of noise, jumping up and down and wearing polkadot outfits to summon the new year, methinks.:)
On the north side of the square, one can find El Oso y El Madroño or The Bear and the Madrono Tree, from which the city’s name was derived. Apparently, bears used to live in the royal hunting grounds, thus the symbol.
The Spanish road network also originates from Puerta del Sol, particularly from the Kilometro Cero marker located infront of the post office.
Finally, here’s a visual history of Puerta del Sol:
So if you find yourself in Madrid and don’t really mind big crowds, do make it a point to take a short walk around this square. It’s definitely a great way to see this vibrant city.