How to explore the eclectic Lavapiés neighbourhood
Madrid’s Lavapiés is the Spanish capital’s hot and pop neighbourhood – a feat it pulls off without being overly hipsterish or tediously trendy.
The name Lavapiés is a historical reference literally meaning “wash feet.” According to popular legend, the Jewish community who lived in Lavapiés until the 15th century used to wash their feet in a central fountain before entering the synagogue. Although this theory has been challenged by historians, it lives on in oral tradition among the townspeople.
Nowadays Lavapiés is known for its vast immigrant population, which is reflected in its mouth-watering array of restaurants. A good way to start the evening is by savouring some Senegalese food, followed by a classic flamenco performance at Casa Patas. Continue to Café Barbieri to take in a fusion flamenco band, and end the night with ridiculously affordable yet delicious Greek souvlaki kebabs at Egeo Souvlakeri.
Lavapiés attracts crowds with its laid-back atmosphere, cheap rents, and many cultural activities – and it helps to be just one stop away from the main metro station, Sol. In Lavapiés, everything is just around the corner, which is refreshing in a giant city of more than three million people.
Madrid is full of mercados (market halls) ranging in style from sophisticated to trendy. Lavapiés’ own Mercado de San Fernando is traditional, cosy, and very hip all at the same time. This is the place to go on a weekend afternoon when the mercado becomes a living room for locals.
Bohemian Cafelito near the Lavapiés metro station is recommended for coffee lovers looking for something new. It is a top spot to enjoy a classic Madrid breakfast, tostadas con tomate (toast with fresh tomato). Cafelito serves a funky variety of specialties, including a concoction of condensed milk and lemon rind.
El Colmo is an intimate bar next to the famous Cine Doré, a movie theatre dating back to the early 19th century. In the evening the bar’s shabby-chic furniture and soft lighting feels like a hand that wants to pull you in. Occasional live music – acoustic, of course – goes down beautifully with a glass or two of Spanish wine.
Text Noona Bäckgren
Photos Katariina Pajunen