Lost & Found

10 offbeat finds in Madrid (Vol IV)

25 August 2018

Madrid in August is a giant ghost town, except for the fraction of establishments that remain open for business (even the vending machines have closed for the holidays). But August is also the most curious month, with roadworks suddenly exposing a proliferation of ‘rabbit holes’ that lead to a forgotten era.

Construction works take advantage of the empty streets, and undocumented structures from centuries ago begin to reemerge. A digger recently struck the empty lift shaft of the old Gran Vía metro station, and other works revealed an 18th century sanitation tunnel.

The quiet streets also lure us back onto the tourist-beaten path, leading us to some very peculiar discoveries that had been hiding right under our nose. But first, back to that old tunnel…

1. THE 18TH CENTURY TUNNEL

An an old sanitation tunnel is currently being reburied after finally being written into the history books, three centuries later. Despite archaeologists being adamant of its historical significance, the city council has decided to rebury it anyway. At least whoever digs beneath the streets in the future knows that when they hit a layer of red brick, they have to stop.

The 18th century sanitation tunnel

The 18th century sanitation tunnel

2. THE SHRINE TO BULLFIGHTERS ON PLAZA MAYOR

This no-frills bar with a shrine to bullfighters (and maybe also the bulls they killed) can be found in one of Madrid’s most touristy enclaves. Upon entering, your gaze will quickly be drawn to the five stuffed bullheads mounted on the walls, and then hundreds of graphic photographs of bullfighters being gored. You can also spot a few photos of the owner posing with international celebs, mostly of the right-wing variety.

Inside La Torre del Oro

Inside La Torre del Oro

The shrine

The shrine

Location: Plaza Mayor, 26

3. THE GHOST LECHERÍA – NOW TATTOO REMOVAL PARLOUR

August works on this Lavapiés store revealed that it was once an old diary shop. It’s now a tattoo removal parlour.

The ghost lechería

The ghost lechería

Location: Calle de San Carlos, 4

4. THE FORGOTTEN GROOVES

Can you see two grooves at the bottom of the door? They were for the wheels of horse-drawn carriages that used to ride right the way inside this building to drop off its wealthy residents. This is still a very expensive building to live in, but now the modern-day carriages (4x4s) park outside.

Grooves at the foot of the door

The grooves close up

The grooves close up

Location: Calle San Marcos, 43

5. THE FORMER JAMONERÍA – NOW HALAL BUTCHERS

My Halal butcher shop used to be a jamonería! That’s why there are hooks allover the ceiling, and hooks all around the walls.

The halal butchers, which used to be a jamonería

Hooks on the ceiling

Hooks on the ceiling

Location: Alam Carnicería, Calle Lavapiés, 60

6. THE SECRET SPIRAL STAIRCASE

We found another beautiful spiral staircase deep inside a forgotten galería. Only two shops still occupy the space, and there’s a quirky lift which will take you to the top.

The spiral staircase

Location: Calle Arenal, 9

7. THAT FONT

This gorgeous retro bar font can be found adorning recently opened Bar La Esperanza. I used to love coming to the Galician bar that used to reside in this spacious corner unit, but the slightly frilly bar and restaurant that’s taken its place continues to serve a similar crowd.

That font

Location: Calle del Olmo, 30

8. THE LITTLE CORRALA

Hidden at the back of this antique furniture shop is a stunning example of 19th century residential architecture, the corrala. It was built to support an influx of Spanish migrants from rural areas and other cities. Despite its charm, the corrala is a very cramped place to live. Getting to know your neighbours is unavoidable in such intimate settings, but it means the community spirit of this neighbourhood is surprisingly strong.

The little corrala

Location: Calle de San Cayetano, 8

9. THE PULPO PLACE

Head out of the city centre to the quiet neighbourhood of Oporto and find melt-in-your-mouth pulpo in this fun, no-frills pulpería with no-frills prices.

Inside Botafumeiro

Inside Botafumeiro

A media ración of pulpo

A media ración of pulpo

Location: Calle de la Parra, 39

10. THE PINK FOUNTAIN

We found a beautiful pink fountain in Casa de Campo, built just after this park was finally opened up to the public, no longer being kept solely for use by the Royal family. It’s called Fuente de la Republica because it was built during the Second Republic – a brief glimpse of democracy before the Spanish Civil War just three years later.

The pink fountain and 18th century aqueduct

Oh, and that’s an 18th century ghost aqueduct behind it, which is the 11th offbeat find.

Location: Paseo del Embarcadero, 6

Want more offbeat finds? We’ve got three more volumes! Here’s Volume III.

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2 Comments

bob coard 3 September 2018 at 5:40 pm

No. 2, the bullfight bar, is amazing. Right on one of Madrid’s biggest tourist spots and it’s one of the cheapest bars around. Great tapas too, beware of the potato salad though if you don’t like garlic, there’s enough ajo in one tiny taste to slay an entire regiment of elephants.

Reply
Madrid No Frills 4 September 2018 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for the garlicky heads up, Bob!

Reply

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