Puerta del Sol, Madrid This is Madrid's most famous and most central square, located just a short walk from the Plaza Mayor. Originally it was the site of one of the city's gates, which faced the east and was adorned with an image of the sun, hence the square's name. The square is actually almost semi-circular in shape and owes its current form to the major renovation work carried out between 1854 and 1860. Since this is now Madrid's most central location, it is an excellent area to in which to stay and there are many hotels, hostals (smaller, often family-run hotels) and tourist apartments nearby. The following links will show you only those properties within 1000 metres of the square ... If you look to the "flat" south side of the semi circle you will see a clock tower, part of a building known as the "Real Casa de Correos". This was originally built in the 18th century as part of the Post Office, and now functions as the headquarters of the President of Madrid's Autonomous Community. The clock is the famous clock all Spaniards turn their eyes to on New Year's Eve, guzzling down a grape to each of it's twelve chimes at midnight. Millions watch on TV and what sometimes seems like millions more brave the cold here in the square. If you're here on New Year's Eve this is a marvellous experience (see our information on Christmas & New Year in Madrid). Outside the Casa de Correos is a stone slab on the pavement marking Kilometre Zero - the official starting point for Spain's 6 National Roads. Directly opposite this building is the most important of the 3 statues to be seen in the square, "El Oso y El Madroño" (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree). Official symbol of the city although with an unclear origin - it seems that there used to be many bears in the fields around Madrid although the original symbol was supposed to be a female bear (osa). And the strawberry tree seems to be have actually been a hackberry tree (almez), which was once in abundance around Madrid. Whatever the real history, this bronze statue is the work of the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santa Fe. The other statues to be found in this square are a reproduction of the Mariblanca statue (the original is in the Municipal Museum) which is believed to be Venus or Diana the Hunter and which marks the spot where previously a fountain stood, and a statue of King Carlos III (placed here by popular demand, since he was called the "Mayor of Madrid" due to the improvements he ordered made to the city).turkeyarena.com This is a vibrant part of the city - full of bars, restaurants and shops. Leading off the Puerta del Sol is the Calle Preciados, a pedestrianised street on which large department stores such as El Corte Inglés and FNAC are located, together with international clothes shops such as Zara, H & M, Bershka and many more. Many old and historic shops selling traditional goods may be found close to this historic square. Smaller boutique type shops for shoes, clothes and other accessories can be found on the nearby Calle Arenal, Calle Carretas and other surrounding streets.