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Plaza de Oriente


This graceful square is one central Madrid's most beautiful, home as it is to a royal palace that once had aspirations to be the Spanish Versailles, sophisticated cafes watched over by apartments that cost the equivalent of a royal salary, and the Teatro Real, Madrid’s opera house and one of Spain’s temples to high culture.

At the centre of the plaza, which the palace overlooks, is an equestrian statue of Felipe IV. Designed by Velázquez, it's the perfect place to take it all in, with marvellous views wherever you look. If you’re wondering how a heavy bronze statue of a rider and his horse rearing up can actually maintain that stance, the answer is simple: the hind legs are solid, while the front ones are hollow. That idea was Galileo Galilei’s. Nearby are some 20 marble statues, mostly of ancient monarchs. Local legend has it that these ageing royals get down off their pedestals at night to stretch their legs when no one is looking.

The adjacent Jardines Cabo Naval are a great place to watch the sunset.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Madrid attractions

1. Statue of Felipe IV

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This important landmark in the centre of the Plaza de Oriente was unveiled in 1843.

3. Plaza de Ramales

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This pleasant little triangle of open space is not without historical intrigue. Joseph Bonaparte ordered the destruction of the Iglesia de San Juanito to…

4. Convento de la Encarnación

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Founded by Empress Margarita de Austria, this 17th-century mansion built in the Madrid baroque style (a pleasing amalgam of brick, exposed stone and…

5. Teatro Real

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Backing onto Plaza de Oriente, Madrid’s signature opera house took on its present neoclassical form in 1997 although, viewed from Plaza de Isabel II,

6. Jardines de Sabatini

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The formal French-style Jardines de Sabatini are to the north of the Palacio Real, a palace with lush gardens.

7. Palacio Real

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Spain's jewel-box Palacio Real is used only occasionally for royal ceremonies; the royal family moved to the modest Palacio de la Zarzuela years ago.

8. Farmacia Real

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The Farmacia Real, at the southern end of the Plaza de la Armería courtyard inside the Palacio Real compound, contains a formidable collection of medicine…