Much of Madrid’s charm lies in its many plazas, or large squares that offer monuments, cafes and respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, each with its hidden treasures of its owns. With plazas in most of Madrid’s neighborhoods, it can be difficult to chose which of the dozens to visit. Here are my selects for the five best plazas you must see during a visit to Madrid.
Five Best Plazas in Madrid
5. Plaza de España
The Plaza de España marks the entrance to Madrid, as most traffic passes it to enter the city. Located next to many tourist sites, the plaza is a short walk from the Parque Oeste, Royal Palace and Gran Vía, a major shopping street.
The dominating figure of the plaza is a monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, playwright and author of Don Quixote, a work that still summons much national pride for Spaniards. The monument includes a statue of Cervantes looking down upon Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, characters from his famed work.
4. Plaza de Santa Ana
Situated in the center of Madrid, Plaza de Santa Ana is a short walk from Puerta del Sol, the main transportation hub of the city and Calle de Huertas. Located in the Barrio de las Letras, a neighborhood that was once home to many famous writers, the plaza’s monuments pay homage to Spanish authors, including Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
Though the monuments are nice to look at, what makes this plaza special is the many great cafes to grab some tapas or a drink.
Cerveceria Alemana is the oldest cerveceria in Madrid, serving world-class beer since 1904. With classic wood panels and bow-tie clad waiters, a stop here is a step back in time. This bar was even a favorite for Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Spain.
The Penthouse is a rooftop bar at ME Madrid, a Melià property in a historic building.
Be sure to dress your best for a drink at one of Madrid’s most posh establishments. The lounge bar offers stellar views of the city.
3. Plaza de Oriente
The most regal plaza in Madrid, Plaza de Oriente is situated between the Royal Palace and Opera. With gardens galour, fountains and plenty of benches for sitting, this plaza is a great place to relax after a walk through the city. You may even be serenaded by a street musician, and there is a playground for children.
The monuments here pay homage to Spanish royalty throughout history. The dominating monument is an equestrian statue of Felipe IV. Resurrected in 1640, this is the first statue to depict a horse galloping.
2. Plaza de Cibeles
Surrounded by stunning neo-classical marble architecture, the Plaza de Cibeles has become a symbol of Madrid and is often used by the tourism board and can be found on many a postcard.
Unlike the majority of Madrid’s plazas, this one is not a pedestrian zone and is in fact a major traffic thoroughfare.
The plaza is flanked by four buildings, the most notable being the Banco de España and the Palacio de Cibeles, known as the City Hall.
In the center of the plaza is a roundabout with a fountain of Cibeles. The Roman goddess of fertility sits atop a chariot pulled by two lions. This fountain is the adopted celebratory zone for the popular football team Real Madrid. Players and fans gather here to celebrate major victories in championship matches.
1. Plaza Mayor
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Plaza Mayor, the city’s most popular and historic plaza.
This once ancient marketplace was converted into a stage for royal ceremonies, bullfights and hangings by the Habsburg kings. Today more than 230 lucky balcony owners look down at the square from the three residential buildings that surround, with an uninhibited view of the myriad of tourists, street performers, cafes and shops.
In the center is a bronze statue of King Philip III, triumphantly riding atop a horse and proudly featured in thousands of photos.