Two of Madrid’s most lively neighbourhoods lie just off the Gran Vía. Chueca was originally home to the city’s blacksmiths and tile-makers. Run-down for many years, it enjoyed a renaissance after being adopted by Madrid’s gay community – the area puts on its best clothes each summer for the Gay Pride celebrations. The 19th-century buildings around Plaza de Chueca have been given a new lease of life as trendy bars and restaurants. Neighbouring Malasaña was the focus of resistance against the French in 1808. Like Chueca, it became rather seedy, but is now a mainstay of Madrid nightlife.
Calle Infantas 31 • Closed to the public
The “house of the seven chimneys” dates from around 1570 and is one of the best-preserved examples of domestic architecture in Madrid. It is said to be haunted by a former lover of Felipe II – not as far-fetched as it sounds, as a female skeleton was uncovered here at the end of the 19th century. The house belonged to Carlos III’s chief minister, the Marqués de Esquilache, whose attempts to outlaw the traditional gentleman’s cape and broad-brimmed hat, on the grounds that rogues used one to conceal weapons and the other to hide their faces, provoked a riot.
Calle de S Mateo 13 • Open 9:30am–8:30pm Tue–Sat (Nov–Apr: 9:30am–6:30pm), 10am–3pm Sun & public hols • Closed Mon, 1 & 6 Jan, 1 May, 24 Dec, 25 Dec, 31 Dec • Adm (free Sat after 2pm)
This evocative museum recreates the Madrid of the Romantic era (c.1820–60), with rooms furnished in the style of the period. The real attraction lies in the ephemera: fans, figurines, dolls, old photograph albums, cigar cases and visiting cards. Among the paintings is a magnificent Goya in the chapel and a portrait of the Marqués de Vega-Inclán, whose personal possessions form the basis of the collection. The archetypal Spanish Romantic was Mariano José de Larra, a journalist with a caustic pen, who shot himself in 1837 after his lover ran off with another man. The pistol is one of the museum’s prized exhibits.
Calle de Fuencarral 78 • Open 10am–8pm Tue–Sun • Closed Mon & public hols
Once a poorhouse, this museum traces the history of Madrid from the earliest times to the present day. Exhibits include mosaic fragments from a local Roman villa, pottery from the time of the Muslim occupation, a bust of Felipe II, and Goya’s Allegory of the City of Madrid. The star attraction is a wooden model of the city constructed in 1830. Before leaving, note the elaborate Baroque portal, dating from the 1720s.
Calle de Fernando VI, 4 • Free guided tours by appointment: 8am–2:30pm Mon–Fri
The finest example of Art Nouveau architecture in Madrid was created for Javier González Longoria in 1902. The architect was José Grases Riera, a disciple of Antoni Gaudí. Restored in the 1990s, the walls, windows and balconies are covered with luxuriant decoration suggesting plants, flowers and tree roots (see Palacio Longoria). Today this is the headquarters of the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers.
Corredera Baja de S Pablo 16 • Open 10:30am–2pm • Adm
The entire surface area of this magnificent domed church is covered with lovely 17th-century frescoes depicting scenes from the life of St Anthony of Padua. The congregation included the sick and indigent residents of the adjoining hospice, who were allocated a daily ration of bread and boiled eggs. The church still has a soup kitchen, which feeds around 250 people a day.
The triBall district, delineated by Ballesta, Desengaño and Corredera Baja de San Pablo streets, was once one of the seediest areas in the city, before becoming popular with artists seeking inexpensive accommodation or work space. In recent years, the neighbourhood has been transformed almost beyond recognition: former bordellos are now vintage-style bars or boutiques (though few old-style taverns and groceries have withstood the wave of gentrification), and hipsters have moved in.
This square in the heart of Malasaña commemorates the leaders of the insurrection of May 1808, Luis Daoíz and Pedro Velarde, who are buried at the Plaza de la Lealtad. The site was chosen because, in those days, this was the artillery barracks of the Monteleón Palace, the main focus of resistance to the French. The brick arch now sheltering a sculpture of the two heroes was the entrance to the building. In the 1990s the square was taken over by underage drinkers who gathered for binges known as botellónes. Though it has now been reclaimed by local residents, it is best avoided at night.
Calle S Roque 9 • Open for services
Founded in 1622 by Don Jerónimo de Villanueva, a Madrid nobleman, in its early years this convent was darkened by scandal. Rumours of sexual misconduct among the novices led to an investigation by the Inquisition which implicated the chaplain, the abbess and the Don himself. It was even rumoured that Felipe IV made nocturnal visits here via a tunnel.
Plaza Villa de Paris • Closed to public
Designed by Francisco Carlier and Francisco Moradillo, and constructed between 1750 and 1757, the building served as a convent until 1870. The conversion into the Palace of Justice was carried out by architect Antonio Ruiz de Salces, but its present appearance is due to the restoration work that followed a fire in 1915.
Calle de General Castaños 2 • Open 9am–1pm, 6–9pm Mon–Fri; 10am–2pm, 6–9pm Sat, Sun & public hols
The monastery of the Royal Salesians was founded by Bárbara de Braganza, the wife of Ferdinand VI, as a refuge from her overbearing mother-in-law should the king die before her (in fact, she died first). The Baroque church (1750) by Francisco Gutiérrez features the tombs of Fernando VI and his wife.
The seamstress, who became a national heroine following the 1808 uprising, was still a teenager on that fateful day in May, when, so the story goes, she was approached by a couple of French soldiers. Despite her protestations, they insisted on conducting a body search, provoking her to stab at them with a pair of dressmaking scissors. They shot her dead, but her memory lives on in the district which now bears her name.
Begin with a pre-lunch vermut at the traditional Taberna Ángel Sierra (Plaza Chueca 11, 915 31 01 26) and then head into the nearby Mercado de San Antón. Admire the market’s fabulous range of produce, then enjoy lunch on its rooftop terrace, La Cocina de San Antón (913 30 02 94).
After lunch, check out the outlet shoe stores along the Calle Augusto Figueroa and the boutiques on Calle de Fuencarral – you’ll find Spanish fashion label, El Ganso at no. 2, and Barcelona design firm Custo at no. 29. At the top of the street, pop into the excellent Museo de Historia.
After visiting the museum, stroll along Calle de San Vicente Ferrer, where you’ll find some of the city’s few surviving tiled shopfronts from the 1920s (including a pharmacy at the corner of Calle de San Andrés), and make for the Plaza Dos de Mayo, the historic heart of the Malasaña district. At the corner of the square, Pepe Botella (Calle de San Andrés 12, 915 22 43 09), a shabby-chic favourite of artists and actors, is the perfect spot for a break.
Continue east to the Centro Cultural Conde Duque, a former barracks which has been converted into an excellent cultural centre, and is home to the city’s collection of contemporary art. After visiting the gallery, walk to the nearby Plaza de los Comendadores, where you can join the locals at one of the terrace cafés, such as Federal at no. 9 (915 32 84 24).
Calle Fuencarral 42 (Cnr Augusto Figueroa)
For internationally acclaimed, comfortable and casual footwear, head to Camper, which stocks a selection of shoes produced in Mallorca.
Hernán Cortés 9
The perfect shop for vintage fashion, this store offers an exquisite selection of clothes and accessories from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Find original outfits and accessories from a range of worldwide designers at this lovely boutique. Caters for both men and women.
Calle de Fuencarral 36
This Spanish brand, started by two Ibizan brothers, has been taking Europe by storm in recent years. Offers funky, colourful street fashions.
Calle de Fuencarral 29
Set up by Custo and David Dalmau in the early 1980s, this fashion house is inspired by the colours and patterns of California. The shop has plenty of pretty dresses and coats for women, while style-conscious men will love the graphic T-shirts and tailored jackets.
Since 1978, this well established Spanish designer has been producing excellent leather goods, which include bags, purses, wallets and suitcases. Find his designs at reasonable rates at this outlet.
Calle Velarde 2
This charming shop is packed with a great selection of vintage clothing and accessories. The shop also has an area for art displays, and a collection of old film cameras.
Corredera Baja de San Pablo 18
LeCircus specialises in cool Scandinavian designs for women, all with a distinctly exclusive style.
Calle de Conde de Xiquena 12
Beautiful hand-crafted jewellery is made on the premises from stones such as amber and amethyst. There is a range of styles, and you can design your own piece.
Calle Conde de Xiquena 9
This boutique is the perfect place to shop for occasion wear. Stocking women’s colourful dresses, shoes and accessories, many are by Spanish designers.
Calle de Mejía Lequerica 1
Spain produces more olive oil than any other country, and this supplier stocks the finest Extra Virgin varieties. Also look for the DO (denominación de origen) quality control on the label.
Calle Divino Pastor 29
This charming sandal shop was established in 1863. It specializes in traditional espadrilles, hand-woven and sewn by artisans from the La Rioja region of Spain. The shop is often patronized by Spanish royalty.
Calle de Conde de Xiquena 13
If you are interested in Iberian wines, take care not to overlook this basement merchant with its excellent selection of Spanish wines and liqueurs. Tastings are also on offer.
Calle de Fuencarral 17
With unique handcrafted jewellery designs, for both men and women, Uno de 50 offers something for every budget.
Divino Pastor 6
Stylish gifts at this shop include pocket- as well as wrist-watches, keyrings, jewellery and ink wells.
Calle Hortaleza 1
Candles in every size and shape are arranged in rainbow colours in this small shop. It also has incense and incense burners, lanterns and candles for patios and gardens.
Calle del Almirante 23
If it’s collectable, this shop collects it – postcards, perfume containers, tobacco tins, cameras, sunglasses, cinema programmes, menus and cigarette cards. You will find it difficult to drag yourself away.
Calle San Joaquin 3
A modern, inviting bookshop with an interesting and eclectic selection of titles. The walls here are hung with changing art exhibitions, and the bookshop even has its own wine bar.
Calle Pelayo 48
This tiny Chueca art gallery showcases the work of up-and-coming local artists in a wide range of media, from photography to illustration. The interesting exhibitions are always worth a look, and could provide you with an original and affordable souvenir.
An upmarket department store where you can find gourmet cuisine, cosmetics, gifts as well as fashion accessories and garments.
Calle Sagasta 14 • 915 91 01 12 • Closed Sun & public hols, Aug • €€€
This striking Navarre restaurant with its avant-garde decor is famed for its perfect vegetables, fresh fish and grilled meats and homemade desserts. Tapas are served at the bar.
Calle Augusto Figueroa 32 • 915 22 04 40 • Closed Mon,Tue, Easter Sat & Sun • €€€
Chueca’s top restaurant is not cheap, but it is an absolute gem. The menu changes regularly to make the most of seasonal produce and game.
Calle Santa Brígida 1 • 915 21 98 54 • Closed Mon, Aug • €€
This back-street Galician marisquería is well-known for its good value shellfish, fresh fish and Crêpes Suzette. An assortment of seafood is also available for take away.
Calle Gravina 19 • 915 21 37 99 • Closed Sun D • €€
Exquisite large tapas are on the menu here. Try the wild mushrooms, rocket salad, lamb chops and steaks.
Calle Regueros 8 • 917 02 15 86 • Closed Sat & Sun • €€€
Hailed as one of Spain’s best dining experiences, go for one of the three taster menus with wine pairings. There’s an impressive wine cellar.
Calle de Alburquerque 14 • 914 45 54 80 • €
Enjoy live jazz, blues, or tango performances by renowned artists along with a cocktail at this large jazz club.
Calle San Andrés 12 • 915 22 43 09 • €
Relax and people-watch while having a coffee, beer or glass of wine at this old café with its comfortable velvet banquettes and marble-topped tables.
Valverde 29 • 915 21 87 53 • Closed Mon–Fri L • €
This modern space, with its own brewhouse, offers a number of different types of craft beer on tap. From blonde ale to the most intense, dark Imperial Stout, each has its own personal touch.
Calle Prim 5 • 913 60 49 74 • Closed Sun & public hols • €€
This bright restaurant serves Spanish dishes with a modern twist. It is essential to book a table.
Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 29 • 915 31 70 37 • Closed Mon–Sun L, Tue • €
A club for young people who drop in to chat, read the paper or to play board games. Draught beer, cocktails and snacks are served.
Calle de Colón 13 • 915 21 49 79 • €
This cosy taberna (see Bodega de la Ardosa) serves Guinness on tap, as well as tapas. Try the fabada (bean and squid stew).
Calle del Espíritu Santo 30 • 915 21 39 58 • Closed Tue L • €
Literary quotes line the brick walls of this bar. Serves delicious traditional Andalucían tapas with a modern twist.
Calle Libertad 8 • 915 32 11 50 • €
Relax at this Bohemian café-bar and listen to the singer-songwriters who perform in the back room.
Calle de Augusto Figueroa 35 • 915 21 70 12 • Closed Sun, Mon D • €
One of the most authentic tabernas in the city, El Comunista offers simple home cooking and a wine shop.
Augusto Figueroa 24 • 913 30 02 71 • €
Located within the San Antón market, this bar serves Basque specialities, and at least 15 types of croquettes.
Calle Reina 31 • 690 67 37 96 • €€
With a classy bar, some stools and an excellent open kitchen, Arallo is an informal taberna with the menu influenced by cuisines ranging from Andalucia to Asia.
Calle de la Libertad 6 • 915 32 12 19 • Closed Sun D, Aug • €€
Classic tapas are served here along with the wonderful prawn and garlic tostas (see El Bocaíto).
Calle de Hortaleza, 11 • 915 21 88 87 • €
Opened during the regime of King Alfonso XIII, Stop Madrid is one of the oldest tabernas in Madrid. Taste the best cold cuts and 40 wines from different regions of Spain, accompanied with some tapas.
Calle Gravina 11 • 915 31 01 26 • Closed Wed, 2 weeks in Aug • €
Try the escabeche de atún (pickled tuna) at this tapas bar, which has vermouth on tap.