A great historic area of Madrid where the old and the young sit side by side.
Malasaña has a proud and important place in the history of both Madrid and Spain. It was the starting place for the uprising against Napoleon that led, through some bloody events, to Spain’s independence from French rule in the early 19th Century.
The main square in the district sits on the site of the old artillery barracks and is called the Plaza del Dos de Mayo to commemorate the 2nd of May – the date the uprising started. The area itself is named after Manuela Malasaña, a teenage seamstress who was one of the heroes of the revolt.
Not content to rest on their laurels, however, after the ousting of Franco in the 1970s, Malasaña then formed the focus of the cultural revolution that had been bubbling under the surface. So Malasaña is an interesting mixture of both the old and the new.
Plaza del Dos de Mayo
The Dos de Mayo Square is the beating heart of Malasaña and it’s here you first get a sense that, despite the history, this is one of the youngest and hippest areas of Madrid. Filled, like all the best squares, with bars and cafés, Dos de Mayo has a distinct alternative feel. Young people and families are the order of the day rather than old men reading the newspaper over their morning cortado.
There are swings for the kids and at weekends it fills with craft markets showcasing the wares of the artisans of the area. Radiating out from the square are the vibrant streets of the Malasaña district.
The main artery of the area, forming the Eastern edge and the border with neighbouring Chueca, is Fuencarral. Not long ago this was a run-down street but now it’s a shopper’s paradise with all of the top designer and high street brands vying for your Euros. It’s worth a look just for some window shopping
If you’d rather save those Euros for something a little less…corporate then head to Calle del Espiritu Santu where you’ll find a wealth of independent designers and vintage clothes stores.
Of course there’s always a bit of culture to take your mind off your day. Malasaña has some great theatres including the weird and wonderful Microteatro por Dinero – a converted brothel showing short pieces in the bedrooms to a maximum of 15 viewers for just €4.
Malasaña is also the home of both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Romanticism, which also has a great little tea room to keep you refreshed. And at the West of the district lies the Liria Palace – the home of the Dukes of Alba – which is a beautiful neo-classical building that’s worth a few moments of your day.
Eating and drinking
Like most districts in Madrid, Malasaña has a thriving food and drink scene. It’s not a place for Michelin stars, more a place for street food stalls and relaxed communal eating. There’s tapas, of course, and also gourmet burgers and all manner of tasty treats.
Bars and clubs are plentiful and you’ll be sure to find one to suit your tastes. If you’re unsure, just follow the locals into a bar, grab a caña (a small beer) and you’ll probably be offered a pintxo (snack) or tapa (small plate) to go with it.
Where to stay
There are some great hotels in Malasaña, especially small boutique-style establishments, to complete your Madrid experience. Many of the city’s more innovative hotels are located here, along with cheaper options. The neighbourhood is within walking distance of the city centre but removed enough to cut down a lot of the noise, although be aware that noise from bars and clubs can be problematic on some of the major roads in the district.