Madrid is one of the sunniest cities in Europe. So you’d be forgiven for wanting to spend as much time sitting around outside as possible. The Spanish capital boasts several beautiful public squares which are perfect for doing just that. And the Puerta del Sol is one of the best.
Puerta del Sol translates to ‘Gate of the Sun’, which is a beautiful name for this bright and spacious spot. We’ll explore the history of the square, including the origin of its name, a little later on. First, let’s look at how to get there and what to see in the area. This guide will also point you in the direction of some of the best restaurants, bars, and shops nearby. It’s time to make the most of your visit to this iconic Madrilenian spot.
Getting to Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is located right in the centre of Madrid, so it’s no surprise that this vast area is also one of the most popular in the city. Getting there is a breeze no matter where you’re coming from. If you can, do walk! Walking around Madrid is the best way to see more of the city, discovering hidden gems and beautiful streets along the way.
If you’re based in a vibrant outer neighbourhood or coming from a distant part of the city, no problem. Madrid is home to a considerable public transport network, which includes buses, trains, trams, and metros. You can take public transport all around the city, including to get to Puerta del Sol.
Which station is nearest Puerta del Sol?
Puerta del Sol’s nearest transport station is called Sol, of course! This is one of the primary transport stations in Madrid, served by line one (turquoise), two (red), and three (yellow) metro services. If you’re taking the overground train from the airport, Sol is the station to look for. You can take the C3 (purple), C4 (blue), and regional services to Sol from other parts of Madrid and beyond.
Choosing a public transport ticket in Madrid
The right public transport ticket will depend on your plans in Madrid. If you think you’ll only need to take one or two journeys, a single or return fare will be the most economical choice. If you’re planning to use public transport lots, you should pick up a Tarjeta Multi contactless card and load on a multi-day tourist ticket.
You can choose a tourist ticket to last for the duration of your stay, and you’ll even be able to select your zone. So if you don’t plan on leaving the centre of Madrid, but want to use public transport to nip around, you can tailor your ticket to suit you.
What to see at Puerta del Sol
Up there with Plaza Mayor as one of the most famous public squares in Madrid, Puerta del Sol is a must-visit while you’re in Madrid. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can see and do while you’re in the area.
The Kilometre Zero stone slab marks the point from which six of Spain’s national roads are measured. You’ll find the small marker in Puerta del Sol, the geographical centre of the country! It’s also the starting point for Madrid’s street numbers; the closer the street to Kilometre Zero, the lower its number.
The plaque was first placed in 1950, then replaced in 2002 and once again in 2009. Because of its size and position on the floor, the Kilometre Zero slab is easy to miss. Look for the clock tower, then turn your attention down to the ground to spot the marker.
El Oso y el Madroño
Not so easy to miss, El Oso y el Madroño is one of the most famous symbols of Madrid. Translated to ‘The Bear and the Strawberry Tree’, this towering statue stands proudly in Puerta del Sol.
The bear stands on his back legs, searching a leafy strawberry tree for fruit. It’s the work of sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafé and was introduced to the city in 1967. But why a bear? Why a strawberry tree?
The earliest known use of the bear as a symbol was in 1212 when Madrilenian knights wore it on their shields. However, the bear as an emblem likely pre-dates even the medieval era. During Spain’s time as a Roman colony, Madrid was called Ursalia, or ‘Land of the Bears’, because of the large numbers of bears in the surrounding forests.
The strawberry represents an act of King Alfonso VIII. He made the woodlands around Madrid the property of the city in 1222. The strawberry tree is both a common species in the region and was once believed to have healing properties.
The Clock of Puerta del Sol
Another Puerta del Sol stand-out, this famous clock tower has been assisting locals since the 18th century. Originally built as part of the post office, the clock tower building is now used as the headquarters of the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community.
Interestingly, the clock showed the wrong time for many years. This was centuries ago when most of the Madrilenian public didn’t have a wrist or pocket watch of their own. Many relied on street clocks as a guide, which means the incorrect Clock of Puerta del Sol caused lots of problems! In the end, a Spanish Navy watchmaker was asked to create a clock that would show the correct time; he donated the finished clock in 1866, and it’s remained in place ever since.
The Equestrian Statue of King Charles III
Another impressive statue in Puerta del Sol, this one represents King Charles III on horseback. Charles had a lot to do with the appearance of Puerta del Sol today, so it makes sense for his likeness to watch over the area.
Church of San Ginés
Just around the corner from Puerta del Sol, the Church of San Ginés is one of the oldest of its kind in Madrid. This beautiful symmetrical church is referenced as early as the ninth century. Still, the building we see today was rebuilt in 1645.
The Church of San Ginés is home to paintings by Alonso Cano and El Greco, one of Spain’s master artists.
Next to the church, pop over to Chocolatería de San Ginés, an 1894 chocolate shop, and pick up some Chocolate con Churros. This is a cup of thick hot chocolate and sticks of fried dough, which is a traditional Spanish breakfast. What could be better?
Puerta del Sol History and Facts
It’s one thing to visit Puerta del Sol today. But what about its history? How did Puerta del Sol get its name, and what’s happened there over the centuries? Let’s find out.
How did Puerta del Sol get its name?
In the 15th century, Madrid was much smaller than it is today. The central city was then surrounded by a city wall. One of the wall’s gates was in the location of Puerta del Sol, which means ‘Gate of the Sun’. The name comes from this original gate, which was decorated with an image of the sun. The square also faces westwards, towards the rising sun, which is perhaps another reason for its name.
A local’s favourite
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Puerta del Sol was an important meeting place for Madrid locals. Since the post office was located here (you can still see the building today!), Madrilenians eager to hear the latest news would gather in the square each day.
Puerta del Sol remains a locals’ favourite meeting point to this day. Conveniently located in the centre of the city, it’s a comfortable spot for friends to gather from all around Madrid. Not to mention the number of great bars and restaurants in the area, making it all the more tempting.
Important historic events
Of all the important events to take place in Puerta del Sol, the most notable is perhaps the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. After this, a temporary government of Left Republicans and Socialists ruled over Spain for some months, until a stable government could be established later that year.
This Second Republic established freedom of speech, association, and divorce, and extended voting privileges to women, not to mention stripping the Spanish monarchy of their unique legal power.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops Around Puerta del Sol
Right in the centre of Madrid, Puerta del Sol is close to many of the city’s best restaurants, cafés, takeaways, and bars, not to mention plenty of exciting retail to satisfy your cravings.
The best restaurants near Puerta del Sol
Make time to enjoy some of the excellent restaurants and cafés around Puerta del Sol. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack, there are plenty of choices to suit every taste.
Casa Labra has stood in the same spot for centuries. This historical tavern offers a contemporary take on traditional Spanish cuisine, serving lots of seafood dishes, as well as meat and tapas. Prop up the bar and grab a snack or sit in the dining room for a more substantial meal. During the warmer months, it’s also possible to eat out on the terrace.
A stone’s throw from Puerta del Sol, Lhardy was established in 1893. That means it’s seen a lot of Madrid’s most recent history. It’s a local landmark, home to several formal dining rooms decked out in original furnishings. If you’re new to Madrid, you must try the callos a la madrileña or cocido a la madrileña at Lhardy. These soupy broths are a Spanish staple and have been around for centuries.
Must-try tapas near Puerta del Sol
There are lots of new and historic tapas joints surrounding Puerta del Sol, which is no great surprise since this is the heart of the Spanish capital. Try Casa Labra for famous cod croquettes, or simply wander around and see what you can find. This is also a great area to try bocadillo de calamares. This fried calamari (squid) sandwich is a Madrilenian classic. Sounds delicious, right?
The best shopping near Puerta del Sol
Central Madrid is practically bursting with shops. From independent gems to favourite high street and designer labels, there are plenty to choose from if you feel like a little retail therapy. Mill around the local area, or head to Gran Vía for lots of big brands in one place.
Calle de Serrano is also not too far away, where you can find excellent shopping centres and luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Puerta del Sol is also pretty nicely located for Calle de Fuencarral, another significant shopping street in Madrid.
Puerta del Sol Opening Times and Prices
Puerta del Sol is a public space so, of course, it’s free to enter! It’s also open all day and night, as a bustling central square and meeting point. You can visit whenever you like. Still, to get the most out of your time in Puerta del Sol, we recommend heading there when cafés, bars, restaurants, and attractions are open.
The Church of San Ginés, for example, opens between 08:45 and 13:30, then again from 18:00 to 21:00. Perfect! That means you can get to Puerta del Sol early, visit the church and other landmarks, then grab some traditional breakfast churros to start the day right. Or head there in the evening, look around and enjoy dinner in this vibrant part of the city.
Whatever way you spend your time in Madrid, be sure to at least pass through Puerta del Sol. It’s one of the most notable spots in the Spanish capital and well worth seeing, even if you spend the rest of your trip away from the tourist trail.
Taking the train to Madrid
Thanks to the efficient service run by Renfe – Spain’s national train company – it’s easy to reach Madrid by train. High-speed AVE trains can get you from Barcelona to Madrid in 2h 30m on the fastest services, Valencia to Madrid in 1h 40m and Seville to Madrid in 2h 30m. Trains to Madrid arrive into one of the city’s two main stations – Madrid Atocha or Madrid Chamartín; look out for the botanical garden if you arrive into the former!
Want to learn more about travelling by rail in Spain? Read our guide to trains in Spain, your one-stop-shop for all things rail. Our Renfe page also gives you the lowdown on Spain’s national train operator, including how to find the cheapest tickets.