Curiosity often gets the better of me, but I like to think I’m prepared for what lurks behind the curtain. In 2015, however, I was forbidden to look. The man inside the tiny ticket window told me: “Sorry love, this isn’t for you.”
Vallecas is a working-class neighbourhood with an unstoppable fire in its belly. It emerged out of a slum, only to be beaten back to the bones again by the most brutal pummelling the Spanish Civil War could give. Since then, this hard-left barrio has become a close-knit community and home to thousands of immigrants from all around the world, making it one of the most mesmerising corners of Madrid.
Madrid is a complex city that likes to reveal itself slowly, keeping you in constant awe of its depths, expanse and infinite detail. The forgotten secrets, concealed corners and vibrant subcultures in just this city alone could keep you exploring for a lifetime, but here’s a good starting point.
There are few better ways to spend a Sunday in Madrid than strolling around El Rastro, but if you don’t have time to explore this 400-year-old market as many times as we have (possibly into three figures), then let us help you hit the ground running with seven of our most eccentric finds.
La Tabacalera is running a contemporary art exhibition in its old bathing quarters, opening up a rarely-used corner of this 225-year-old industrial building.
We’re in a surreal time in Madrid, somewhere between crisis and post-crisis. With the economy in motion again, the city’s charming madrileño hum is being shattered by the crash-bang-drill-beep of construction work and, for a brief moment, a peculiar phenomenon is appearing.
Those seven little holes lead to an underground prison where over the centuries, controversial influencers of their time were incarcerated.
“Do you know about the toy hospital?” a friend asked. “It’s the last one in the whole of Spain and the owner is about to retire – you have to write about it!”
Over five million people are buried, stacked and stored as ashes in Madrid’s biggest graveyard. Its size and layout make it feel like more of a city than a cemetery – it has a historic centre, named streets, and neighbourhoods with different characters.
The Spanish spring is finally upon us and the almond and cherry trees are blossoming! Here are three central Madrid places to find them.