The Plaza Mayor was built during the Habsburg period and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain. It is located only a few Spanish blocks away from another famous plaza, the Puerta del Sol. The Plaza Mayor is rectangular in shape and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings having 237 balconies facing the Plaza. It has a total of nine entranceways.
Perhaps the best known plaza in Madrid, this impressive square is now one of the main stops on any tourist visit. Originally built outside the city walls, this enclosed square has played host to bullfights, markets, symphonies, tournaments and executions. Today it is ringed with tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. The statue of Philip III sits in the middle across from the Casa de la Panadería, a beautifully painted building with two towers on the north side of the square which once served as the headquarters of the bakers’ guild and now houses a tourist information office. Access to the square is via one of the many arcades which connect to the surrounding pedestrian streets.
The origins of the Plaza go back to 1576 when Philip II asked Juan de Herrera, a renowned Classical architect, to discuss a plan to remodel the busy and chaotic area of the old Plaza del Arrabal. Juan de Herrera was the artist who designed the first project in 1560, but construction did not start until 1617, during Philip III’s reign. The king asked Juan Gómez de Mora to continue with the project, and he finished the porticoes in 1619. Nevertheless, the Plaza Mayor as we know it today is the work of the architect Juan de Villanueva who was given the glorious, albeit difficult task of its reconstruction in 1790 after a series of enormous fires.