5 secrets about Plaza Mayor in Madrid

1) Lampposts

Engraved in four lampposts are images that tell the history of Plaza Mayor. From 1609 until 1822, trials were held here, there was a huge fire in 1790, a farmers market, a bullfighting arena in the 1620s and a square where lavish masked gatherings were held in the 17th and 18th century.

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2) Bullfights

In 1619, Plaza Mayor hosted bullfights to commemorate important festivities. There were two bullfights every day: a morning session for the common people and an afternoon bullfight for the King and Nobles at double the price. The last bullfight took place in 1846 to celebrate the double wedding of Isabel II and her sister María Luisa.

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3) Hell Alley

This gloomy alley was given the rather majestic name of Victory Arch Street in 1854, but is more popularly known as Hell Alley (Callejón del Infierno) after huge flames came out at the other end in Calle Mayor, during the second, most brutal fire in Plaza Mayor in 1672.

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4) The Pulpit inside The Cutlers Arch

Inside the Cutlers Arch (Arco de Cuchilleros) there is a discrete stone platform with a semi-circular metallic handrail that played a surprisingly decisive role in the history of Madrid. It was here that the monk Antonio rallied a large crowd of Madrilenians against the French invader in 1808, starting the War of Independence.

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5) Lagoon

At the end of the 16th century, Plaza Mayor did not exist yet. The muddy lagoon of Lujan, which used to be here, was a popular duck hunting spot for kings and also served as a primitive farmers market on the outskirts of the village of Madrid. Felipe II designated Madrid as capital of the kingdom, transforming the lagoon into a square inspired by the Roman Forum.

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