Those hoping for a taste of 16th-century Madrid will find just what they’re looking for at the tranquil Plaza de la Villa, or Town Hall Square. An easy stroll from the lively Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa is a world away from the bustle of Madrid’s modern center – a small medieval square lined with some of Madrid’s oldest buildings.
The centerpiece of the ancient square is the Casa de la Villa, used until recently as Madrid’s Town Hall and once housing a 17th-century prison. Built in 1664 by architects Juan Gumez de Mora and Teodoro Adremans, the real highlights are hidden in the interiors – a series of 17th century frescoes by Antonio Palomino, a dramatic Goya painting and exquisite stained glass ceilings, showcased on guided tours of the building.
Strolling the square and its surrounding cobblestone lanes unearths a number of other significant buildings. The Casa de Cisneros is a gothic castle built in 1537 for Cardinal Cisneros’ nephew, now used as the primary residence of the Mayor of Madrid and the red brick Mudejar-style Torre de los Lujanes, is the oldest building in the plaza, used to imprison King Francis I of France in 1525. In the center of the plaza stands a statue of Don Alvaro de Bazan, the Spanish Admiral who planned the Spanish Armada attempt on England, perched on a platform of white marble.