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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Plaza Mayor is the main public square of Madrid, Spain. This impressive arcade square is rectangular and completely symmetrical. Its architecture is uniform, which makes it a unique plaza in the Spanish capital – all other plazas are surrounded by buildings of various architectural styles.
The arcades that line the Plaza Mayor house restaurants and cafés, which are rather expensive. However, they still are fabulous places to have a beer and some tapas at night, or a coffee and churros con chocolate in the morning, while watching the world go by. The uniform buildings are all residential buildings and are three floors high. The square itself consists of patterned cobblestones, is free of traffic, and has a total of nine entranceways.
Now a peaceful tourist attraction, the Plaza Mayor has known its share of violence in the past. It used to be the place of public executions during the Spanish Inquisition , as well as a bullfighting rink. Other events that have taken place there include huge open-air markets, soccer games, and religious celebrations.
Formerly known as the “Plaza del Arrabal”, the “Plaza de la Constitucion” (several times), the “Plaza Real”, and the “Plaza de la Republica”, it was given its current name after the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
HistoryIn the Middle Ages, the area was a simple marketplace that was located outside of the city walls. It wasn’t until the reign of King Philip II that plans were made to develop it into an actual square. In the 1560s, the king commissioned the famed Classical architect, Juan de Herrera to redesign the chaotic and crowded marketplace, which was then known as “Plaza del Arrabal”. However, construction wouldn’t start until about fifty years later, in 1617, under the rule of King Philip III. The new and imposing square was finished by the architect, Juan Gomez de Mora, and inaugurated in 1619, just two years later. At the time, the square measured 384 feet by 295 feet and was surrounded by wooden buildings, some of which were up to six floors high.
Unfortunately, the square was destroyed three times within the following two centuries, in 1631, in 1672, and again in 1790. It was rebuilt each time. The square as it is today was the work of architect, Juan de Villanueva, who also designed the building that now houses the Prado Museum.
FeaturesThe present-day Plaza Mayor measures 423 feet in length and 308 feet in width. It surrounded by gorgeous uniform residential buildings, the homes of some of the more fortunate citizens of Madrid, that are three floors high and have more than 230 balconies that face the square. It is a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest and can be accessed through nine entrances.
Casa de la PanaderiaLocated on the northern side of the square, the four-floor Casa de la Panaderia is definitely the most prominent structure. It used to house the city’s powerful bakers’ guild and dates from 1590, at time before the Plaza Mayor was even constructed. The current design, however, dates from 1790, when the square was rebuilt after the last fire. It is a striking building with a colorful façade of frescoes.
King Philip III StatueAt the very center of the square stands the bronze equestrian Statue of King Philip III, created in 1616 by Giambologna and his apprentice, Pietro Tacca. The statue was first located at the Casa de Campo, but was moved to its current location in 1848.
FestivitiesThis meeting place has been the site of countless events since its creation. A bustling marketplace before it was developed, the Plaza Mayor has also been the location of bullfights, executions, royal coronations, and religious celebrations. Those historic events were often attended by a crowd of 50,000 people. Nowadays, it is still used for public ceremonies and celebrations, such as fun Christmas markets. It’s also an important commercial area.
Visiting Plaza MayorOne of the great highlights of Madrid, the square is absolutely worth visiting. The stunning uniform architecture is unique, while, especially on summer days, the square is filled with terraces of restaurants and cafés. It is a lively place, always filled with tourists and locals alike, but also with street performers and vendors. It’s a great place to people-watch.
How to Get ThereThe Plaza Mayor lies along the Calle Mayor in the very heart of Madrid. This major traffic artery runs from west to east through the city center and connects the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace Madrid with the Puerta del Sol before turning into the Calle de Alcala. The Puerta del Sol is where the nearest subway station is located, which is served by lines M1, M2, and M3. The square itself is easily reached on foot from anywhere in the city center.
Similar and Nearby LandmarksOther major public squares in the city are the Plaza de España, the Puerta del Sol, and the Plaza de Cibeles. Additional landmarks that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Madrid are the monumental Gran Via, the massive Royal Palace Madrid and the world-class Prado Museum.
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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Mar 04, 2015