For centuries the center of Madrid life, the stately Plaza Mayor combines elegant architecture with a history dominated by peculiarly Spanish dramas. First laid out in 1618 it hosted the beatification of the city’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. It also played host to the macabre rituals of the Spanish Inquisition – burnings on the north side of the square, hangings on the south – until unironically consumed by fire in the 18th century. Later rebuilt, as many as 50,000 people would cram into the square for spectacles of another sort: bullfights. Before you attempt to ponder these vagaries, pull up a chair at one of the outdoor cafes around the perimeter and enjoy the theater of Spanish street life coursing through the plaza, which must surely rank as one of the country’s most beautiful.