Plaza Mayor
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Plaza Mayor

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Plaza Mayor, Madrid, 28012, Spain
Plaza Mayor in Madrid
Miquel Gonzalez

Begun under the reign of King Felipe II after he established Madrid as the capital of his empire, the Plaza Mayor evolved over the next few centuries to its present and rather impressive form. Given that the vast plaza is surrounded by a jumble of tiny, narrow streets in Madrid's oldest neighbhorhoods, stepping into its vastness is all the more breathtaking—just the effect one wants in a space conceived as backdrop for royal processions, bullfights, and the odd public execution. Today it is the site of several important fairs, weekly or seasonal markets, and the occasional concert. Most of the restaurants lining its perimeter are rather touristy affairs, but it's worth taking a seat to sip a coffee or beer and soak up the atmosphere before heading on to other sites and pursuits.

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