Plaza Mayor of Madrid!!!

This is a must for me to update this older post in my blog. One of the emblematic squares of Madrid, the world comes here yes, but still a lot of flavor to find the little niches in and around it. I have been coming here since a child and as a teen came to eat in one of its institutions still open. Let me tell you a bit more of the Plaza Mayor of Madrid!!!

Coming to Madrid and not the Plaza Mayor you will not be able to tell much if not had visited it. I am coming to it and see its transformation since childhood and always amazes me to see it. It is part of the quinssentional Madrid. And  a great spot to look down on it or as we say, from Madrid to heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it every day. Best to walk but if far than use public transports taking you here from many sites in Madrid. The more popular are by metro lines 1,2, and 3 at Sol and even better by bus as above you see more are the lines  17 ,18,23,31,35, and 65.

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I have written bits on it , more on the touristic side, will dwell on this post on the historical/personal side I like.

Located in the district of the Centro and in the neighborhood  of Sol, near the Puerta del Sol, the square is in the form of a rectangle of 129 by 94 meters. Fully pedestrianized, it is accessible by ten entrances, several of which connect it to Calle Mayor, in the north.  The Plaza Mayor, the center of it all rivaling the Puerta del Sol. Mayor is older and wonderfully decorated on its façades with a great equestrian statue of king Felipe III done in 1616 but place here since 1848. It dates from the 1580 until finished by 1619, when it was one of the limits of the city.

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When at the confluence of the roads (today Streets) of Toledo and Atocha, on the outskirts of the medieval village, was celebrated in this site, known as Plaza del Arrabal, the main market of the village, building at this time the arcaded  house , or Lonja, to regulate the trade in the square . Named Plaza de la Villa, it then houses the main municipal market and undergoes first transformations which aim to equip it with a hall or market. In 1580, King Felipe II ordered plans to redevelop it. The work begins from 1590 with the construction of the House of the bakery (Casa de la Panadería), to replace the old Hall. In 1617, Felipe III continued the project, which was completed two years later.

Between 1631 and 1790, the square is ravaged by three fires that impose its reconstruction every time. The last of these is the work of Juan de Villanueva, which was pursued by the architects Aguado and Moreno on his death. It was only at the completion of the project, in 1854, that the place took its present form, notably marked by lower buildings (three floors instead of five) and a series of arcades.  In 1848, the equestrian statue of king Felipe III, produced by Jean de Bologna and Pietro Tacca at the beginning of the 17C, was placed in the center.

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Originally known as Plaza de la Villa, it then takes the one of Plaza Mayor. In 1812, by decree, the most important squares in Spain were all renamed Plaza de la Constitucion in honor of the new constitution. The place thus bears this name until the restoration of king Fernando VII in 1814, when it became the Plaza Real, before becoming the Plaza de la Constitucion three times (1820-1823, 1833-1835 and 1840-1843). Renamed Plaza de la Républica in 1873, and then again in the Constitution after the restoration, it retained this last name until the beginning of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The proclamation of the Second Republic provokes a new change in favor of the Plaza de la Constitucion, but at the end of the Spanish Civil War it takes over the name we know today, as Plaza Mayor.

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Delimited by a set of granite arcades, the square is surrounded with three-stories apartment buildings and 237 balconies. Under the arcades, galleries house a set of traditional shops, as well as specialized shops. These are my favorites and long patronized them!

Casa de la Panaderia or House of the bakery ,first seat of the royal administration of weights and measures, it shelters from 1745 to 1774 the Royal Academy of Fine Arts San Fernando, then until 1871 the Royal Academy of History. Since then it has been hosting various municipal services.  After the second fire suffered by the square, in 1672, the Casa de la Panaderia  is redecorated and adorned with frescoes designed by Claudio Coello and José Jiménez Donoso. In 1988, the municipality organized a competition to modify these frescoes. Mythological figures (Cybele, Proserpine, Bacchus, Cupid, etc.) and imaginaries are then carried out. The last of the performances in the Plaza Mayor, carried out in 1992, consisted of the mural decoration, work of Carlos Franco, of the Casa de la Panaderia, representing mythological characters like the goddess Cibeles. The tourist office of the city is also on the square, in the famous Casa de la Panaderia!

In the centered upper part of the Casa de la Panaderia  is carved in stone a blazon with the weapons of king Carlos II. Given the absence of Portugal’s weapons, it can be deduced that the shield was styled at a later date than 1668, when the Spanish Crown recognized the independence of Portugal, which was de facto from 1640. The shield is composed of the arms of Castilla and León , in the first quadrant; the arms of Aragon and Sicily, in the second; the weapons of Austria and modern Burgundy, in the third; those of ancient Burgundy and Brabant, in the fourth, those of Flanders and Tyrol in the escutcheon below and the symbol of Granada in the center of the Shield .

Casa de la Carniceria or house of the butchers located on the south side, it is originally built on an unknown date. After the fire of 1631, it is rebuilt on the model of the Casa de la Panaderia or house of the bakery. It owes its name to the fact that it first served as a general store for meat.

Arcos de Cuchilleros or Arch of Cutlers located at the southwest corner, it is the work of Juan de Villanueva, who designs it with an important difference in level in order to connect it to the edge of the square. It owes its name to the old calle de Cuchilleros, a corporation that provided the butchers of the market square. Below the staircase there are many typical restaurants. The Arcos de Cuchilleros is perhaps the most famous of the ten accesses of the Plaza Mayor  ( like Calle 7 de Julio, Arco de Triunfo, and Felipe III to the north; Sal, Zaragoza and Gerona to the east; Botoneras, Toledo and Cuchilleros to the south (the official name of this access is Calle de la Escalerilla de Piedra (ladder of stone); and Ciudad Rodrigo to the west, and located in the southwest corner of the square:Plaza Mayor. There is another entry by the left of the Casa de la Carniceria  that has no exit to the square, and another arch on the left of the facade smaller that also has no exit to the square. This is my most memorable part of the square.

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The square is one of the most active centers of the 17C Madrid. Shows of all kinds are held there such as bullfights, trials of the Inquisition, lumberjacks, etc. The crowd attends these public acts from the balconies overlooking it.  Nowadays it is an indispensable site of Madrid tourism and one of the emblems of the capital. Summer and end of year holidays are the most lively times.  And it was time for the anniversary, happy birthday Plaza Mayor! (by now 403 yrs old)  Plaza Mayor celebrated as the beating heart of Madrid. The exhibit showed how the square has taken on the character of each new era in Spanish history. Large portion of the second half of the exhibit, which shows Plaza Mayor’s metamorphosis from 1843 to 2018, is devoted to the photographs of Martín Santos Yubero. With good reason, Santos Yubero was renowned for his documentary coverage of Madrid, which spanned the better part of the 20C. The History Museum does tourists and locals a favor with its detailed account of one of the capital’s main thoroughfares. Just as Madrid has become a center for government, art, nightlife and football, Plaza Mayor is all at once,market, park, cafe and stage. Don’t let the pricey drinks fool you: underneath all the gaudiness lie 400 years of la vida Madrileña (Madrilene lives). The history museum from the Madrid tourist officehttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/museo-de-historia

One of the favorite of mine for year is the store La Favorita for its hats, could not leave there without fitting one for my paternal grandfather an avid hat wearer and he love it when I came back with one lol! Another favorite that came years later with what is now my wife is Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas resto in calle Cuchilleros just past the Arco de Cuchicheros arch. This is a typical Castilian restaurant a bit overrun over the years with tourists but still hanging on to the past; my first formal restaurant visit in Madrid in 1971! (see post). A favorite for hats, umbrellas , caps etc is Casa Yustas another legendary store in the square. There is a great Christmas market there for several years now, and the adjoining streets of Toledo, Mayor, and Atocha are full of shops and restos to last a lifetime tastings.And to eat in the square, or Plaza Mayor, you have the famous Museo del Jamon there ,super .And the Cerveceria Plaza Mayor or brasserie restaurant wonderful.

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip to the Plaza Mayor are:

The Madrid tourist office on the Plaza Mayorhttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/plaza-mayor-madrid

The Comunidad de Madrid tourist office on the Plaza Mayor: https://turismomadrid.es/es/descubre/madrid/de-inter%C3%A9s/5089-plaza-mayor.html

There you go folks, now you are all set to visit this wonderful old square ,only in time as it is always young and vibrant, the heartbeat of Madrid 17C to 21C ; the Plaza Mayor!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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5 Comments to “Plaza Mayor of Madrid!!!”

  1. Great history.
    Which is your favourite Plaza Mayor in Spain?

    Liked by 1 person

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