Plaza de Oriente
Fodor’s Expert Review
This stately plaza, in front of the Palacio Real, is surrounded by massive statues of Spanish monarchs. They were meant to be mounted on the railing on top of the palace, but Queen Isabel of Farnesio, one of the first royals to live in the palace, had them removed because she was afraid their enormous weight would bring the roof down. (At least that's the official reason; according to local lore, the queen wanted the statues removed because her own likeness had not been placed front and center.) A Velázquez drawing of King Felipe IV is the inspiration for the statue in the plaza's center. It's the first equestrian bronze ever cast with a rearing horse. The sculptor, Italian artist Pietro de Tacca, enlisted Galileo Galilei's help in configuring the statue's weight so it wouldn't tip over.