Many madrileños scoff at the idea of spending time on Puerta del Sol, though it is
almost always overflowing with people. Think of it like Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, a busy transport hub and
tourists’ meeting place. Until not so long ago it was a seedy place too, with flop hotels and dodgy vendors, but it has
been extensively made over and now has a rather sterile air. It has also been much messed about with. Its famous neon
sign advertising Tío Pepe sherry was moved to another rooftop to accommodate an Apple Store; the beloved
statue of

a bear and
madroño tree—the symbol of the city—was relocated to make way for a Louvre-like Metro entrance. On
the plus side, pedestrianization and renovation have made it an attractive place to join the crowds. Embedded in the
pavement in front of the old Casa de Correos building is the
Zero Kilometer marker from which all distances in Spain
are calculated. The clock on the former post office displays Spain’s official time. When it strikes midnight on New
Year’s Eve, Spanish revelers begin eating a dozen grapes—one for each chime. The TV coverage and fireworks come

live from Puerta del Sol.