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The best things to do in Malasaña, Madrid

Madrid's coolest neighbourhood? The best things to do in Malasaña make a compelling argument in favour of that claim

Edited by
Time Out editors
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There is always something happening in Malasaña. Madrid’s famous district has been through plenty over the years, and today it sits pretty as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in town. The best things to do in Malasaña are very much in line with modern trends and the rise of hipsterdom, but leave your cynicism at the door; this place is awesome.

Madrid is a magnificent city, and Malasaña might be its most magnificent spot. From the centre of La Movida Madrileña to the trendiest district in town, Malasaña has seen it, done it, and worn the t-shirt with style.

Where the trendy go

Where the trendy go

If it is in style, you’ll find it in Malasaña. It used to be a district where the grannies and granddads met in the street and gossiped about their neighbours. Then the hipsters showed up, and rents increased, bikes took over, and bakeries started charging double for muffins; bars switched from toothpicks and those little serviettes that don't absorb anything to building in huge windows and owners providing chairs and tables inherited from those grandparents they ran out of the neighbourhood (and now it is vintage furniture!). Luckily, the classic 'old-man' bars in the area have survived by not changing. Similarly, traditional bookshops and brave record stores have kept their spots in the barrio.

Out for drinks

Out for drinks

Malasaña is one of the most popular areas to go in search of some nighttime fun. Its streets are lined with plenty of spots with all kinds of music drawing diverse crowds. Metalheads will feel at home at the dark Rey Lagarto, with mini 'calimochos' (red wine mixed with Coke) at a decent price; those nostalgic for La Movida days flock to TupperWare or El Penta. While the choosier punters prefer a (pricey) beer at a spot like Kikekeller, anyone looking for a riskier option might get a cold beer at a shop and drink it in the open air of Plaza del Dos de Mayo or Plaza San Ildefonso – though this practice seems commonplace, it's not actually legal, and you can face a fine. Whatever your musical taste or preferred surroundings, you're sure to find the perfect spot for a tipple in Malasaña.

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Urban art

Urban art

The graffiti in this neck of the woods has not only survived city cleanings; it is treated as art. And it truly is. From the metal shutters of closed restaurants to the corners of ancient buildings, this art is a part of the streets of Malasaña. So much so that groups such as the Madrid Street Art Project have organised tours to show off the best works that decorate the neighbourhood. There are many art associations and small galleries in this area as well.

Restaurants for all palates

Restaurants for all palates

Nearly every week, it feels like a new restaurant opens in Malasaña. Most offer a Sunday brunch, let you bring your pet, and give you a place to store your bike inside. Market fresh or fusion dishes are on the menu, and the décor is usually an industrial design base, with armchairs, mismatched wooden tables and chairs, exposed brick walls, wide silver pipes on the ceiling, and lamps made of just a cord and a bulb. If you take a good look around, you'll also find good old-fashioned tapas bars as well.

Restaurants in Malasaña

Ribeira Do Miño
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Malasaña
  • price 3 of 4

Galician in origin, this is one for seafood lovers. Heaped platters of prawns, crabs, goose-necked barnacles, lobster and other sea creatures make it the ideal place to roll up your sleeves and get cracking shells. Other typical Gallego dishes that add a little heat to the fun are pancakes doused in orujo (a fiery spirit made from grapes) and set aflame, and the queimada - a bowl of orujo set on fire and then cooled with black coffee. No reservations are allowed, so grab a ticket and wait. 

Clarita
  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Malasaña
  • price 2 of 4

Lying beside the vaunted Triball area, this small restaurant is usually filled at weekends by the huge influx of people visiting the neighbourhood. Here you can start the night with a few snacks or book a table for casual dining. 

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Naif
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Malasaña
  • price 1 of 4

Located on one side of the bustling Plaza de San Ildefonso, this friendly place serves hamburgers and sandwiches to the neighbourhood’s modern set, who use it as a meeting place. Vintage decor and a pleasant atmosphere where you can sample a Mexican dish or have a drink.  

La Tasquita de Enfrente
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Malasaña
  • price 3 of 4

The quality of simple ingredients is non-negotiable at this restaurant with just eight tables, where Juanjo López deploys all his culinary talents, transforming traditional recipes into contemporary, elegant dishes. Haute market-style cuisine, exceptional service and an outstanding wine and champagne list; what's not to like?

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Buenas y Santas
  • Restaurants
  • Argentinian
  • Legazpi
  • price 2 of 4

This place started in Legazpi, and given the success and confidence garnered by its Argentinean owners, they opened a new establishment just between two of Madrid’s most fashionable districts: Malasaña and Conde Duque. Here they’ve added some original grilled pizzas to a menu that already features empanadas, quiches, salads, burgers and homemade desserts.  

Bars in Malasaña

Vacaciones
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Malasaña

Caipirinhas, mai tais, 'romantic' or 'daring' natural fruit cocktails, Bombay Sapphire gin & tonics… This spot beating in the chest of Malasaña fills up at weekends with Madrid locals longing for the beach. Its walls are covered with pictures of idyllic summer scenes you can get lost in while sipping on something exotic at their wooden tables or sitting on a colourful chair. The floor, the pouffes and the pieces of cloth have an ethnic touch that goes well with the Nordic and sober style of the light wood shelves. The modern and fresh ambience is enhanced by a young clientele.

La Ardosa
  • Bars and pubs
  • Tapas bars
  • Malasaña
  • price 1 of 4

A favourite for aperitifs and early afternoons, lined with old dusty beer bottles. Draught beer on tap to wash down a small dish from the attractive menu – the Spanish omelette is justly famous. Ducking under the counter, you’ll find an intimate bar room. 

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Casa Camacho
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Malasaña
  • price 1 of 4

A diamond in the rough, the diminutive Casa Camacho has changed little since it opened in 1928, except for adding a fruit machine and a TV – both in constant use. Pre-war dust coats the bottles and plastic flowers on display and the floor is a sea of toothpicks and crumbs, but for a slice of real neighbourhood life, it can't be beat, though nowadays it tends to fill up with local hipsters. Make sure you try a 'yayo'.

Gorila
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • Malasaña
  • price 1 of 4

A comfortable place to come with your laptop and work a little over your morning coffee. Breakfasts are served, and there’s always something to snack on during the day. In the evening, smoothies give way to mojitos and daiquiris. As well as samples of street art on the walls, temporary exhibitions are held here. 

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La Taberna de la Copla
  • Bars and pubs
  • Tapas bars
  • Malasaña
  • price 1 of 4

Copla is a Spanish ballad, as sung by those depicted here in the dozens of crumbling photos. Tapas are named for famous coplas - Juanita Reina is ham with tomato; Principe Gitano is tuna with peppers, and a range of tortillas includes La Zarzamora (plain); Ojos Verdes (with ham), and Cinco Farolas (with tuna). 

La Paca
  • Music
  • Malasaña

This little vintage café located in the heart of Madrid hosts all kinds of events thanks to the infinite creativity of its owner. Markets, showrooms, art exhibitions, presentations, mini-concerts... everything has a place in this lovely bar decorated with antique chairs, worn wooden tables and retro pieces. Its clientele is young, hip and cultured, and very typical of Malasaña. It has an intense daytime agenda, but nothing can beat the pleasure of drinking a beer in this magical place after midnight. But don’t leave it too late because La Paca closes at a civilised hour.

Shopping in Malasaña

  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • Malasaña

Books and wine are the stars at Tipos Infames, a bookshop specialising in independent literary novels. Here the traditional concept of a bookshop has adapted to changing times, bringing together a fascinating selection of books in a dynamic space open to culture through its café, wine bar and exhibition room. Watch out for the transparent floors on the second floor. 

  • Shopping
  • Womenswear
  • Malasaña

Amid an atmosphere of modernity and creativity, you’ll find this urban market, an icon of groundbreaking alternative fashion in Madrid. The building has three floors with shops where young designers show off their latest creations. Its more than 45 shops are an explosion of design, imagination and creativity. A must if you want to keep up with the latest trends. 

Nightlife in Malasaña

La Vía Láctea
  • Music
  • Malasaña

This is something of an old glory on the Madrid nightclub scene, which shot to fame in the 1980s on the back of the Movida Madrileña and is still wearing a certain nostalgic halo. Its graffiti-filled walls are run down, giving it a louche, rock and roll touch. It’s divided into four different areas, so it doesn’t tend to get too full, and you’ll usually have room to move around (and breathe). The clientele is a diverse mix of thirty-year-olds, but you can find everything from veteran rockers to youngsters looking for music from another time. There’s also a pool table, though it’s fallen into disuse.

Ocho y Medio
  • Music
  • Malasaña

Ocho y Medio is the perfect stop on your hedonistic tour of the town if you are looking for an alcohol-fuelled mass of party energy. DJ Smart makes it all sound very '80s and '90s, thrashing out an eclectic mix of indie, electro-clash, electro-pop, new wave and New York rock. It takes a master to meld Blur and Depeche Mode. On arriving here, you’ll be met by a sea of flannel shirts and horn-rimmed glasses in Madrid’s hipster haven. There are also fantastic concerts by local and international bands.

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  • Music
  • Malasaña

This is one of the best-known nightclubs in Madrid, so you’ll often find queues at weekends. The wait is worth it. The tremendous acoustics, range of styles, ambiences and great music make Barco the go-to venue in Malasaña. It’s the perfect place to finish your night out in the centre. They schedule frequent concerts, and the Friday and Saturday DJ sessions are always popular.

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