Living Museums

10 rainy-day activities in Madrid (for people who don’t like museums)

2 March 2018
Rain, 1948

Have you already been to all the museums, or do you just fancy something a bit different? Here are 10 rainy-day alternatives…

1. SPEND THE AFTERNOON IN A MERCADO

Madrid’s markets are like indoor villages. You can do your shopping and then stay for a coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks. You can get your watch repaired or shoes reheeled – and discover some historical sights at the same time, like the old stone sinks and stalls’ vintage facades.

Seafood Saturday (A5 €8)

Seafood Saturday

Our favourite market is Mercado de la Cebada, which you can read about in its very own Madrid No Frills article.

2. GO TO CHURCH

Churches are some of Madrid’s most spectacular accidental museums, and one of our personal favourites is the brutalist Parroquia del Buen Suceso. This mid 20th-century eyesore was built to replace its unfortunate predecessor, which was looted and burnt out during the Spanish Civil War.

War damage

War damage

This church could probably have been repaired, but the decision was made to tear it down and “modernise” Calle de la Princesa.

Its modern confessionals come complete with a red/green light system and fully enclosed booths for even greater confidentiality than before.

The confessionals

The confessionals

Take a look around this reluctantly beautiful octagonal beast and keep your eyes peeled for the high-tech holy water font next to the entrance.

A brutalist baptism font

A brutalist baptism font

Location: Calle de la Princesa, 43

3. DO A BAR CRAWL AROUND PLAZA MAYOR

Once upon a time, Plaza Mayor had some of the best no-frills bars in town. They’ve since become very touristy and quite a bit more expensive than the other no-frills bars you’ll find on the blog, but why should there be parts of this city dedicated entirely to tourists? Take back Plaza Mayor – it’s everyone’s to enjoy: tourists and locals alike!

Every bar and shop around Plaza Mayor is sheltered within the arcades, so you can hop from bar to shop and back to bar again without braving the elements.

A rainy Plaza Mayor

A rainy Plaza Mayor

4. GO TREASURE HUNTING AT THE MINERAL MARKET

Did you know there’s a mineral market on the first Sunday of each month? The next is this Sunday (4 March), so get hunting and be sure to meander through the beautiful building it occupies.

Mercadillo de Minerales

Mercadillo de Minerales | © Juanjo Ovied

Oh and there’s a mine underneath it, which we haven’t explored yet. If you go, let us know what you find!

Location: Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Minas

5. GO GHOST HUNTING ON GRAN VÍA

Why not escape the rain by sheltering inside Primark, H&M and Zara? Don’t worry: we haven’t sent you here to buy anything. Look up and around to admire some of Madrid’s most spectacular buildings, which are steeped in history.

The Madrid-Paris building, 1934

The Madrid-Paris building, 1934

Many of these grand, turn-of-the-century buildings were used as temporary barracks during the Spanish Civil War and have undergone their fair share of conversions. Fortunately, these large retail stores have left their host buildings mostly untouched, respecting the original features throughout.

Before Primark, this building hosted a department store

Before Primark moved in, this building hosted a department store

The Madrid-Paris building today, inhabited by Primark

The Madrid-Paris building, today inhabited by Primark

6. EAT HOT PUPUSAS

Discovering this Salvadorian restaurant, Pupusería, and its pupusas came as a blessing on a cold evening’s search for tacos. We definitely recommend the tacos here, but the star of the show are the pupusas: rice or maize pancakes filled with black beans, cheese, courgette or various other ingredients. Here’s a plate of 14 (shared between seven of us)…

Pupusas

Pupusas

Location of Pupusería: Paseo de Santa María de la Cabeza, 16

7. HANG OUT IN A LIBRARY

One of the best things we did last year was join the library, and it’s seriously upped our interest in – and knowledge of – Madrid’s fascinating history. It’s where we learned about Madrid’s most controversial prison

The entrance to one of the wings

La cárcel de Carabanchel

And about ‘The Metro of the Dead’

The Metro of the Dead

The Metro of the Dead

Madrid’s libraries also have lots of fascinating maps, quirky old films, all of the daily newspapers and a kids’ section. And, of course, you don’t actually have to join the library to enjoy it – just go and get stuck in.

8. GO BOWLING IN AN EERY SHOPPING MALL

We stumbled across this ‘Miami post apocalypse’ shopping mall while on a stroll along the river. It was eerily quiet and half the mall was empty, with some corners of the building in complete darkness. The art deco floors are stunning though, and they led us to a retro bowling alley decked out in deep-red neon lights, making us feel like we were back inside Madrid’s old porn cinema.

The retro bowling alley

The retro bowling alley

Location: Bowling La Ermita

9. SEE WHAT’S ON AT MADRID’S OLD PORN CINEMA

There’s just something about this once-seedy corner of Madrid, possibly because it survived as a fully functioning erotic cinema until so recently. I once tried to get in, but I suspect the staff figured out that I wasn’t there to watch a film. Two years later, however, it reopened as a hipster cinema, and apart from a few additional strobe lights and a deep clean, it doesn’t seem to have changed a bit.

The mezzanine bar

The mezzanine bar

If you’ve got a soft spot for hopelessly vintage films, or you just want to know how the whole ‘watching porn’ thing worked, then grab a drink at the mezzanine bar of Sala Equis and head upstairs to the warm, cosy cinema.

Upstairs inside the cinema

Inside the cinema upstairs

10. BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES

And finally, if the weather is so bad that you don’t even want to go outside, you can still enjoy one of our favourite parts of Madrid, Vallecas, in Pedro Almodóvar’s most internationally known film, Volver.

Volver

Volver

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2 Comments

Ed 2 March 2018 at 1:28 pm

Where is the bowling alley? Thanks.

Reply
Madrid No Frills 2 March 2018 at 1:34 pm

Thanks for asking, Ed! It’s called Bowling La Ermita, on Calle Sepúlveda, 3.

Reply

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