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Madrid Plaza Mayor

 
 

The Plaza Mayor is probably the most important architectural and historical landmark in Madrid.

The Plaza Mayor is probably the most important architectural and historical landmark in Madrid. This almost perfectly preserved, beautiful austere seventeenth-century arcaded square, was planned by king Philip II and the architect Juan Herrera as the public meeting place of the new capital: autos-da-fé (trials of faith) were held by the Inquisition here, kings were crowned, festivals and demonstrations staged, bulls fought and gossip spread. The more important of these events would be watched by royalty from the frescoed Casa Panadería, named after the bakery that it replaced, the colorful allegories of the frescos covering the facade date all the way back to...1992.

Today, the plaza still performs several public functions: in summer, it's an outdoor theatre and music stage; in autumn, a book fair... Just before Christmas it becomes a bazaar for festive decorations and religious regalia. Families take their children to see nativity scenes and madrileños of all ages buy wacky wigs sold around the plaza. The Christmas wigs have no religious or cultural significance -- Spaniards just seem to like them. There's also a tourist office right on the square --at the Casa de la Panadería- and numerous overpriced, touristy restaurants with outdoor seating perfect for people-watching.

Again at the calle Mayor, there is the Mercado de San Miguel a cute 1913 iron market.


 
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