AREAS OF MADRID MADRID CITY CENTER
Lavapiés - El Rastro Fleamarket
This neighbourhood was the Jewish and Moorish quarter outside the city walls until they were forced into exile or conversion in 1492. Lavapiés then became Madrid's working class neighbourhood for hundreds of years and largely fell into decay until artists and immigrants began to fill its abandoned houses in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, an inevitable gentrification process has occurred and is zooming ahead. It's now a multicultural, bohemian neighbourhood full of bars, galleries, ethnic restaurants and cafés.
Lavapiés has as its boundaries Calle Atocha to the east, Ronda de Valencia to the south, Calle de Embajadores to the west and Calle de la Magdalena to the north.
The center of the area is the Plaza de Lavapiés (where metro Lavapiés drops you). Upon entering the plaza, you wil find yourself among Africans, Turks, Gypsies, Chinese, South Americans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, and Spanish. The wealth of diversity may at first be daunting. Within minutes, someone will probably step forward, whistling, and offer to sell you hash. This is not a threat, and your life is not in danger. Shake your head “no”, smile, and walk on. You have offended no one, and you are not being followed.
A great vein off the plaza Lavapiés is Calle Argumosa, the place to be when the weather's nice. It's lined with bars and restaurants with outdoor seating, so you can partake in one of Madrid's great pleasures, "las terrazas." In Calle Lavapiés, off Plaza Lavapiés, you can also enjoy a meal outdoors, this time with a great choice of indian restaurants.
Argumosa leads all the way down to Ronda de Atocha, ending in front of the Reina Sofia Museum's new, glossy red addition by the architect Jean Nouvel.
Again at plaza Lavapies, head uphill and you'll pop back into Plaza de Tirso de Molina, named after the celebrated Golden Age playwright who created the original escapades of Don Juan in "El Burlador de Sevilla." This square belongs to no one neighborhood, rather it lies on the border of various neighborhoods: Lavapiés to the south, Sol to the north, Huertas to the east, and La Latina to the west. Tirso de Molina used to be seedy and slightly dangerous, however the city recently revitalized and cleaned up the area. Now you can enjoy outdoor cafés and a flower market.
From Tirso de Molina, taking calle Magdalena, you'll get to the art nouveau Cine Doré, in calle Santa Isabel, 3. It is the film theater of the Spanish Filmoteca. It has three screens, which show films every day in their original language. They often have film weeks, where they project the films of a famous director, like Luis Buñuel or Woody Allen or from a certain country, like Sweden or Japan.
See other independent cinemas in our pages.
For the Lavapies outdoor café nightlife, head to the streets of Calle Ave Maria or Colegio. The atmosphere is lively, relaxed, and informal and you will need some patience.
You'll see that many of the patrons of the bars and restaurants have dreadlocks, mohawks or shaved heads, and more often than not you will smell hash joints being passed around tables of friends. A visitor must recognize that the presence of hash in Lavapies is accepted as a social norm. But the crowd of Lavapies is not only young radicals; there are old city Madrileños as well.
The café Barbieri, at calle Ave María, is one of those old cafés which preserves the atmosphere of 19th century Madrid.
There are a few places for flamenco in the area. At Candela bar (calle del Olmo) the atmosphere is pure flamenco as gypsies and Andaluz artist performers regularly drop in and do their stuff. The "jam sessions" at the rear are deservedly famous, though it may be hard to get access. Casa Patas (calle Cañizares) is more popular and touristic, but it is easy to get in and to understand the show.
From Plaza de Lavapiés you can veer back off towards El Rastro to the west.
El Rastro - Madrid´s flea market
This area is known primarily for the flea
market (purportedly the world's largest) held
on Sundays and bank holidays from about 10AM to
3PM. El Rastro lies within the triangle formed by the La Latina metro stop, Puerta de Toledo and Glorieta de Embajadores; being calle Ribera de Curtidores its central axis. Google map location.
This market is a must-see for visitors, the streets of the entire area filled with stalls selling just about every imaginable sort of goods. Even if you're not interested in buying anything, it's worth coming by to stroll around and feel what is still a very genuine market atmosphere, then, perhaps finish off your visit with a few tapas. We would caution the visitor to this area that not everything sold in the Rastro is a bargain, and particularly cheap items may have been stolen. Serious antiques trade has mostly moved off the streets and into the shops. Indeed, be careful of your own wallets and handbags in around the market, since the very crowded streets are a haven for pickpockets.
Please see also our recommendations to travel safe in Madrid.
El Rastro may only take place on Sundays, but flea market spirit pervades this artsy, bohemian section of Madrid.
El Rastro ends south at Puerta de Toledo (metro station Puerta de Toledo). This gate was constructed in 1827. Mercado Puerta de Toledo is an interesting shopping mall in Madrid. You can find antiques, crafts and design shops.
Puerta de Toledo Market
Puerta de Toledo 1
Google map location
Metro: Puerta de Toledo (L5)
www. Centro Puerta de Toledo Madrid
Mercado Puerta de Toledo is one of the most elegant shopping malls in Madrid. It used to be an old 19th century fish market, but now it is a modern shopping centre. Mercado Puerta de Toledo is a great place for antique, profession and design shops. You can also use it as a great excuse to get to know the area around Calle Toledo, Lavapiés district, Calle Bailén and Cebada Market. The Mercado Puerta de Toledo market is near Latina and you can go by metro Puerta de Toledo. More information in our page about Madrid shopping centres.
Follow Ronda de Toledo east to Glorieta de Embajadores.
On this section
The Rastro on Sundays
Cine Doré Filmoteca española Madrid
Gaudeamus cafe, a roof terrace in Lavapiés
Centro Dramático Nacional Theate in Lavapiés
Tapas bars in calle Argumosa
el Aloque, a very good tapas bar in Torrecilla del Leal
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