The most multi-ethnic and popular Madrid in Lavapiés
Located near La Latina, Lavapiés is perhaps the most popular neighborhood in central Madrid and still retains the irregular network of narrow medieval streets that characterized it in ancient times. Precisely because it is located outside the city walls, it is now believed that the ancient Jewish ghetto was located here until the 15th century. To support this thesis is the name of the neighborhood itself, which derives from the ancient ritual of washing the feet before entering the temple.
Ancient documents reveal that Lavapiés welcomed immigrants from the countryside right from his birth and found cheap accommodation here. Thus were born the “corralas”, built around a large central courtyard, still give the area a unique architectural identity today.
Many nationalities, one district
Its simple and vital soul make Lavapiés one of the best examples of a neighborhood in which to appreciate the popular life of the city. Here, in fact, the different souls of Madrid coexist, from the oldest and most traditional to the newest and most multi-ethnic, making Lavapiés a meeting point of different cultures. Still today there are fruit shops from Bangladesh, Moroccan barbers, Senegalese musicians and local madrilenian people from several generations. This multiculturalism was also ascertained by a recent research promoted by the Municipality of Madrid which counted 88 different nationalities in Lavapiés.
It is precisely this cultural variety that constitutes the most interesting aspect of the neighborhood. Come to Lavapiés on the occasion of some of its festivals: Tapapiés (second half of October) or Bollywood (first half of June) will make you experience first hand the peculiar mix of its inhabitants. See the world through its streets: Bangladesh in Amparo Street, Chinatown in Tirso de Molina and La Magdalena, Africa and India in Lavapiés Street.
What to do in Lavapiés
If you are here on a Sunday morning, walk along Ribera de Curtidores, the street that separates Lavapiés from La Latina, and get lost in the Rastro, the most famous flea market in Madrid. Or simply wander through its streets: the multicultural Mesòn de Paredes, Agustìn Square, Cabeza Street (where the ancient Prisons of the Inquisition are located). And again Magdalena Street, where the baroque Palace of Marqués of Perales now houses the Madrid Filmoteca. Here there is also the Casino de la Reina, a building that Fernando VII gave to his wife, Isabel of Braganza.
A new pole of contemporary culture
If you are in Lavapiés, make a stop at the contemporary art collections of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia located in Santa Isabel Street, or at least stop and admire the façade designed by Jean Nouvel. Thanks to the presence of the museum, Lavapiés has experienced unprecedented artistic vivacity in recent years. Proof of this are the numerous art galleries that are concentrated in Doctor Fourquet Street, but also the cultural centers in the district lavapiés madrid La Casa Encendida (Ronda de Valencia) and La Tabacalera (Embajadores Street) which occupies an old tobacco factory. These last buildings are the emblem of the neighborhood’s cultural and social recovery. Redeemed from the long deterioration, they are now home to craft and commercial activities, concerts, exhibitions, debates as well as open spaces for the graffiti artists of the city.
Lavapiés’ artistic and cultural vocation is evident from the ever more numerous events taking place here. In addition to C.A.L.L.E., a festival of contemporary urban art held every year in December, Lavapiés offers a rich theatre program. There are over 70 spaces dedicated to avant-garde theater, for children, micro-theater, live music, etc. For fans of the genre, we recommend attending a show in Sala Mirador (Doctor Fouquet Street 31) known for its “Katarsis del tomate”, or the possibility of throwing tomatoes at the actors in case the acting leaves something to be desired. Other places intended for independent shows are the Teatro de Arte (San Cosme y Damian Street 3) and the Casa Portera (Abades Street 24) where the concierge of a community of neighbors has been transformed into a theater stage.
Where to eat in Lavapies
The ethnic variety of Lavapiés is inevitably reflected in its cuisine as well. Whatever dish in the world you want to prepare, here you will find all the ingredients you need. The same is true if you are curious to experiment with new tastes: Senegalese, Greek, Thai, Cuban, Arab and Hindu restaurants meet here. With the arrival of summer, the sidewalks of Lavapiés Street are filled with aluminum tables and chairs ready to welcome customers with their succulent and cheap dishes. If your tastes are a little more traditional, on Isabel Street and Argumosa Street you will find plenty of bars and taverns serving “pinchos y vinitos” (tapas and wine) alongside more expensive fusion cuisine restaurants. For market enthusiasts, the one in San Fernando in Embajadores Street is perfect for sipping a beer accompanied by products from organic and eco-sustainable agriculture.
If you are in Madrid in the second half of October, do not miss Tapapiés, a world tour in 24 tapas produced by Moroccan, Bengali, Cuban, Senegalese restaurateurs … certainly the best way to try the delights of nearby cuisines at once and distant.
Find an accommodation in the neighborhood of Lavapies