Exploring Madrid’s barrios: a day in hip Malasaña
Bubbling with life at any time of day – and often long into the night – Malasaña is Madrid’s hippest neighbourhood. Surrounding Plaza del 2 de Mayo and near the Tribunal Metro stop, the trendy barrio is just minutes from Sol and a short walk to the most sought after museums and cultural hotspots.
Madrid locals know an ideal way to enjoy the city is to spend a day hanging out in one of the city’s many barrios; eating, drinking, relaxing in the park or shopping in the boutiques. And in Malasaña you can get a bit of history and culture as well.
Kick off the day with breakfast at HanSo Café on Calle del Pez – a hotspot for the international crowd that takes coffee very seriously. You can also grab a croissant or a piece of matcha cake to prepare for the day. The crowd is an eclectic mix of local hipsters, students and travellers. Some spend all morning at one of the tables, working away on their laptops or chatting with friends. When you’re done with breakfast, you can wander towards the Tribunal metro stop and enjoy the ambiance on some of the smaller streets. The area doesn’t get much motorised traffic so walking is very pleasant.
Smack in the middle of Malasaña, you’ll find Museo de Historia de Madrid, the city’s history museum. Reopened after several years’ closure in 2014, the municipal museum tells the story of Madrid through mural-sized paintings, etchings, and old maps. Entrance is free, and visitors can also see centuries-old fans, ceramics, and furniture produced by local artisans.
As you leave the museum, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Madrid’s hippest shopping area. Walk down Calle Fuencarral towards Gran Via, stopping in at one of the many distinct shops along the way. Some streets in Madrid specialise in specific products, so if you’re looking for shoes head over to Calle Augusto Figueroa. If your style is more alternative your best bet is Snapo on Espíritu Santo or you can go gift-shopping at Nest on Plaza San Ildefonso.
Madrid is famous for the sheer number of bars and restaurants on its streets. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Malasaña has hundreds of options for lunch. Check out the well-heeled crowds at Bazaar to try the fixed menu or stop off for a bite to eat at Mercado San Antón.
Many of Madrid’s traditional markets have been remodelled in recent years, and San Antón, with its international bent, is one of the best. You can try tapas from different regions of Spain, sushi, bagels, arepas and plenty more. There are also a few full-service bars and restaurants in the market, as well as bakeries selling pastries and desserts.
By this time, the day calls for a midafternoon break. As one of the sunniest of all European capitals, nearly any day of the year will be perfect for finding a spot in one of Madrid’s many parks to relax. In Malasaña, Parque del Buen Retiro is just a few minutes’ walk from Mercado San Antón. Find a patch of grass under a shady tree to watch the madrileños enjoy the sun. You could also spend a breezy afternoon at one of the terrazas – the outdoor cafés on the plazas. Try the trendy Plaza de Chueca or the hipster-filled Plaza Dos de Mayo.
As soon as you’re rested, you can pop across Calle San Bernardo to check out the latest installation at Centro Cultural Conde Duque – an impressive old barracks building that now houses exhibition spaces, a public library, and the local Museum of Contemporary Art. Or if you prefer, head to one of the other museums in the area – Madrid’s city center is small enough that you’re never too far from the Prado or Reina Sofia.
Those in the know skip the newer bars and stop by Bodega de la Ardosa for a quick drink before dinner. In the same location since 1892, it’s one of Madrid’s few remaining century-old taverns. It might be standing-room only when you get there, but the tortilla (Spanish omelette) is considered one of the best in the city. Many locals also go for the red vermouth aperitif, a Madrid tradition.
Dinner options abound in and around Malasaña – if you’re looking for an authentic Spanish bar experience, try La Camocha on Calle Fuencarral. Not much has changed in decades – the waiters serve hard cider, squid rings, and typical food from the northern region of Asturias at the bar or one of the tables. Don’t forget... in Madrid, a floor covered in used napkins and olive pits is a good thing for a bar: it means it’s popular with locals.
If you’re still awake and ready to party, you can swing by El Junco, one of Madrid’s best jazz clubs. With concerts several nights a week, it attracts locals and tourists alike. And if you’re looking for something louder and later, there are discos and pubs all over Malasaña that are open very late. You could have one of the fabulous cocktails at 1862 Dry Bar, or dance till dawn at Why not?
A night in Madrid often doesn’t end till breakfast the next morning. Indulge in hot chocolate and churros at an old-school bar before catching the Metro home to bed.
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