Malasaña

This is the barrio that I chose to live in! People call it an artsy hipster neighborhood, and it is true that it is full of students and little boutiques. Despite some peoples’ concerns it is definitely possible to find a nice apartment in this area without spending an arm and a leg, and I recommend it as it is always full of people and I always felt very safe walking around alone at night. It does have a reputation as a big part neighborhood, which is true. As I lived on the fourth floor of my building, the parties going all night didn’t keep me awake on the nights I stayed in.IMG_5362

Cafes:
Toma Cafe, C/ de la Palma, 49, 28004
As someone accustomed to the quality of coffee brewed by the coffee snobs in Portland, OR, I feel comfortable saying that this cafe has really fabulous coffee. It’s a nice place to work, has soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries (including gluten-free) and the baristas do all speak English if that’s a draw.

La Bicicleta, Plaza San Idelfonso, 9, 28004
This cafe is also a bar, has great coffee as well as food, cocktails, and food. It is usually really packed full of people both working and socializing.

Bars (In addition to these, make sure to check out the bars with terazas around Plaza Dos de Mayo):

El Rincon, C/ Espíritu Santo, 26, 28004.
I love this bar/cafe/restaurant. They have, in my humble opinion, the best tortilla española in Madrid! And that is saying something. Additionally, the food on their menu is always delicious. It’s a nice place to hang out with a friend at any hour of the day may you be drinking café con leche, un tinto de verano, zumo de naranja vermut de grifo, or a caña.

Bar Sidi, C/ del Barco, 15, 28004
Named all too appropriately, this bar has copas de vino and cañas for one euro each.

La Camocha, C/ Fuencarral, 95, 28004
Asurian sidra and food.

Casa Camacho, C/ San Andres, 4, 28004
It was always an easy decision to hit up this little ”old-man-bar” as we liked to call it. Known for having vermouth on tap (vermut de grifo) this bar is always IMG_3991packed on weekend evenings. Delicious olives come as tapas. Try a ”yayo,” a traditional cocktail using the vermut.

Ocean Rock Bar, C/ San Vicente Ferrer, 27, 28004
Fun to go to late at night, this bar fills up quickly. There is a strange mirrored room in the back. We would sometimes get their calimochos, which were giant and with a discount if you bought two at once.

Destino Malasaña, C/ Manuela Malasaña, 33, 28004.
This is a good bar to go have some copas with friends at all hours of the night.

L’Absinthe, C/ San Vicente Ferrer 32.
As the name states, this is an absinthe bar. It’s quite small and it has a homey vibe to it, full but with enough room to join in the bustle comfortably. They have some of the best White Russians I have ever tried.

Restaurantes:

Circo de las TapasCorredera Baja de San Pablo, 21, 28004.
Delicious tapas. Also a very popular location so you will want to arrive early or go on a week night.

Restaurante Etíope Nuria, Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 6, 28004.
Fabulous Ethiopian restaurant. The owner is really nice. I recommend ordering the specialty platters and sharing them. I was a big fan of the lamb (cordero) and the vegetarian plates, not to mention the honey wine. When I crave special food, it is the food from this restaurant.

El Kartel de Malasaña, C/ San Vicente Ferrer, 6, 28004.
Great Mexican restaurant. Evidently the owner is from DF. I was overjoyed to find super Mexican tacos de huitlacoche (a delicious fungus that grows on corn) and tacos de flor de calabaza. The nachos are overflowing with guacamole, and the tamal that I shared with a friend would go quite well with a sip of mezcal if I do say so myself.

Herbolario/Specialty:
Veggie Room, C/ Espiritu Santo, 30, 28004.
This little natural food shop is run by a really sweet man and woman. Always nice to chat with, they made shopping here a joy. With good prices on coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and pan de fruta (basically date and nut all blended together and shaped in a patty) I couldn’t go a week without swinging by this centrally located vegan shop. They actually sell a vegan tortilla española that’s made with garbanzo beans instead of eggs!

Centro Diético, San Bernardo 58, 28004.
I loved this herbolario because it didn’t close for siesta! I could conveniently stop by and pick up my dried figs, seeds, nuts, flax, and of course, echinacea tea or extract (working in a school you’ll want to be taking a lot of this). Run by nice people too.

Cantaro BlancoManuela Malasaña, 29, 28004.
This adorable lechería is new and opened right before I moved so I wasn’t able to come in as much as I would have liked because they are just wonderful! They sell fresh eco-milk that you can buy in bulk by bringing in a jar of any size (or buying one there) that they fill up for you. This milk is so delicious and inexpensive. Much of the milk in Spain is ultra pasteurized so I was very happy to find this spot. As if this wasn’t enough, they also have a yogurt buffet bar! As a big fan of the yogurt and muesli/fruit/nuts/etc. breakfast, you can imagine my joy to see the many topping options for your fresh yogurt; granola, marmalade, strawberries, almonds, nutella, the list goes on. Last but not least, the lechería sells milk, cheeses, and yogurts from cows (vacas), goats (cabras), and sheep (ovejas) dairies.

Bookstores:
Librería Tres Rosas Amarillas, C/ Espiritu Santo, 12, 28004
Walking into this bookstore feels like walking into the Victorian childhood you never had. Pop-up books and paper cut out contraptions line the walls. It’s a very inspiring place to look around in.

Arrebato Libros, C/ de la Palma, 21, 28004
Used books mostly in Spanish with a great ‘zine and little local original books in the front of the shop.

J&J Books and Coffee, C/ Espíritu Santo, 47, 28004
Used English language books. They host a popular trivia night here.

Only a weekend in Madrid?! Destinations for a short trip

Heading to Madrid with limited time? Perhaps only a weekend? It may seem overwhelming to visit such a big city with so little time, but I promise you can enjoy Madrid on more than a superficial level. Read through this list for inspiration and the things I find to be most important on a tour through Madrid. I aim to help you personalize your destinations to your interests so that you can have a fascinating, enjoyable, and relaxing vacation in Madrid. Keep in mind that Spain takes a siesta, so many shops and exhibits (in the Matadero especially) may be closed.

Note: If you are around on a Sunday check out the section of my list called La Latina, and/or the Matadero market. I believe that going to one of the big markets with stands is a great way to interact with and enjoy the city and culture.

In Malasaña:

Go to Toma Cafe or La Bicicleta (depending on if you’d like the chill quite vibe of Toma or the boisterous cafe plus bar vibe of Bicicleta), Camacho (for a yayo), and you must go to El Rincón (for incredible tortilla).

Centro:

Go to El Riojano for mazapán and turrón (great gifts) and to San Gines if you want churros y chocolate. Five-minutes away from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, perhaps take the free walking tour that begins there.

Lavapiés:

Get a tapa on Calle Argumosa. Go to any of the typical Spanish bars or the Asturian bar that’s across the street from them. If you are hungry enough for a whole meal go to one of the the two Senegalese spots that I mention in the Lavapiés list.

La Latina:

Are you in Madrid on Sunday? Perfect! Go to El Rastro flea market in La Latina. After this, head straight to the Mercado San Fernando, which has a wonderful old fashioned feel, delicious food, and full of locals enjoying a tapa and spending time together.

Art:

Go to the Reina Sofia museum to see Picasso’s Guernica. Go to El Prado to see Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

If you have time and it’s the weekend, take the yellow line out to Legazpi to the Matadero, see exhibits, have a drink/tapa, and enjoy the cool outdoor market (Mercado de Productores) which is only on certain weekends, full of free samples and great gifts of typical Spanish artisan foods, and definitely worth checking out.

El Parque Retiro:

You must go to Retiro! Have a picnic, read a book, go to the crystal castle of Reina Sofia Annex, or just walk through.

Books!

Perhaps you need a book to read in Retiro or Toma Cafe? Never fear! If you want to find a great book to read in English, go to Desperate Literature. I can’t recommend them enough!

Legazpi – El Matadero

This art center is described on its website as an interdisciplinary laboratory of creation open to the public and was always a joy to visit.

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From the Guerilla Girls Exhibit in 2015

El Matadero, Plaza de Legazpi, 8, 2804.

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Roberto Bolaño exhibit at El Matadero 2015

Take the yellow line to metro Legazpi.
El Matadero originally was slaughter house and was opened to the public as an art center in 2007. There is an ever changing array of exhibitions; film, sculptural installations, and other work of all sorts of visual artists can be found there. There is a taberna and a cafe in the building, and a ship museum. I went to a wonderful installation about the author Roberto Bolaño, as well as a fantastic Guerilla Girls exhibit. El Matadero’s Mercado de Productores should also be attended as it is an wonderful outdoor even with local artisan venders and stands where you can grab a bite to eat.

 

Chueca

Chueca is very similar and right next door to Malasaña, and is considered the barrio gay. There are lots of bars here for going out and I found a wonderful dance studio here.

Dance Class:
Karen Taft, C/ Libertad, 15, 28004.
This studio has many kinds of dance classes. I took a contemporary dance class here that I really enjoyed. Here the classes continuous and you work on the same combination over the span of weeks which gives the studio a more serious and professional feeling whereas at El Horno in Lavapiés the classes are all more suited for drop-ins. It depends on what you are looking for, and I ended up enjoying a little of each.

Dance Bar:
Bogui, C/ del Barquillo, 29, 28004

Opera

English Bookstore:

Desperate Literature, Calle Campomanes, 13, 28013
This little used bookstore was really a dream come true to discover. Stocked with a great book selection and run by really interesting and kind people. I cannot recommend this bookstore enough. The first time I stopped by they were having an open house. It was winter, and in addition to the abundance of quality conversation they served us whiskey and mulled wine. They have bookstores in Brooklyn, NY, US, and Santorini, Greece as well.

Sol/El Centro

The center of Madrid, and a big tourist trap, I do not recommend spending much time in Sol if you can avoid it, though it is definitely worth a gander. Ultimately there are two main reasons (besides seeing the plaza of Puerta del Sol) that a sane person would venture into this barrio.

Sugar:

El Riojano, Calle Mayor 10, 28013.
This is a sweet shop that opened in 1854 and continues to use many of the same recipes from over 100 years ago! Lots of traditional Spanish candies are sold here such as turrón and mazapán. There is also a little tea shop hidden in the back that you mustn’t miss!

Chocolatería San Ginés, Pasadizo San Ginés, 5, 28013.
Go here to try the traditional treat of churros y chocolate.

Plaza Mayor: This Plaza is certainly a tourist trap, but also definitely worth walking through on your tour of Madrid. The buildings in the square are beautiful and old. In the wintertime there is a big Christmas market in Plaza Mayor, and a huge nativity scene that people line up to see. You will see many stands selling figurines and boards with moss growing on them. These are for people to build their shop window or home’s nativity scene on. There is a great free walking tour of Madrid that begins in this plaza.

Retiro y Paseo del Prado

This neighborhood is home of the glorious Parque Retiro, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001
This is the perfect place to go and have a picnic on a sunny day, bring your guitar, or as do the young Spanish couples, to furiously make out in public. There is a little lake where you can take out a row boat. In the Parque Retiro you will find the Crystal Palace, a big glass structure that often houses art exhibitions, and The Reina Sofia Annex is, a small extension of its larger museum counter-part.

Museum:
El Prado, Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014
National art museum in Madrid, home to many famous works of art. My favorite part is room 56, where you will find Bosch’s magical work “The Garden of Earthly Delights.´´ It has been housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Dating from between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was between about 40 and 60 years old, it is his best-known and most ambitious complete work.

Garden of Earthly Delights
Garden of Earthly Delights

Atocha

Home to the Atocha Train Station, this centrally located barrio is right on the edge of Parque Retiro.

Museum:
La Reina Sofia, C/ Santa Isabel, 52, 28012
This huge contemporary and modern art museum is a must-see on anyone’s trip to Madrid. It’s full of treasures such as Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, and other exhibitions that are always changing.
Check the website to see what’s currently there are to find out about the tickets and hours, most museums have a day or time that is free, and it’s always a good idea to look into as the Reina Sofia is no exception!

Guernica
Guernica

Guernica is one of the most famous paintings by Picasso- The painting is believed to be a response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed, and believed to have helped bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.

Herbolario (natural food shop):
Nutrición Y Dietética, C/ San Eugenio, 1, 28012 right by metro Anton Martin.
This is one of my long-time favorite natural food and vitamin shop run by really nice people. I would always make sure to go in and buy some fresh goat milk or eco-honey if I was in the neighborhood.

 

La Latina

This barrio of Madrid had an old traditional feel to it. There are lots of beautiful classic buildings to see.
All along the street Cava Baja are places to go out for cañas (little beers) and tapas. Sunday afternoon locals traditionally go out for tapas or a menu del dia in this neighborhood, and msot places you go should be nice.

Exercise/Dance Classes/Yoga:
Yogaldía, Ronda de Toledo 16, 28005
Great Ashtanga yoga classes taught with a gentle and theraputic philosophy.

El Rastro Flea Market, along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo, 28005.
This market streams through the calles of La Latina every Sunday and is a big tourest spot so watch your backpack. People consider it a must-see for tourism in Madrid, and I’ll admit that I once bought a cheap fake leather jacket there.

Madrid Barrio Guide

One of my favorite things about the city of Madrid is how very distinct each neighborhood or ‘barrio’ is. You can walk between the neighborhoods in the center or take the metro. For me, living in Malasaña, it would´t take more than half an hour to reach most of the places I would go. Remember that many Spanish businesses close each day around 14h-14:30h and open around 17h-18h for siesta. Siesta, my friends, is a blessing and a curse.

The barrios that I have written about so far are as follows…

Atocha

Malasaña

Sol

Embajabores

Chueca

Lavapiés

La Latina

Gran Vía