Plaza Mayor in Madrid dates back to the 15th century when it was originally known as Plaza del Arrabal and was ostensibly used as the main market of the town. In 1561, the plaza was transferred to the city of Madrid and King Philip II commissioned architect Juan de Herrera to remodel the area.
Construction didn’t actually begin until Philip III’s reign in 1617 and it was then architect Juan Gómez de Mora who continued with the renovation, and it was finished two years later in 1619.
Plaza Mayor has suffered 3 major fires in its history, the first of these occurring in 1631. Juan Gómez de Mora took on the reconstructions of the plaza following this fire. The next fire occurred in 1670, and it was then up to architect Tomás Román to continue the reconstruction.
The third, and so far final fire took place in 1790 and destroyed around one-third of the square. Today, the Plaza Mayor’s architecture is credited to Juan de Villanueva who was in charge of reconstruction following the massive fire in 1790. Prior to this, the buildings that enclosed the square were five stories. Juan de Villanueva lowered the square’s surrounding buildings to three stories, closed the corners and created large entrances into the squares. After Juan de Villanueva’s death, the square was completed in 1854 by Antonio López Aguado and Custodio Moreno.
Plaza Mayor is rectangular in shape and highlights the uniformity of the architecture. It measures 129 metres x 94 metres (423 ft x 308 ft) and 237 balconies adorn the three-story residential buildings that face inward towards the Plaza. To enter or exit The Plaza Mayor, there are ten entrances to choose from with a total of nine gates. The entrances are: 7 de Julio, Arco de Triunfo and Felipe III to the North; Sal, Zaragoza and Gerona to the East; Botoneras, Toledo and Cuchilleros to the South; Ciudad Rodrigo to the West.
In the centre of the huge square stands a statue of Philip III on a horse, which was added in 1848.