Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol (Spanish for "Gate of the Sun") is one of the most well known and busiest places in Madrid.This is the centre ("Km 0") of the radial network of Spanish roads. The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year. The New Year's celebration has been broadcast live on TV since 31 December 1962.

History

The Puerta del Sol originated as one of the gates in the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century. Outside the wall, medieval suburbs began to grow around the Christian Wall of the 12th century. The name of the gate came from the rising sun which decorated the entry, since the gate was oriented to the east.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the area was an important meeting place.As the goal for the couriers coming from abroad and other parts of Spain to the Post Office, it was visited by those eager for the latest news.

The House of the Post Office was built by French Architect Jacques Marquet between 1766 and 1768. The building was the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior and State Security during the Francisco Franco dictatorship. It is currently the seat of the Presidency of the Madrid Community.

Contents of the "Puerta"

The Puerta del Sol contains a number of well known sights associated both domestically and internationally with Spain. On the south side, the old Post Office is used as the center of government for the Madrid Community (not to be confused with the municipal government, which is housed elsewhere). Also on its south side, the square holds a mounted statue of Charles III of Spain, nicknamed "el rey alcalde" ("the king mayor") by Madrilenians for his public works program. The famous Tio Pepe lighted sign is above the square's eastern building between the Calle de Alcalá and the Carrera de San Jerónimo. On the north side lies a statue of a bear and a madrone tree ("madroño"), the heraldic symbol of Madrid. The "Mariblanca" (actually Venus) marks the place of a former fountain.

The "kilómetro cero" is directly north of the Post Office and serves as the symbolic center of Spain. In addition to serving as the basis of numbering in the Spanish road system, the symbolic nature of the plaza ensures that it is the site of many rallies and protests, particularly against violence and war. The "Puerta" has seen protests against the terrorism perpetrated by ETA [http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/07/11/spain.protests/] , the March 11th attacks on Madrid's commuter trains, and Spain's involvement in the Iraq War [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2824145.stm] .

A Metro station named Sol lies under the square.

Adjacent buildings consist of many shopping establishments catering to locals and tourists alike, such as El Corte Inglés department store, La Mallorquina cafe, and numerous, ever-changing restaurants. The area remains active late into the night and early morning since nearby bars and dance clubs often only start entertainment at 1 am. Street music is also common in the area.

Side streets close to the square also contain residential flats, some small offices, and tourist hostels.

Location in Madrid

The "Puerta" is unsurprisingly located in the very heart of Madrid. Immediately to the southwest lies the Plaza Mayor; the Palacio Real, the official home of the Royal Family, is further west. Parliament and the museum district are to the east and the train station Atocha is to the southeast.

Namesakes

* "Puerta del Sol", a Spanish-language audiomagazine (bimonthly audio-recording-with-annotated-transcription periodical), a tool to help speakers of Spanish as a foreign language to advance from intermediate toward advanced skill level.

External links

* [http://www.sitebits.com/2008/tio-pepe-sign.html The History of the Tío Pepe Sign] - illustrated article (in English)


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