Tag Archives: Madrid

Off the Beaten Track: Madrid’s Malasaña

Formerly a sleepy district in the center of Madrid, Malasaña has become a refuge for the city’s outcasts in recent years. Mostly dissidents of mainstream city life, these newcomers have revived and transformed the area into one of Madrid’s most thriving neighborhoods. With forward-thinking businesses sprouting on nearly every street corner, dusty and decayed structures have made room for artisan butcheries and trendy shops. Nowadays, you’ll find local culture peacefully coexist with erotic boutiques, grow shops, and heavy metal clubs. Despite these radical changes in locals’ everyday lives, the area has remained its authentic Madrilenian panache.

Upon exiting Tribunal metro station, the earthy colors of Malasaña’s buildings take you back to Moorish times. Make your way through clothespined alleyways towards Plaza del 2 de Mayo, Malasaña’s central hub for summer festivals and weekend flea markets. Make a pit stop at Buenas y Dulces for one of their ever-so-fruity tarts before nestling yourself on one of the park’s benches; the ideal spot for serious people watching. Zigzag your way down to charming Calle del Espíritu Santo from which streets meander into the dense neighborhood. Camouflaged amongst typical Spanish facades, Lolina Vintage Café is a hidden gem. Take a breather in their eighties inspired interior and enjoy a glass of icy Tinto de Verano.

Photo by Flickr user: Javier CC2.0

Make up for skipping your siesta by adopting the Spanish tradition of late-afternoon tapas. With a hundred different mini-sandwiches on the menu and special prices on Wednesday and Sunday, Cervecería 100 Montaditos is a welcome alternative from ordinary sandwich shacks. Here’s how it works: skim the menu, order by number, and wait for your name to be called. For what are believed to be the best tapas in the area, head to Albur. With its fair prices, this restaurant provides a popular hang-out for both classy and casual crowds.

If you still find yourself with an itch in your pocket, browse through one of many specialty shops. Located just off Plaza del 2 de Mayo, Numbers Sneakers is the place to stock up a Malasaña essential: a pair of colorful hipster-approved kicks. While you’re at it, check out the custom cap-wearing mural on the wall behind the cash register. Magpie Vintage is the go-to place for both men and women looking to find unique pieces and explore new styles. End your shopping spree in Mercado de Fuencarral; a mall that houses a selection of the wackiest shops. Collections range from Jamaican memorabilia to tuxedo-styled bibs. Malasaña is also home to some of the oldest businesses in town: still-operating farmacia Juanse, founded in 1898, is the oldest of its kind in Madrid.

Sauntering the neighborhood with heavy shopping bags will work up an appetite, but remember that dinner is seldom served before 9 pm. When craving quality burgers, it’s hard to beat industrially-designed Naif Madrid Burguer & Bar, serving fully-loaded homemade burgers on toasty buns. For less than 8 euros, take-out eatery Ay Mi Madre! offers daily menus of Spanish classics; the menu may be small, but the food is quite satisfying. Alternatively sit down at atmospheric A 2 Velas and let a candlelit Iberian dinner herald true Malasaña dining and ambiance.

The people are loud and the waiters are rude; yet, Sidrería El Tigre provides a true Spanish experience. Elbow your way to the bar, order a round of beers and you’ll be rewarded with piles of complimentary tapas. Head over to Diplodocus for some serious pre-partying; bring some friends to share one of the massive 2-liter cocktails. Madrid nightlife is only getting started around midnight. Follow the twenty-something crowd to underground parties or queue up in front of scruffy-looking nightclubs. As soon as your eyes adjust to the brightly lit decorations, you’ll understand why Tupperware is among the coolest alternative rock bars in the city. Derived from what is not considered to be the most elegant of words, Maderfaker caters to a funkier crowd.

For the time being, Malasaña remains a retreat where weirdos feel perfectly normal again and people living the most banal of lives feel wonderfully weird again viagra moins cher. Set in a rustic Spanish setting, Malasaña and its residents will welcome you with open arms whether you’re a rebellious teenager, mutinous office worker, or suffering from a midlife-crisis.

Bullfighting at Las Ventas

They say that if the conditions are right and you are close enough to the ring, you can smell the blood being spilled at a bullfight in Spain. Certainly the gruesome and violent nature of this centuries-long Spanish tradition has been condemned by animal rights activists internationally and has even prompted the Spanish province of Catalonia to outlaw the sport all together. However the sport endures, especially in the southern region of Andalucía and in Madrid.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

It was mostly curiosity that compelled us to buy tickets to a bullfight at Madrid’s legendary Las Ventas bullring. Admittedly, we were also swept up in the romantic idea of attending a bullfight in Spain. Visions of passionate crowds yelling “olé” in unison as brave and daring toreadors in gleaming costumes waved colorful capes in the air seemed to distract from the fact that the bulls were there to be killed. This fact only became more and more clear in the days leading up to the bullfight. Proponents of bullfighting defend the sport as a wholly invaluable cultural practice that has defined Spanish culture around the world. While the iconic status of the toreador cannot be denied, one must ask if this is worth the lives of innocent animals. To go even further, do the Spanish people want to be known as a culture that celebrates the slaughter of animals for entertainment? Pushing aside these conflicting feelings was not easy but necessary if I wanted to remain objective.  So on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in late September, we caught the metro to Las Ventas, hoping to be enlightened, but anticipating sadness.

Bullfighting in Spain generally takes place on Sunday evenings from mid-spring to early autumn. We were fortunate to be in Madrid for one of the last corridos of the season. We climbed the stairs, away from the dark, humid metro and emerged to stand in front of the brilliant Las Ventas bullring, widely regarded as the “Madison Square Garden” of all bullrings, where only the best bullfighters have the privilege of performing. The graceful arches and mosaic details of the building helped establish an undeniable sense of place. It felt as if we were in the inner most chamber of the heart of Spain. I expected to see tourists, like us, lured to the bullring out of morbid curiosity. But there were also older Spanish gentlemen who looked as if they had been coming to bullfights their entire lives. There were families with kids, young couples and even bands of old ladies with colorful umbrellas. Once inside the bullring, our anticipation was almost palpable but tinged with a tiny bit of fear. Continue reading

Foods of Spain

Recently I traveled to Spain for a two-week vacation. My three traveling companions and I were in agreement that the main objective of the trip would be to eat and drink our way through the country. We visited three main regions: Madrid/Toledo, San Sebastian and Barcelona. With its cheap wine and beer and a wide variety of snacks and meals to fit every budget, Spain is an ideal food-lovers destination. Please enjoy the following photo tour!


Snacks comprised of olives, pickled vegetables and fish are heavily featured throughout Spain. The trays shown above were in the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid.

Padrón peppers, also quite popular, are commonly served fried and coated with olive oil and course sea salt. On the spicy scale they are mostly mild-to-medium, although every once in a while you’ll find one in the bunch that is tongue-numbingly hot.

Fried potatoes are also a common dish. The patatas bravas variety comes slathered in a spicy tomato sauce and served with garlic aioli for dipping. The dish pictured above was topped with chorizo “chili” and fried egg.

One of the best late night snacks in Spain: churros dipped in hot chocolate. It’s important to note that this is not the kind of hot chocolate you find here in the States. Hot chocolate in Spain (and indeed, in many other European countries) is deliciously rich and thick, with a consistency that is less watery and more like fondue.

Next up, a Spanish classic: paella. This creamy risotto-esque dish flavored with saffron and meat/seafood is another staple you see everywhere in Spain, although you’ll find the best paella in its originating city, Valencia (which we did not visit). Fun fact: authentic Valencian Paella is made with rabbit and snails. Other common types are paella de marisco (seafood, pictured above) and paella mixta (mixed paella, usually with chicken and seafood).


The most prevalent food throughout Spain is undoubtedly jamon: dry cured Spanish ham. To be more specific, Jamón ibérico, from the black Iberian pig found throughout southern Spain and Portugal. You know jamon is big when it gets its own Pringles flavor…

Keeping with the piggy theme, in Madrid, we ate at Restaurante Botin – the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. Sucking pig happens to be their specialty and it didn’t disappoint, with crisp, crackling skin crunching with each bite.


In the Basque country, in particular San Sebastian, almost every bar top is covered in platters of pintxos: bite-sized bar snacks usually skewered by a toothpick onto a piece of bread. They can be very basic or incredibly fancy. Some places charge you based on the number of toothpicks left on your plate after you finish; others make you pay up front after you load up your plate. Prices generally range from 1-3 euros per pintxo.

The highlight of our pintxo experience was probably Bar Zeruko in San Sebastian. The pintxos here were the most creative, going above and beyond the simple toothpick-and-bread variety.


Spain has a large quantity of restaurants which feature experimental cuisine. The term “molecular gastronomy” best describes the food and cooking techniques at these places, where dishes are transformed, deconstructed, and more or less are not what they seem. I was lucky enough to visit two such restaurants: Akelaŕe in San Sebastian, and Tickets in Barcelona. The former boasts three Michelin stars and the latter is run by the Adrià brothers of the famed (though now closed) elBulli. Our dining experiences were entertaining and delicious, although definitely a splurge in both cases. Check out this sampling of photos of things that were as fun to stare at as they were to eat (hover over each picture to see a description).


Bar Zeruko Official Website

Mercado de San Miguel Official Website

Tickets Official Website

Akelaŕe Official Website

Have you been to Spain? What did you think of the food? Have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments section or via our Facebook and Twitter accounts.