Today this central square is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals, but Plaza Mayor’s history goes back to the early 17th century during King Felipe III's reign. The central statue is a nod to the king’s role in overseeing the project's completion. Forming the outer walls are a series of 3-story buildings with balconies overlooking the center.
Plaza Mayor has played host to a variety of festivities throughout history, including bull fights, executions during the Spanish Inquisition, and soccer matches. The most prominent of the buildings in the plaza is the Casa de la Panadería, or House of the Baker's Guild, which today serves municipal and cultural functions. There are also shops and eateries that occupy the ground level and provide refreshments for hungry and thirsty travelers admiring the square. The plaza is included on most Madrid city tours—including walking tours, biking tours, Segway tours, and food tours—alongside other popular attractions such as the Prado Museum, Royal Palace, Plaza de Oriente, and Plaza de España.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Plaza Mayor is a major landmark in Madrid and a must-see for first-time visitors.
- Visit the plaza as part of a small group or private city tour for a deeper understanding of its history.
- When exploring the area, remember to wear comfortable walking shoes.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get to Plaza Mayor on your own is to take the metro (Line 2) to Sol station.
When to Get There
While Plaza Mayor can get crowded, especially during peak summer season, the festive atmosphere is part of its appeal. The plaza is an excellent place to stop for a coffee or a drink in the afternoon, or for an al fresco dinner in the evening.
The Calamari Sandwich
Both Madrid and the restaurants surrounding Plaza Mayor are famous for calamari sandwiches: French bread stuffed with battered and golden-fried squid rings, often served with aioli and a wedge of lemon. Try it with “una caña” a small, ice-cold draft beer.