You gotta love it, Madrid’s Malasaña neighbourhood. It’s trendy and teeming with hipsters, but laid-back at the same time. A creative hub that’s always alive and kicking. From early morning to late at night, colourful Madrileños talk on street corners and walk their dogs between tattoo parlours and barbershops.
There are many reasons to love this neighbourhood. Here, our lovely Madrid local Brian lists five of them.
1. The colourful and unpolished streets
Just navigating the streets of this neighbourhood is food for the senses. You’ll feel a local and urban vibe that’s both refreshing and inspiring. Lamp posts are covered in colourful stickers, while façades, street corners and shop shutters are clad in street art.
A large number of dogs frequent these streets, their owners enjoying the sunny weekends with cold beers and gourmet burgers at the small squares. Unpolished and authentic, Malasaña has an addictive atmosphere that will make you come back for more!
2. The feast of funky cafés
Whether you’re looking for a quick takeaway or a place to relax with a good cup of coffee, Malasaña offers a funky mix of coffee hotspots, most of which turn into bars in the later hours.
Many are located near the small square, Plaza de San Ildefonso. From here, you can spot La Bicicleta, which sums up the neighbourhood in a nutshell. It’s a hip and creative bike-themed work café where you can spend hours between laptops and lattes.
And just down the street, on the corner of Calle del Barco and Calle Puebla, you’ll find a more homely atmosphere inside the cosy, retro-style Café de La Luz.
Another not-to-be-missed street is Calle Espíritu Santo. Travel back in time among the vintage wonders of Lolina, get your sugar hit with a cupcake at Happy Day or go on a half-hour holiday at Vacaciones Cocktail Bar. For one of the best takeaway coffees in the city, drop by Bianchi Kiosko Caffé at Calle San Joaquín 9.
3. The selection of shops on Calle Fuencarral
If you’re in search of a new outfit to blend in with the locals of Malasaña, you can’t miss a walk down Calle Fuencarral, which borders the rainbow-coloured Chueca neighbourhood.
Here you’ll find plenty of well-known names, from Diesel to The North Face, with many alternative and local brands in between. This street is especially good for shoe shopping, and is a great place to get inspired by observing the locals.
4. The vast range of independent retailers
Forget about the souvenir shops along Gran Vía; in the maze of Malasaña you’ll discover much more interesting independent traders, whether you’re shopping for vintage clothing, graphic books or artisan gifts.
Take a look inside creative caves such as La Antigua or Nest, but only if you dare because it’s likely you’ll leave with something cool you didn’t know you wanted.
5. The street food and the tapas
While you won’t find five-star Michelin restaurants here, Malasaña is home to a tempting mix of gourmet burger bars and street food spots, along with more traditional tapas restaurants such as El Pez Gordo and many cafés offering interesting choices of snacks and light dishes. Treat yourself to a Mediterranean-inspired lunch at Greek and Shop, or a beast of a burger at Zombie Bar.
The star – and pricier option – is the Mercado de San Ildefonso street food market on Calle Fuencarral. Explore both floors before making your choice, or hang out on the top floor with a drink and take it all in from above.
All photos by Brian.