Jan 30, 2017

The Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Agencia EFE

Plaza Mayor of Madrid, in the center of the capital, has more than four centuries of history. Currently it’s an important tourist spot where festivals and concerts are organized and has many restaurant, commerce, gift shops, numismatics and stamp collecting business under the arcades.

The Plaza Mayor and its history
Plaza Mayor in Madrid rises from the 16th Century from the terrace that left the Luján Lagoon, that after being drained it was called Plaza del Arrabal placed outside the city. This rectangular open space with main square functions is in the urban center of the so called Madrid de los Austrias. The building of the square was first thought by Spanish king Phillip II and took place by Phillip III and Charles II. It’s 12.000 square meters were used as a provisions market during the week, and royal celebrations and religious acts in the 18th century. Sometimes Autos-da-Fe and public executions took place. In the 19th century it hands over its prominence to the Puerta del Sol and in the 20th to the Gran Vía.

There was bullfighting ever since it was build , in 1619. The inauguration bullfighting was on July the 3rd 1619 with rejoneador Gonzalo Bustos de Lara and bullfighter Juan Moreno. The last bullfighting took place on October the 18th 1846.

The square was decorated as a theatre for the Autos-da-Fe. In 1624 the first Auto-da-Fe took place in the square. After the fire of 1632, only two Autos-da-Fe were celebrated in the Plaza Mayor. Autos-da-Fe were very popular and sometimes the assistants would be in the square days before so they could place themselves in the best places to observe the show.

Painting representing the procession of King Philip III on the Plaza Mayor (1618)

Until the Spanish Civil War, the square had a park with trees, parterres and fountains

A group of men were photographed on the remains of the statue of Felipe III, located in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid and shot down in the incidents that arose after the proclamation of the Second Republic.

Competition of posters under the slogan “Tribute to the militias”, organized with the purpose of serving as enlistment propaganda for voluntaries in the antifascist militias. The works are displayed in the arcades of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and among the selected artists there are authors like Bardasano, Puyol, Bartolozzi, among others, during the Spanish Civil War.

Banner with the famous slogan "No pasarán" (They will not), placed in the street of Toledo, near the Plaza Mayor

Army men unload clothes from a truck in the Plaza Mayor during the Spanish Civil War.

Appearance of the Plaza Mayor during the war.

A group of Moroccan soldiers rest under the arcades of the Plaza Mayor after the entry of the national troops in the city, during the Spanish Civil War.

Display for twelve days of the census lists of the adult dwellers in the Plaza Mayor, that will be used for the referendum about the Spanish Law of Succession (7/6/1947).

In the surroundings of the plaza there was always lots of taverns and tablaos, like the renown tavern of Las Rejas.

Plaza Mayor is currently an important touristic spot were festivals and concerts are organized. If in the center the bar and cafeteria terraces are plaenty, under the arcades there are restaurant businesses, gift shops and numismatic and stamp collecting businesses.

The Arco de Cuchilleros is one of the arched exits of the square and it’s southwest corner leads to one of the most famous tapas areas, like the Cava Baja
Near Arco de Cuchilleros is Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas, nowadays a restaurant very popular among tourists. It used to be a cloth shop and in it’s backroom, says the legend, this thief from Madrid (1804-1837) planned his robberies.

Architecture in the Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor in Madrid is an example of the Castilian urbanism architecture of the Baroque. It’s structure around the four sides to form a enclosed rectangle –of 129 meters long per 94 wide- that is flanked by series of arches that cover some attractive arcades. On it’s sides are raised buildings that can be used for administrative, cultural or even housing purposes. The whole set is enrichened with ten access points, six of which have their own large arches, that enliven this recreation part of the city. It’s beautiful architectonic balance has served as an example to other similar squares in cities both in Spain and in America. Of it’s many buildings the Casa de la Panadería, the Casa de la Carnicería and the Arco de Cuchilleros are particularly noticeable. In middle of the square there is an equestrian statue of Phillip III.

An aerial view of the Plaza Mayor square in Madrid. Cars parked there at that time.

View of the Arco de Cuchilleros that communicates Ribera de Curtidores Street with Plaza Mayor.

View of the slope of Arco de Cuchilleros that communicates Plaza Mayor with Ribera de Curtidores Street.

Gerona Street, received in olden days the names of Vidirieras, Santa Cruz, Portales de Santa Cruz and Portales de la Seda. From 1835, it’s called Gerona in memory of the heroism with which this city defended itself during the war of independence from the French.

Among the many uses the Plaza Mayor had is the one of parking lot in the past century 60s.

A night view of the Plaza Mayor square in Madrid. The bronze statue of King Felipe III was erected by Italian sculptors John of Bologna and Pietro Tacca in 1616.


Placed in the center of the square is the equestrian statue of Phillip III. It’s a gift to the Spanish king by the Duke of Florence, Cosme de Médicis. The monument represents king Phillip III on horse. The statue was made in Florence by the sculptors Juan Bolonia and Pedro Tacca in bronze. Ever since then, the statue of Phillip III has dominated the Plaza Mayor and was only put away in 1873, when the First Republic and was kept hidden until the restoration of Alfonso XII ending year 1874. It happened a second time in 1931 when the Second Republic was proclaimed.

A group of people walk under the arcades of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

To the right view of the façade of the Casa de la Panadería, around which was built the square set that forms the Plaza Mayor built completely in 1617, by order of Felipe III.

Withdrawal of the equestrian statue of Felipe III in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, that will be placed in the municipal storage while the underground parking works go on.

Shooting of the film "Dance of Spain" in the Arco de Cuchilleros, near Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

Shield of the Plaza Mayor, placed in the main façade of the Casa de la Panadería, around which was built the square set that forms the Plaza Mayor.


The Plaza Mayor in Madrid wasn’t always called like that. Through it’s history. So it was the Constitution Square during the liberalism, the Royal Square with the monarchic restauration and the Republic Square during that time of Spanish history.

Mural in the Casa de la Panadería in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

Crown of Carlos II in the top of the Casa de la Panadería of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

Plaza Mayor, epicenter of the life in Madrid
Plaza Mayor in Madrid has been from it’s origin the epicenter of life in Madrid. In the past it was main market of the city, where merchants sold their goods. Esparto workers, knife makers and other guilds went there daily. It was and keeps being a space for many public events. The Plaza reinvents itself with each season of the year. In spring its full terraces and recreation; in summer it’s a place for meeting and walking at sunset;: in fall its full of music and hustle and bustle in winter it’s the scenery of one of the most important Christmas markets of the country. And always, among the genuine people of Madrid, its that spot for those who love squid sandwiches, a delicacy made in Madrid.

Christmas items stand in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. (Undated photograph, 1930s)

Friction drums sellers in one of the Christmas items stands in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, with the equestrian statue of Felipe III.

Traditional procession of Saint Isidore the Laborer, patron saint of the capital, reaches the Plaza Mayor after its traditional itinerary by the center streets on occasion of his festivity.

Women with botijos offer water in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

Sale of roasted chestnuts in the arcades of the Plaza Mayor.

Famous Catalonian choir group Coros Clavé, play some of the pieces of their repertoire, in the concert given today in the Plaza Mayor, among the program on occasion of Saint Isidore festivities.

In the Plaza Mayor, the Municipal Guard, gigantes y cabezudos and the many assistants listened to the announcement of the beginning of the Madrid festivities. This year the town crier was Federico Romero, author of many zarzuelas and reporter from the city of Madrid.

Dozens of people of Madrid walked by, this Holy Friday, the traditional procession of the Holy Burial from the church of Santa Cruz through the center of the capital. In the image the devotees carry the Paso under the arch of Ciudad Rodrigo in Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

A moment of the procession of the Divine Prisoner in it’s entry in the Plaza Mayor that, today Holy Friday, has gone through the streets of the capital.

The tunos of the Business Faculty of the Alcala de Henares University walk though, dancing and singing, Plaza Mayor of Madrid, on occasion of the acts organized by the town hall of Madrid on occasion of the Saint Isidore Festivities.

Backpacker tourists eat some sandwiches in a terrace in the Plaza Mayor, in a break from their visit to the Spanish capital.

A couple, dressed with the typical dress that Goya depicted, crush grapes during the celebration of the VII Grape Harvest Fair of the Community of Madrid, that took place this noon in the Plaza Mayor.

Many businesses are around the Plaza Mayor. El Gato Negro, a century old by the weight wool shop besides the Calle de la Sal, it’s one of the most traditional.

A group of "chulapos" pose in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, where all day long several acts are celebrated on occasion of the Festivity of Saint Isidore, patron saint of Madrid.

Coin stand on the Plaza Mayor of Madrid.

A mime smokes a cigar during a break in his work in the Plaza Mayor with an organ grinder, who also earns a living though in a more traditional way.

Opening act with light and sound on occasion of the event of Opportunities for the World “Madrid 2006-2007”, that took place this night in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

In the arcades of the Plaza Mayor many stores sell souvenirs for tourists, many of which are related with the national festivity.

Toledo Street and the Nuestra Señora del Buen Consejo Church, seen from one of the nine doors of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

Members of the Spanish rhythmic gymnastics team, bronze in the European championship that took place recently in Bakú, do an exhibition in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, in joint initiative with the Community of Madrid, the “Carnet Joven” and the Sports Association.

Appearance of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid this afternoon where many people have come during the Constitution long weekend, to buy their Christmas gifts.

Agencia EFE
Credits: Story

Agencia EFE S.A.U.

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