Madrid closes iconic Sol metro station to beef up New Year security

The metro station at Puerta del Sol, where thousands of people gather every year to welcome in the New Year, will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Madrid closes iconic Sol metro station to beef up New Year security
Photo: AFP

Madrid’s regional government confirmed on Wednesday that the underground station would be closed between 9pm and 12.30am on Wednesday 30th December and  from 9pm on Thursday 31st because of New Year's Eve preparations. 

Trains will pass through Sol station but will not stop. The closure will affect metro lines 1, 2 and 3. Those wishing to reach Sol are advised to get off at nearby metros such as Tirso de Molina on Line 1, Opera on Line 2 and 5 or Callao on Lines 3 and 5.

Sol metro station will also open later than usual – at 7am – on January 1st.

The closure has been ordered by Madrid’s police in a bid to limit overcrowding in Madrid’s busiest and most iconic meeting place, where every year, thousands of people gather to welcome in the New Year and eat twelve grapes – one on each gong of the bells at midnight.

The tradition of eating the twelve grapes stems from the beginning of the 20th century, when, in 1909, grape growers from Alicante encouraged the custom to sell that year’s excellent harvest.

According to tradition, eating a grape on each gong of the Puerta del Sol bell tower at midnight brings prosperity for the year ahead.

The Puerta del Sol is the most popular place in Spain for people to gather to eat the grapes and welcome in the new year, and the celebrations are broadcast live on television so people around the country can join in the party.

Puerta del Sol. Photo: AFP

This year the maximum capacity for the central square has been set at 25,000 people, while extra police will be patrolling to make sure one of the busiest nights of the year goes without a hitch.

Revellers will be prohibited from taking certain items into the square that could be deemed dangerous, including knives, fireworks, flags, sparklers and glass bottles.

Police will completely clear the square when the metro closes at 9pm, after which visitors will be vetted at security checkpoints before being allowed to enter the square. 

Despite the New Year’s Eve closure, Madrid Metro is planning to run 20 percent more trains up to January 10th, coinciding with Spain’s main festive celebration, the Epiphany, on January 6th. 


Police bust New Year’s Eve rave near Barcelona

Riot police on Saturday broke up a New Year's Eve rave in an abandoned warehouse near the Spanish city of Barcelona where 300 people had been partying for over 40 hours.

Police bust New Year's Eve rave near Barcelona
Brief scuffles broke out after police arrived. Photo: Mossos d'Esquadra
The party began on New Year's Eve in the village of Llinas del Valles some 30 kilometres (19 miles) northeast of Barcelona, with revellers gathering without any regard for safety restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
In a posting on Twitter, the Catalan regional police said they had confiscated the sound system and all the other equipment used at the party and would press charges against all who were involved.
“We will prosecute the organisers and all the partygoers,” police said, indicating the penalty for attending such an event started at 3,000 euros ($3,650).
“The three organisers of the illegal party in Llinars have been arrested. They will go to court in the next few hours,” police said, indicating they could face a penalty of up to 600,000 euros.
At the scene, a police helicopter flew overhead as hundreds of police entered the warehouse as a large crowd of onlookers gathered nearby, Spain's RNE public radio reported.

Footage obtained by AFP from inside the warehouse shortly before the raid showed a large group of people dancing in front of a huge skull wearing a Santa hat, all of them in close proximity with no masks, and often smoking.

When the police arrived, most of them in riot gear, brief scuffles broke out on the dance floor where a young topless woman could be seen trying to calm the situation.
At least nine police vans could be seen parked inside the building.
It was not immediately clear how many people had been arrested, nor were the police immediately available to comment on media reports that many of the revellers had come from abroad.
Asked why the operation only began around midday on Saturday, police officials told local media it was a complex operation and they didn't move in until they were able to ensure the safety of officers and partygoers.