Plaza Mayor is Madrid's most emblematic square, and this has a lot to do with its rich history and its overall grandeur. The square's origins date back to the late 1580s, and it has been used for many special events since it was finished in 1619. Past events include bullfights and the very controversial autos-de-fe, which were the trials and subsequent executions of heretics. These days, the Plaza Mayor hosts events of a more friendly nature from time to time. These events include small music and dance performances and celebrations for Madrid's patron saint. During the holiday season, enjoying some churros and chocolate while you peruse the goods at the temporary gift shops can be a pleasure, and regardless of the time of year, the square is an ideal place to meet up with friends or sit and enjoy some outdoor dining.
The original design for the Madrid's great Plaza Mayor came from the renowned Renaissance architect Juan de Herrera. In 1589, Herrera was asked by Philip II of Spain to remodel the old Plaza del Arrabal. Construction on the new plaza, or the Plaza Mayor, didn't actually start until 1617, however, and by this time, Philip III was in power. A new architect by the name of Juan Gomez de Mora was given the responsibility of finishing the project. Fires damaged the buildings on the square on more than one occasion over the years, and in 1790, architect Juan de Villanueva oversaw their reconstruction. The most renowned building on the square is known as the Casa de la Panaderia, or Bread House. Two angular towers rise up on both sides of the Casa de la Panaderia, and a series of murals adorn its intricate facade.
No visit to Madrid would be complete without enjoying some time in the Plaza Mayor. In fact, hanging out in this attractive plaza is one of the top things to do in Spain's capital city. At the base of the square's buildings are a number of shops and restaurants, and even if you aren't up for shopping or dining, the square can be a great place to just hang out and take it all in.
Thanks to the fact that the Plaza Mayor can be found in the heart of the city and close to the Plaza del Sol, it is an ideal meeting place, even if you aren't planning on lingering around. Seeing what the restaurants and shops have to offer is recommended on a visit, however, and if nothing else, you can check out the statue in the middle of the plaza before you leave. The Plaza Mayor Statue depicts Philip III on a horse and dates back to the early 1600s. Formerly found in the Casa de Campo, it was placed in the heart of the square in 1848.
The restaurants at Plaza Mayor Madrid are essentially cafes that serve up a variety of dishes and beverages. On warmer days, some of these restaurants set up tables and chairs on the square. Shops that can be found in this grand plaza sell all kinds of things, with souvenirs being in especially good supply. Maybe you'll grab some castanets or a bullfighting poster that has your name on it. Both the shops and the restaurants at Plaza Mayor Madrid are a little overpriced, but thanks to the grandeur of the plaza, they are popular nonetheless, particularly with tourists.
Unless it is cold outside or raining, Madrid's Plaza Mayor is likely to be full of life. Street performers tend to congregate here when the weather is nice, and the better ones often draw healthy crowds. It is understandable that many tourists have Plaza Mayor hotels in mind, as the square is such a fine place to spend some time as well as centrally located. Should you be one of these travelers, there are a bunch of hotels near the square that can serve your needs.
Two of the best Plaza Mayor hotels are the Hotel Plaza Mayor and the Petit Palace Mayor Plaza. Both offer a lot in the way of comfort and style, and their locations in the heart of Madrid's Old Town are simply divine. Their reasonable rates are also enticing. It's but a short walk to the shops and restaurants at Plaza Mayor Madrid when you stay at one of these two hotels, and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that the general area has to offer.
When looking for Plaza Mayor hotels, you don't have to limit yourself to the Hotel Plaza Mayor and the Petit Palace Mayor Plaza. There are some good hostels in the area for budget travelers, while those who prefer more in the way of style and comfort will find other hotels that give the Hotel Plaza Mayor and the Petit Palace Mayor Plaza a run for their money. The Hotel Opera isn't too far off, for example, and it offers a relatively upscale boutique lodging experience at a relatively good price. For those who are interested in staying at an elegant B&B near Madrid's most renowned square, then the Casa de Madrid will be a better fit. Hotels abound in this part of the city, so finding one that suits your taste and budget shouldn't be difficult.