Madrid: the Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is one of the central plazas in Madrid. It’s triangular in shape, and is surrounding by 3-storey apartment buildings. (Trivial Pursuit hint: there are 237 balconies facing the plaza!) Small shops — some traditional and some tourist — surround the ground floor.
The plaza was first conceived in 1589 by Philip II, but wasn’t completed until 1619. Unfortunately it was then destroyed in a series of fires, and was finally reconstructed in 1790 to appear as it does today. Most of the buildings are a red-ochre color, with uniform windows and shutters.
The plaza has been used for many purposes, including political rallies, football games, bullfights, and public executions. (The famous auto da fe during the inquisition was held here — send in the nuns!) UPDATE: Alex says he’ll give £20 to the person who can identify that reference!)
I was not prepared for how inclusive the square felt; although there are 9 entrances, you feel very enclosed and secure. Also, I wasn’t sure how the proportions of the square (VERY big) would stack up against the relatively short surrounding buildings (3 storeys) … but the proportions are balanced nicely. There aren’t really any super-tall buildings in Madrid, and these were no exception.
The plaza is a HUGE tourist attraction, and pretty much everyone was snapping pictures and pulling funny poses in front of the equestrian statue of Philip II.
There were also a lot of street performers and buskers, some of whom deserved a few Euros! One gentleman had mounted a set of crystal glasses on a wooden board, and had filled each glass with water. These were “tuned”, and he was playing complex pieces, including the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker!
One wall of the plaza had a decorated wall, with naked figures and bright colors. I especially liked this feature — it was so vibrant and colorful!
I wish we’d had been able to spend a little more time at the Plaza Mayor. It’s one of the top sights in Madrid, and you can easily spend a whole morning just sipping coffee and people watching.