The Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid’s best-known public places. Its cobbled courtyard is surrounded by stylish restaurants, boutiques, bars and cafés. It was a chaotic market back in the 16th century until King Felipe II commissioned a proper public square. The plaza was completed in 1619 under the supervision of architect Juan Gómez de Mora, but would burn down three times before the present version was constructed in 1790.
Walk through the plaza, soak up the atmosphere and admire the elegant architecture. Look up to see some of Madrid’s most expensive residential real estate or turn your eyes to the painted façade of the Casa de la Panaderia. It was once the headquarters of the Bakers’ Guild, but today houses a tourist information center. Head to the middle of the plaza to see a statue of King Felipe III on horseback created by Giambologna and Pietro Tacca. It was erected in 1616 but moved to the plaza during renovations in the 19th century.
Continue exploring to see artists selling their work, street performers and musicians. The plaza is still used for public celebrations and other festivities, so be sure to check local event guides to see what is scheduled during your visit. Wander along the walkways and duck into boutiques or grab a coffee and a bite to eat. There are several restaurants and cafés around the plaza, but take note that prices can be high.
Walk through one of nine gateways and admire the rest of Madrid’s Los Austrias quarter. The Plaza Mayor is in the center of the city and accessible from other major destinations including the Casa del Ayuntamiento and Royal Palace. The closest metro stations are Ópera and Puerta del Sol. You can visit the plaza at all hours of the day and night, and most restaurants stay open quite late.