Things to enjoy in La Plaza de Oriente
King Felipe IV statue
Nearly every single city tourist guide of Madrid includes this sculpture as one of the highlights near the Royal Palace. At the center of La Plaza an equestrian sculpture stands out. It is the statue of King Felipe IV. This statue dates back to the seventeenth century and it is considered one of the most important statues in Madrid.
This statue is important at least for one technical detail and anecdote: it is the first equestrian statue in which the horse rests only on the hind legs. This was a complex technical achievement at the time and to develop it, even the opinion of Galileo Galilei was searched. The author of the sculpture was inspired by Velazquez´s famous painting located at the Prado art gallery. This painting is also one of the most important masterpieces at the Prado.
Statues of the Spanish Kings
On the northern and southern sides of the Plaza de Oriente you will find a succession of statues. They are part of a group of statues sculpted in the middle of the 18th century and which portrayed all the Spanish Kings. The initial objective was to locate all those statues on the top of the cornice of the Royal Palace.
The statues were finally not installed there and they were distributed throughout various areas of the city, including of course, the Plaza de Oriente, which holds 20 sculptures that represent the Godos Kings other Kings that played an important role during the Reconquering process. The Godos Kings were the Kings that ruled before the arrival of the Muslim invasion during the XVIIIth century-
Other places where you can find some of these sculptures are in the Sabatini Gardens below the Royal Palace and also in the Retiro park.
Captain Melgar monument
In the southern part of the Plaza you will find a small monument dedicated to Captain Melgar. On the pedestal of the soldier salutes the Captain. Captain Angel Melgar was a Spanish soldier who died in 1909 in the Battle of Barranco del Lobo, possibly the most important attack near Melilla during the confrontation with Morocco and the beginning of the XXth century.
Relax and have a drink on a terrace
Yes, of course! Plaza de Oriente is an ideal place to sit down, relax and enjoy the sunset on one of the many terraces near the Royal Theatre. The most famous terraces re the one of Café de Oriente and La Esquina del Real. These are not the cheapest places to enjoy a drink in Madrid, but they are very stylish and a better experience in our view! This area of Madrid has lots of charm. We recommend you to walk from Plaza de Oriente to the Debod Temple to enjoy great views of the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral, and the Casa de Campo forest. The are near the Plaza de Oriente and the Royal Palace is also a great place to stay in Madrid. You can find our top hotel picks near the Royal palace in this guide.
History of La Plaza de Oriente
The origin of the project o build a large square next to the Royal Palace dates back to the 18th century. The architect in charge was Juan Bautista Sachetti. Sachetti, who, as many other artists who developed cities around the world, is not a famous person the average Spaniard would know about. But this Italian architect arrived to Spain to work on the project of the Palace of La Granja in Segovia, and played an important role in projects as important as the Royal Palace itself, the Principe Theatre, the Cathedral of La Almudena, the Bailen viaduct.
However, the first development of la Plaza de Oriente that shaped it to something similar to what we find today dates back to 1808, at the time of the rule of French Jose Bonaparte in Spain. It was around that time when several blocks of houses were demolished, something needed to free the open space needed for the creation of a large square with of garden areas.
Another important milestone in the development of La Plaza de Oriente took place during the time of Queen Isabel II. The construction of the Royal Theatre (the Opera House of Madrid) started in 1836. This building shapes the eastern part of the Plaza de Oriente.
Another big step that shaped the Plaza took place in the late XXth century. In the mid-1990s the tunnel of Calle Bailén was built. This removed all traffic from the Plaza and the construction of large parking underneath the Plaza also contributed to free space for pedestrians. The Plaza we find today has basically been the same as the outcome of the profound renovation of those dates.
Plaza de Oriente – Video