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.
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 packed 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.
Circo de las Tapas, Corredera 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.
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 Blanco, Manuela 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.
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.