Plaza Mayor is the centre of the “Madrid de los Austrias” a historic district that corresponds to the medieval outline of the city. It gets its name for having been developed during the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Spain from 1516 to 1700. This area began to be taken up by the largest market in the city, set up on Plaza del Arrabal. When Philip II moved the court to Madrid, making it the capital city of the kingdom, the architect Juan Herrera was charged with giving uniformity to the buildings surrounding an adequate space to host popular celebrations, such as bullfights, beatifications, coronations and autos-de-fé. The project was only concluded years later by Juan Gómez de Mora, after one of the great fires that devastated the square.
Among the various points of interest, the Casa de la Panadería, which used to set the price of bread and is considered the template for the other surrounding buildings. The building facades are decorated with mythological frescoes related with the history of Madrid, painted by Carlos Franco; the Arco de los Cuchilleros, the most well-known of the nine arches that lead into the square and its monumental staircase; the statue of Philip III, by Giambologna and finished by Pietro Tacca in 1616, was only placed in Plaza Mayor in 1848; and the Casa de la Carnicería (currently the Pestana Plaza Mayor), rebuilt after the fire of 1631, was originally a meat supplying facility for the city and later became the home of the mayor and the district assembly.