At the origins of Movida madrileña
The Malasaña district is located between Chueca and Arguelles, and is bordered by Gran Via on one side and Fuencarral Street on the other. Malasaña is one of the oldest and most popular neighborhoods in Madrid: this area of the city since the 70s and 80s came to the fore as the center of the “Movida Madrileña” and still remains one of the most alternative and lively neighborhoods, both by day and by night.
The neighborhood takes its name from Manuela Malasaña, a young heroine of the revolt of May 2, 1808 who died to resist the invasion of French troops. Although not a “recognized” neighborhood, it is part of the University district, Malasaña is one of the most active tourist and cultural realities in Madrid.
The beating heart of the “barrio maravillas” (the district of wonders) is Plaza Dos de Mayo (May sencond square), the scene of one of the bloodiest battles against Napoleonic troops; in this beautiful square you can meet both the residents of the neighborhood and the tourists, taking advantage of the numerous clubs that surround it. In the center of the square stands the famous monument to Luis Daoiz and Pedro Velarde Santillan, the two heroes who died to defend the city from attacks by the French.
But Malasaña is also made up of many other small squares and narrow streets, many of which are pedestrianized, which is why it is one of the most pleasant areas to stroll or have an aperitif in central Madrid. Among the liveliest areas we find San Ildefonso Square, as well as Pez Street or Espiritu Santo Street, all characterized by numerous bars and restaurants always full of people, as well as Manuela Malasaña Street which is full of ethnic restaurants at very low prices.
Malasaña center of nightlife
Among the many clubs in the neighborhood, some have become real institutions over the years, such as Via Lactea in Velarde Street, the Pentagramma in la Palma Street or, a little further on, Madrid me mata, a bar-museum on nightlife madrileña. Other options, less touristy and for this reason more authentic, are Taberna Casa Camacho, a place in San Andrés Street that has existed since the 1920s and continues to be famous for los yayos, cocktails based on gin, vermouth and soda, or La Bodega de la Ardosa in Colòn Street, a meeting place for cafés and tapas. If you are a rock lover and curious about its Spanish variant, you can stay up late at the Barco in the street of the same name or at the Cafeteria Roca Blanca in Fuencarral Street which offers a very wide choice of tapas. If you are bankrupt and don’t have enough money to make it to the end of your holiday, an at least curious and very economic option for lunch is the vegan cuisine of the Hare Krisna Community in Espiritu Santo Street. Next door you will find La Blanca Paloma, a brewery that offers very consistent tapas with every drink.
In addition to the nightlife and the rich offer of clubs, Malasaña is also home to numerous businesses that offer handicrafts, vintage clothing, CDs or books that are hard to find elsewhere. In this sense Corredera de San Pablo is a must, one of the streets that cross the neighborhood – as well as a rich cultural offer that is still considered the true avant-garde of Madrid.
Activities and cultural centers in Malasaña
From the largest and most well-known theaters such as the Maravillas to the smaller and independent ones such as the Madrid Microteatro or the Espacio Labruc, to independent bookshops such as Tipo Infames or The Comic Co, to centers that host art exhibitions such as the Sala Maravillas in San Vicente Ferrer Street, Malasaña opens up to an international and varied audience.
For art lovers, in Calle Princesa is the Palace of Liria, a marvel of neoclassical architecture that houses one of the most important Spanish private collections. It is that of the Duchess of Alba Cayetana Fitz James Stuart which from September 2019 is open to the public every day with guided tours. Here you can admire Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Tiziano, but also Picasso, Chagall and Mirò, just to name a few. For more information www.palaciodeliria.com
The outdoor sculptures of Malasaña: a hymn to gender equality
Strolling through the neighborhood do not miss its outdoor sculptures. At the bottom of the Pez Street is the bronze statue called Tras Julia, perhaps dedicated to Concepción Arenal, a jurist, writer and activist who in the mid-1800s disguised herself as a man to be able to attend law lessons which were then forbidden to the fair sex; the Passante, at the entrance to the School of Fine Arts in the Palma Street; the Young woman walking with a satchel under her arm in San Ildefonso Square and the Reader in the Plaza Dos de Mayo (May second square), all performances that celebrate the right to education and gender equality, a theme as dear to yesterday’s Spain as to that of today.
As one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Malasaña has a large number of religious buildings. The most spectacular is undoubtedly the Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, a Baroque masterpiece at the intersection of Puebla Street and Corredera Baja de San Pablo, interesting both for the architectural structure with a central plan and for the works of art that it houses inside. Particularly significant for the history of the district, as well as of the city, is the Church of Buena Dicha, in Silva Street, a Mudejar-style building in which, during the clashes on May 2, the heroes of the Spanish resistance were assisted, some of whom are buried right here.
Where to eat and drink in Malasaña
In addition to the historic places they mentioned earlier – the Via Lactea in Velarde Street, the Pentagramma in the Palma Street, Madrid me mata in Corredera Alta de San Pablo Street, the Taberna Casa Camacho in San Andrés Street, La Bodega de la Ardosa in Colòn Street, the Cafeteria Roca Blanca in Fuencarral Street and La Blanca Paloma in Espiritu Santo Street – in Malasaña you will be spoiled for choice due to the huge range of venues. Among the many, we like Amargo, at number 2 Pez Street: the place is small but very nice, the daily menu for less than 12 euros (two dishes, a dessert and a drink) is abundant and can be divided, and the other a la carte dishes are also good and with large portions. Finally, espresso is truly an espresso, a mention that few clubs in Madrid deserve 🙂
Find accommodation in the Malasaña neighborhood