This is the most famous square of Madrid and the truth is that is a beautiful rectangular square that was built in 1617 during the Hapsburg period.
There are a lot of open door cafes to sit and enjoy the sun, kind of expensive and touristic to me but nice if you like to see people passing by. The previous centuries you could see here public executions, bullfights and other nice sports like those :)
What you can see now is the statue of Felippe III riding a horse in the middle of the square. The three-story buildings that surround the square are also beautiful with nice balconies. The small pathways along the square leads you outside and it was very funny getting lost in some of them.
The square is beautiful during the night too (pic 2)
Just opposite the Bakery House, you will find the second most remarkable building on the Plaza Mayor, easily recognisable by the two turrets that crown the façade. The Butchery House used to host the general meat depot that supplied the different markets in Madrid, hence the name. Since the 19th century, however, the building has housed different municipal offices, including the local newspaper library. Currently, it is the administrative seat of Madrid's Centro District.
Plaza Mayor began life in the 15th Century as a humble market square. Then known as Plaza del Arrabol (square outside the walls). After Madrid became the capital in the 1560's, plans on the orders of Philip II were drawn up for it to be completely rebuild. Only this did not happen. It was eventually completed in 1619. Large sections had to be rebuild after a disastrous fire in 1790.
Bullfights, carnivals, all great festivals and ceremonies of imperial Spain were held here.
In the centre is a statue build in 1616 of Philip III. This is also useful when you are trying to decide which way you should be going. There are restaurants around the square itself as well as roads/pathways coming away from the square in different directions.
Have a look at the lamp posts in the square.
On Sundays, there is a stamp and coin market. At Christmas there is a traditional fair with stalls.
The Plaza Mayor has not always been in the heart of the city. In its origins it was known as the Arrabal Square, as it was located outside the city walls. It was then an irregular medieval square where markets used to be held. When Philip II made of Madrid his new capital, he decided the city should have a more majestic square, worthy of the city's new status. He commissioned his favourite architect - Juan de Herrera, responsible for the Escorial Palace - with the design of the new main square. Juan de Herrera's plans, however, went lost and it was not until a few years later that the works were carried out, under the reign of his successor, Philip III, following the plans of Juan Gómez de Mora.
An impressive 16th century equestrian statue by Juan de Bolonia and Pietro Tacca honours that obscure King under whose reign the square was finished and the decadence of the Spanish Empire started. It was placed in the middle of the square in the 19th century, under the reign of Queen Elisabeth II.
The square is nowadays car-free (there is an underground parking, though) and has almost no commercial activity but remains an ineludible stop in every Madrid visit. Although the Plaza Mayor is no longer the place to feel the pulse of modern Madrid, it is far from being a touristy t-shirt hell, and if it is one, it is a pleasant, moderate one.
Plazas have traditionally been a key point of the urban grid in such a gregarious society as Spain is. Every city has its main square, where the notions of Roman agora and Arab sook converge to create an open space suitable for commerce and social interaction. Madrid's Plaza Mayor is a model of perfect Castilian market square, arcaded and lined with severe buildings laid down in an almost perfectly symmetric pattern.
The Plaza was initially laid down in the 15th century as a market square and got its current rectangular shape a few centuries later. In spite of different renovation and reconstruction projects, little has changed from that time and the square retains its regal yet austere appearance.
More than just a market square, for centuries, the Plaza Mayor has been the ideal framework to host the most important events in the city, including bullfights, Inquisition trials (autos de fe) and public executions. Today, the plaza has lost much of that importance in terms of commercial activity and meeting point for the locals (the numerous pavement cafes, if very pleasant, are mostly a rip-off where locals seldom go). Nonetheless, it remains a great place to enjoy the company of many other tourists, the street entertainers or the occasional shows provided by the Municipality.
You will find the Plaza Mayor at its most traditional in December, when Madrid's Christmas market is held there, and on Sunday mornings, where philately and numismatic aficionados gather to exchange their items.
On its North side, the oldest and most visually striking building on the Plaza Mayor is the so-called Bakery House (Casa de la Panadería). This austere building, decorated with just two turrets in the flanks, was spared from the big fire that ravaged most of the square in the 18th century, and inspired the architect Juan de Villanueva in the reconstruction of the rest of the buildings, conferring thus a very uniform style to the whole of the plaza. In spite of its severity, the Bakery House stands out as the most prominent in the square, with a colourful frescoes façade painted by local artist Carlos Franco in 1988. The original paintings were lost in the great 18th century fire. The paintings depict allegoric scenes with Greek mythological Gods and characters related to the history of Madrid and the Plaza Mayor.
In its origins, the building housed the city's main bread oven. Subsequently, it has been used for different purposes: it has housed different academies, the city's archives and even the city council. Today, it is used as Madrid's tourism and visitor bureau.
The Plaza Mayor stands in the middle of a maze of medieval looking streets, known as Madrid de los Austrias, most of which are car free and inviting to take long discovery tours. Also the outer enclosure of the Plaza Mayor is interesting and picturesque, in particular the façade on the Moat of Saint Michael (Cava de San Miguel). This street receives its name because it runs along one of the moats of the second city wall of Madrid, built after the Reconquista by the Christian Kings. It is lined with the buildings on the eastern side of the Main Square, whose basements are sustained by the stones of the former wall. The curved façades, painted in terracotta colours, make of it one of the most photogenic in the old town.
In the corner with Cava de San Miguel, the Knivers Arch (Arco de Cuchilleros) is unarguably the most graceful and photographed of the nine gates that give access to the Plaza Mayor. It has been become indeed one of the most characteristic spots in Madrid. As its name clearly shows, it was in this area that the knivers carried out their trade, but today, it is mostly a popular spot with tourists, with flamenco show venues, souvenir shops and restaurants, including the one which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the oldest still functioning in the world. Rather than the quality of its cuisine, its ancienty seems to be the restaurant's main merit, but I do not have any personal experience here.
Plaza Mayor is another popular tourist spot in Madrid. It was built during the reigns of King Felipe II and his son King Felipe III, at the turn of the 17th century, when it was deemed that Plaza de la Villa, the former city square, had become too small for the city's growing population (Plaza de la Villa still exists, it is located nearby on Calle Mayor). Plaza Mayor served different puposes: on top of housing the city's public market, royal and religious celebrations were held in the square, as well as bullfights and public executions.
Today, public executions and bullfights have given way to street performers and all sorts of entertainment, ranging from Mexican mariachis to chair massages. Plaza Mayor is also home to the tourist office (at No. 27 Plaza Mayor), different souvenir shops, and several restaurants where tourists gather to enjoy a meal or a drink out on the sunny patios. Those interested in architecture won't want to miss the Panaderia, the oldest building (1590) of the Plaza Mayor. Out of the nine doors leading to the plaza, the most famous one is called the "Arco de Cuchilleros" and it leads down to La Latina.
In 1560 King Philip II asked Juan de Herrera, architect of the Escorial, to turn the market place into a real square. The square nowadays has many cafes, and during the day has many street entertainers. It could be said is the centre of Madrid.
Pretty nice wide space to chill out. Still, it's a little touristy with restaurants skirting the fringe of the plaza catering to visitors. Many philatelic shops concentrated there but the prices were way too inflated for my preference.
The plaza is architecturally interesting as one of it's internal facade is decorated with mosaics forming a picture of a lady (if I don't remember wrongly). A stone's throw away from Puerta del Sol, it is also a quieter place where you could calm yourself after struggling through the thronging crowd of Sol metro.
Located in the center of the Plaza Mayor is a bronze statue of King Phillip III. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells as you sit in one of the many tascas lining the square. Depending on the time of day, the square can be very crowded so if you're like me and enjoy taking photos of architecture, swing by early in the morning, have some chocolate con churros and take your photos.
Huge plaza located almost in the centre of Madrid, can be a little difficult to find as the entrances are more like alley ways rather than a grand boulevards more befitting the importance of the Plaza to Madrid.
The plaza has been the scene of public executions, crowning ceremonies, bullfights, inquisition trials and fiestas for almost half a millieum. Now-a-days it is more than a bull fight to grab a table at one of the better bars that line the huge square and you may face an inquisition if you jump the queue. Oh they still have fiestas in the square.
The plaza is ringed by magnificent 3 story buildings which are all almost identical. In the centre of the plaza is an equestrian statue of King Felipe 111 and the plaza is a hive of activity of buskers, outdoor cafes, locals and off course tourists. Suggest you be very careful of pickpocketers who also frequent the plaza.
If you're up early, it's cold and most places aren't yet open I can't recommend this enough!! Small bars serving bocadillos de calamares (squid sandwich) to all manner of locals...setting off for work, just finished a night shift, students, or like us, travellers who had hours to kill before our bus left for Salamanca.
I was very dubious about trying this specialty, especially for breakfast, but it was filling and went down well with a beer!
So many alleys get ir or get out from Plaza Mayor. I spent so many time strolling around looking for pictures and belive me its awesome.. great sunlight for pictures lovers and super buildings and streets !!
This is one of the several entrances to that huge square.. really really nice and full of people on weekends.. all sort of people trading with stamps, old coins or any other stuff ... bar terraces, restaurants.. its the local lively atmosphere of Madrid and Spain as extension