Plaza Mayor, Madrid

4 out of 5 stars 142 Reviews

Main square of Madrid

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    Madrid's most famous historic square

    by Jefie Updated May 17, 2008

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    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.

    People hanging out at the Plaza Mayor Casa de la Panaderia, in Plaza Mayor Arco de Cuchilleros, leading up to Plaza Mayor Plaza de la Villa, Madrid's former public square
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    Historic Plaza Mayor

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 15, 2009

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    Shortly after leaving the Puerta del Sol plaza and its bustling activity related to the Three Kings festivities, we soon found ourselves in the amazing four-sided courtyard of Plaza Mayor. Things were also happening there with buskers and other forms of entertainment starting to take place, all probably part of the same festival.

    However, in our case we were more interested in taking in this impressive piece of architecture with its 237 balconies and nine entrance portals, originally inaugurated in 1620 under the rule of King Philip III. Fires sweeping through cities were relatively common in the following eras, so it was necessary to reconstruct Plaza Mayor in its present form by 1790. The surrounding rooms are now used for residential purposes, along with traditional old shops around its lower level.

    In the central part of the plaza is a bronze statue of King Philip III, the work of two Italian sculptors and completed in 1616 (2nd photo). It was not moved to Plaza Mayor until 1848, but is still a fine looking piece of work. After spending some time admiring the architecture and watching a few of the activities, we continued our walk through more quaint streets as we headed toward nearby Plaza de la Villa, another historic location that is now the seat of Madrid's elected officials.

    Most recent version (1790) of Plaza Mayor Statue of King Philip III, dating from 1616
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  • smschley's Profile Photo

    Plaza Mayor

    by smschley Written Aug 16, 2004

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    The Plaza Mayor, built in 1619 by Philip III, is a vast, cobbled, traffic-free chunk of 17th-century Spain, with its centerpiece: a statue is of Philip III. There are nine arched gateways leading into this great square which was the hub of life in Renaissance Madrid. Each side of the square is uniform. Much Spanish history was lived in this center: bullfights, fires, royal pageantry, and the scene of "autos de fe", the public punishments imposed by the Inquisition. Philip V, Ferdinand VI and Charles IV were each proclaimed King there. Relief’s serving as seatback under the lampposts tells the story.

    During the Inquisition, many were tried here, paraded around the square with signs listing their many sins, and then burned. Some were slowly strangled with a garrote while holding a crucifix as a priest prayed. The square is painted a shade of burgundy, the color selected as the result of a city-wide vote. Three different colors were painted as samples on the walls of this square, and the city voted for its favorite.

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  • barbskie's Profile Photo

    Madrid's Main Square

    by barbskie Updated Feb 13, 2009

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    A beautiful and historic plaza, located not far from Puerta del Sol. There are many eye catching spots around the square, to name some are, the statue of Felipe III right at the center, the designs and drawings on the walls(mostly repainted according to the designs of Carlo Franco in 1992), the towers, cafes and restaurants under the arches. The square is mostly surrounded by a three-storey buildings with balconies looking out the area and the Casa de Panaderia at the north end has 4 storeys. Felipe II and his architect Juan de Hererra has originally planned the square. The inauguration took place during the reign of Felipe III in the 16th century.

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    Plaza for Coronations and Executions in Madrid

    by jumpingnorman Written Jan 25, 2009

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    How can you not write a tip about this? I just got a map and walked off towards this major plaza which since the early 17th century has been the site of coronations, executions (you can still see the faces of the crowd --- can you imagine it?), Spanish Inquisition trials and even bullfights...But now, it has a lot of student hangouts, cafe's and restaurants, souvenir shops peripherally...and so on (tapa bars!!!).

    Just sit by one of the benches and just observe every day tourist life in Madrid. The colorful frescoes are wonderful at the Casa de La Panaderia (Bakery) and you can marvel at the Felipe III equestrian statue...

    Definitely a place you should not and could not miss when in Madrid!

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    Plaza Mayor

    by nhcram Updated Feb 13, 2005

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    Like many ctities Madrid has it's special places and the Plaza Mayor has to be one of them. It is traffic free and can hold up to 50,000 at any one time. The bars and restaurants around the square make a great place to people watch and rest those tired feet. The casa de la Panaderia on the north side dates from 1590 but the murals were added much later. On Sunday mornings it is a tradition for stamp collectors to fill the arcades that surround the Plaza and nowadays anything that can be collected can be traded here.

    Plaza Mayor

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  • fachd's Profile Photo

    Old Madrid Plaza Mayor

    by fachd Updated May 29, 2009

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    Wondering around Madrid we stumbled upon a large rectangular cobbled stoned courtyard. Surrounded by red buildings and decorated with colourful murals. French doors with white shutters and wrought iron, framed the balconies beautifully. Twin towers with centered clocks dominated both ends of Plaza Mayor. An impressive statue of PhillipII on horse back sat in the middle of the square.

    There were tourists taking photos, buskers performing, street artist, police chatting, and people sitting drinking coffee at many of the shops. You'll find antique shops, bars and restaurants to cater tourist. The Plaza Mayor is not far from Puerta del Sol.

    It was built during (Phillip II) the Habsburg period. It was the work and designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva. In the old days the square was used for executions, inquisition trials, bullfights and tournaments. Today the Plaza is a place where tourist congregates, free concert, eating place and residential apartments.

    Busker as Charlie Chaplain CharlesII
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    Plaza Mayor de Madrid

    by GentleSpirit Updated May 1, 2013

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    The Plaza Mayor is Madrid's main plaza, a huge enclosed square that over time has seen a variety of uses as varied as executions and bullfights.

    In the center is the equestrian statue of Phillip III, which was from 1616 but was not actually installed permanently until 1848. It should be noted that Phillip III is not generally seen as a great monarch, presiding over increasing corruption and out of control spending that caused the economic decline of the Spanish Empire. The third of Spain's Hapsburg Kings, you can really notice the increasingly exaggerated long jaw of the Spanish Hapsburgs, even more evident in Phillip IV. This was caused more than anything else by the tendency of the Spanish Hapsburgs to marry cousins.

    The main facade is the former Casa de la Panaderia (Bakery House) was owned by the Bakers Guild. That function has long since ceased after the plaza has been burned down and rebuilt several times. Today it serves as the headquarters of the Madrid Tourist Board.

    warning- when sitting at the cafes on the Plaza Mayor be very mindful of your belongings, pickpockets are very active here.

    Plaza Mayor Casa de la Panaderia
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  • ruki's Profile Photo

    Plaza Mayor

    by ruki Written Oct 16, 2009

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    Just a few minutes walk from the Puerta del Sol you will be on the great and big square Plaza Mayor. It is the main plaza in Madrid very popular with tourists and locals. In the past it was a market place. At the center is a bronze Statue of King Philips III. For centuries the Plaza Mayor has been the center of festivities, bull fights, royal coronations and executions. Today there it is using for lot of public celebrations.

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  • suvanki's Profile Photo

    Plaza Mayor

    by suvanki Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    Plaza Mayor, or Major Square is one of Madrids popular sights. This square is surrounded by arcaded buildings, which house bars, cafes and restaurants.

    The centre of the square is dominated by a large equestrian statue of Felippe 111 (Philip 3rd), who planned this area in the 17th century.

    Originally the site of a fairground, the plaza was designed by Juan Gomez de Mora. The plaza has undergone many renovations and re buildings, mainly as a result of at least 3 fires.

    Through the centuries the square has been used for bull fights, markets, public gatherings, and even public executions.

    Today there are still markets held - During my 1st visit, stalls were being erected for what looked like a Christmas market. There were a few people gathered around eating bocadilloes or drinking coffee from disposable cartons under the ornate lampstands. Apparently these depict scenes from the squares past history.

    The ornate frescoes adorning the facade of the Casa de la Panaderia were added as recently as the late 20th Century.

    Leading off the square are many narrow streets with interesting shop fronts. The bars and cafes around the square are worth visiting to try a tasty snack such as squid sandwiches (Bocadillo Calamari)- a speciality of this area.

    Apparently, the square is a favourite haunt of pick-pockets and scammers- so as always, keep your valuables safely hidden, and be aware of people getting too close, causing diversions etc. As a solo female, I felt completely safe at both of my visits here though.

    The Tourist Information Office in the Square has daily guided walks around various sights. I joined one for a few hours, which was very interesting. (tip to follow later)

    Plaza Mayor Madrid Plaza Mayor Madrid Plaza Mayor Madrid
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  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo

    Casa de la Panaderia

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 26, 2006

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    In XVI - XVIII centuries this square was the city centre. There was a market, bullfights were arranged here. Verdicts of inquisition were declared here. Public executions were arranged at this square. Fernando VI, Carlos IV, Phillip V were declared by kings there. Nine streets adjoin to the square. Entrances on the square are issued by arches.
    Casa de la Panaderia - "bakery" is the main and most beautiful building on Plaza Mayor. It is situated in the northern part of the square. The bakery was settled down on a ground floor. Members of royal family usually observed of events which occured below on the square from a balcony of the second floor. Motley frescos decorate walls of a building.
    There is Casa de la Carniceria "butcher's shop" on the opposite side of the square.

    Madrid - Plaza Mayor - Casa de la Panaderia
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  • ruki's Profile Photo

    Casa de la Panaderia

    by ruki Written Oct 16, 2009

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    It is the most poplar building in Plaza Mayor. Casa de la Panaderia is the seat of the powerful bakers guilt. It was finished as early as 1590, before the square was even laid out. Its current design with symmetric towers dates from 1790. But most interesting for me on the building are colorful murals which are added in 1992.

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  • TooTallFinn24's Profile Photo

    Plaza Mayor

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Jul 22, 2012

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    Plaza Mayor is an elegant central square in Madrid. Its origins date back as far as 1576 when King Phillip asked Juan de Herrera an architect to redesign the Plaza del Araabal. Progress on the new square went very slowly and it wasn't til 1617 that construction took place. The porticoes were finished in 1630. According to Wikipedia the square as we know it today was actually designed by Juan de Villanueva who was called in to rebuild the square after a series of large fires.

    The square has served many purposes over the years including a place for major political events, soccer games, markets and a variety of performers. During the Spanish Inquisition the park was used as a place for public executions.

    The square is also the site of many demonstrations due to it central location. While there were no demonstrations occurring when we were there we did notice the existence of many police and a police station located right on the square. What was interesting to us was all of the enterprising performers showing off and trying to earn a living. Some of them were fascinating while others such as a man dressed in a clown suit with a high pitched voice were very annoying.

    Performers in Plaza Mayor Performers in Plaza Mayor Plaza Mayor Arched

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  • sue_stone's Profile Photo

    Grand Square

    by sue_stone Written Feb 17, 2004

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    Plaza Mayor is the main square in Madrid. It is surrounded by grand old buildings, and lined with cafe's.

    It is a great place to dine alfresco and watch the world go by. It is definitely not the cheapest place to eat, but worth it!

    Plaza Mayor
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  • von.otter's Profile Photo

    A Historic Square

    by von.otter Updated Jul 28, 2009

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    “God, who has given me so many Kingdoms to govern, has not given me a son fit to govern them.”
    — Felipe II (1527-1598)

    Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s original town square. Today, it still forms the center of a number of religious and cultural events. Completely enclosed on all four sides, the walls of the five storey apartments form a giant canvas on which various city symbols and scenes have been painted. Today, Madrid’s main square is almost entirely given over to the tourist industry, with numerous tapas bars and restaurants in the alcoves, underneath the arches or sprawling out into the square. Warning: the restaurants charge tourist prices. One of the restaurants, Sabrino de Botin, is officially recognized by the Guiness Book of Records as the world’s oldest, founded in 1725. During the Christmas season, in a practice that dates to 1860, vendors’ stands are set up in the square.

    Originally this area was known as Plaza del Arrabal, which was the meeting place for the town’s traders with those from Toledo, a larger city at the time. After Felipe II moved the government to Madrid in 1561, he ordered improvements to Madrid. By 1580 it was time for this square to have a makeover, but it took until 1590 before the building of one side of the plaza began; and it wasn’t until the reign of Felipe III (the unfit son that Felipe II laments about) that the order was given to enclose the square on all four sides.

    Between 1631 and 1790 three major fires devastated the Plaza. After the fires of 1631 and 1670, the plaza was rebuilt according to the original plan; however after the fire of 1790 the decision was made to reduce the height from five stories to its present form of three.

    Plaza Mayor has been used as a marketplace, as a bullfighting ring, and as a soccer stadium. Executions took place here as well, and depending on the form of execution, hanging, beheading, clubbing and stabbing, the stage would be located in a different area of the square. The Spanish Inquisition conducted the Pruebas de Fe (Test of faith), investigations and punishment, here. The Feast of San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, is also celebrated in the square.

    In tune with the political upheavals that have Spain’s fate through the centuries Plaza Mayor has been known, at one time or another, as Plaza de la constitucion, Constitution Square; Plaza Real, Royal Square; and Plaza de la Republica, Square of the Republic.

    Plaza Major, Madrid, December 2002 Plaza Major, Madrid, December 2002 Plaza Major, Madrid, December 2002 Plaza Major, Madrid, December 2002
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