The Plaza Mayor (English Main Square) was built during Philip III's reign (1598–1621) and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid, Spain. It is located only a few Spanish blocks away from another famous plaza, the Puerta del Sol.
The Plaza Mayor is rectangular in shape, measuring 129 m × 94 m (423 ft × 308 ft), and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings having 237 balconies facing the Plaza. It has a total of nine entrance ways. The Casa de la Panadería (Bakery House), serving municipal and cultural functions, dominates the Plaza Mayor.
The origins of the Plaza go back to 1577 when Philip II asked Juan de Herrera, a renowned Classical architect, to discuss a plan to remodel the busy and chaotic area of the old Plaza del Arrabal. Juan de Herrera was the artist who designed the first project in 1560 to remodel the old Plaza del Arrabal but construction did not start until 1617, during Philip III's reign. The king asked Juan Gómez de Mora to continue with the project, and he finished the porticoes in 1619. Nevertheless, the Plaza Mayor as we know it today is the work of the architect Juan de Villanueva who was given the glorious, albeit difficult task of its reconstruction in 1790 after a series of enormous fires. Giambologna's equestrian statue of Philip III dates to 1616, but it was not placed in the centre of the square until 1848.
The name of the plaza has changed over time. Originally it was called the "Plaza del Arrabal" but became known as the "Plaza Mayor".
In 1812, following a decree all the major plazas of Spain were renamed "Plaza de la Constitución", in honour of the Constitution of 1812. The plaza had this name until the restoration of the Borbón king in 1814 when it became known as the "Plaza Real". The plaza once again held the name "Plaza de la Constitución" in the periods from 1820 to 1823, 1833 to 1835, and 1840 to 1843.
In 1873, the name changed to "Plaza de la República", and then back to "Plaza de la Constitución" from the restoration of Alfonso XII in 1876 to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera in 1922. A proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic gave the plaza the name of "Plaza de la Constitución" until the end of the Spanish Civil War when the plaza was renamed the "Plaza Mayor", the name it bears to date.
The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events: markets, bullfights, football games, public executions, and, during the Spanish Inquisition, "autos de fe" against supposed heretics and the executions of those condemned to death. The Plaza Mayor also has a ring of old and traditional shops and cafes under its porticoes. Celebrations for San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, are also held here. The Plaza Mayor is now a major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists a year.
There is a bronze statue of King Philip III at the center of the square, created in 1616 by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca.