The oldest area of Madrid is brimming with historical charm.
La Latina occupies much of the area of the original Islamic Citadel that was the forerunner of modern Madrid. Stepping into the area you can’t help but notice that it’s a very old place.
It’s an area of large squares and narrow medieval streets that’s a joy to simply wander around. But unlike many of the other areas in Madrid, La Latina keeps many of its charms slightly hidden from view.
Three squares – Plaza de Paja, Plaza de Puerta de Moros and Plaza e la Cebada – form the beating heart of the barrio. Around here you’ll find cafes and bars with outside seating or rooftop terraces where you can sit and watch the world go by as you enjoy your coffee or beer.
Mercado de la Cebada
One of the main delights of La Latina, this old market has, like many markets, been through some rough times over the years. Today, though, it stands as a testament to perseverance having recently managed to modernise itself and secure its place in the world.
In and amongst the old fishmongers and butchers you’ll find trendy bars and eateries that are starting to attract a global reputation. The outside boasts a delightful colourful exterior which is one of the biggest and best displays of street art anywhere in Europe.
No guide to La Latina would be complete without mention of Tapas. La Latina has the highest concentration of tapas bars anywhere in Spain, and therefore the world! The Calles Toledo, Calatrava, Humilladero and Tabernillas are lined with them and they’re mostly amazing and reasonably priced. Setting foot in La Latina without eating tapas is almost a crime!
La Latina also has a great nightlife scene and many of the bars have rooftop terraces offering great views over the city.
Although it’s a 24/7 kinda place, Sunday is possibly the best day to visit La Latina, purely for El Rastro. It’s a huge street market that’s worth a visit on its own. Between Calle de Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, the whole area comes alive with street vendors selling everything from clothing and jewellery to trinkets and antiques. In addition, many of the antique shops on the neighbouring streets open up on a Sunday allowing everyone to see their wares.
Hidden in and amongst the narrow streets of La Latina there are some delightful old churches. The Iglesia de San Andres dates from the 1600s and, as well as a beautiful dome and stunning stained glass, holds the tomb of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of Madrid.
The Basilica de San Francisco el Grande is a massive basilica which has one of the biggest domes in Europe. Inside you’ll find some splendid paintings by Spanish artists.
There are some great hotels in La Latina though its bustling nature may make it a little noisy so if you find it hard to sleep it’s best to find somewhere a little further off the beaten track.