Madrid By Barrios: Malasaña

Madrid By Barrios: Malasaña

Contributed by: Bridget Bailey

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When I found out that I was coming to Madrid, I began doing what any normal, sane person would do: stalking the city. I googled walked, researched and asked questions on the now infamous ‘Auxiliares de Conversación’ Facebook group. Throughout my obsessive research, one barrio seemed to stand out amongst the rest: Malasaña. Seemingly, this was the place to be. I could see the perks, of course. Malasaña is situated between two other lively neighborhoods, Chueca and Argüelles. I was told by many that it was the hippest place in Madrid and was the epicentre of the ‘hipster’ movement. When I googled photos, I could see that it was beautiful with antiquated streets and quintessential Spanish balconies on either side. However, no matter what anyone said, it didn’t appeal to me like the bigger barrios of Sol or Opera.

That is until I stepped onto the streets myself. As I walked the winding paths, I began to see what everyone had been talking about. The atmosphere is contagious with crowds of young, fashionably-dressed people having drinks outside and enjoying the sobremesa.* This barrio is always alive with people painting, chatting, drinking, shopping, or simply hanging out in the main square. When I was thinking of this article, I had a hard time narrowing down which places I love most in Malasaña. There are just so many but I will endeavor to do my best, I promise.

So, I don’t know about you but I love Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting. It is, probably, my favorite cake. I had went to numerous bakeries in Madrid but had yet to find one that reminded of back home. It was like the search for the Cake Holy Grail. That is until I stumbled upon La Cocina de Mi Vecina (My Neighbor’s Kitchen). I walked in and was greeted with delicious smells and cakes of all varieties. That is when I tried it, the best Red Velvet Cake I’ve had in Europe. It was like taking a bite of home. Trust me, I went back and tried a little bit of everything else. It is all good. You can get your cake and enjoy a cup of tea, too. The atmosphere is cosy and welcoming. The prices are budget friendly with a slice of cake being around four euros. The wait staff are always friendly but be forewarned. This is an extremely popular place and normally there is a line out the door, especially on weekends. Go on a weekday around 6:00 p.m. to beat the crowds. La Cocina de Mi Vecina is located on Corredera Alta de San Pablo, 15. Make sure you get a loyalty card, the sixth piece is free!

Coming to Spain, you will understandably notice a lack of English books. This is great if you want to practice Spanish. Yet for me, at times, I want to read novels in English. I was seriously struggling for awhile until my friend told me about a little place called  J&J Books. It boasts over 10,000 English titles for a second-hand price. Indeed, this place hosts pub quizzes with prizes, game nights, and intercambios (language exchanges). The books are located down stairs and are separated by genres then alphabetically. There are tables and comfy couches, where you can sit, read and drink a coffee. During the day, the atmosphere is quiet like a café. However, J&J’s comes alive at night with boisterous, multilingual chats and euro mini-beers. Not only have I found great books here but I have meet interesting people from all around the world. Give it a try either day or night, depending on your preferences. J&J Books is located on Calle de Espirtú Santo, 47.

If it’s a party that you are after, a great club to visit is Space Monkey. Open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, this indie-punk spot plays more alternative music which is a nice break from the normal top 40 mixes. Of course, the crowds are hip, young and cool. Normally entrance is free before 1 a.m., there are cheap drinks (2 cocktails for 10, or shots for 2 euros), the ambience is energetic and free spirited. Keep in mind, the party doesn’t get going until around 2 or 3 a.m. here in Spain and you are likely to stay out until you see dawn break over the cityscape. Do so. My advice is to stay out till around 6 a.m. then go visit Templo de Debod Park and watch the sunrise light the city up in orange and red hues. Space Monkey is located on Calle Campoamor, 3 and Templo de Debod is on Calle Ferraz, 1.

I can tell you all the greatest things about Malasaña but the best way to fall in love with this amazing barrio is to walk the streets yourself like I did. There is always something waiting around the corner here. Venid! Malasaña os espera (Come! Malasaña waits for you)!

*Sobremesa- This is a time when the food has been eaten, the drinks have been drunk but the conversation continues to flow. There is no direct translation in English.

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