In this volume of no-frills finds, we reveal the location of two classic bodegas, one no-frills microbrewery, and a bustling seafoodie gem. We also document two separate sightings of Madrid’s past, which had been lying dormant beneath our feet this whole time.
It paid to go little off-grid too, leading us to a burnt-out train driver’s cabin and the quirkiest museum we’ve found yet. But first, let’s take the time-tram and travel back to last century…
1. MADRID’S OLD TRAMLINES
Did you know about Madrid’s grand plan to improve the pedestrian path between Basílica de San Francisco El Grande and Anton Martin? The works have chiselled open yet another portal to Madrid’s long-lost past, which lies just inches below our feet.
2. PROSPE’S BARRIO BODEGA
A good 71 years without a microwave, and still resisting. Absolutely no modern frills required at Casa Emilio, Prosperidad’s barrio classic. Just good wine, tiled walls, a marble bar and delicious free tapas. Oh, and try their prawns – it’s what they’re famed for locally.
Location: Calle de López de Hoyos, 98
3. THE MUSEUM OF GHOST MILESTONES
A quirky collection of disused motorway milestones can be found in the southernmost part of the Nuevos Ministerios gardens.
In this unlikely cemetery, there are 17 milestones here in total, all of which once marked an important distance or regional border along Spain’s motorways.
Officially, the oldest milestone found here dates back to 1930, but historians suspect that the smaller ones carved from stone could date back even further.
The location of the museum of disused milestones has remained digitally unmarked all of these years – that is, until we added it to Google Maps. Here it is for you to discover far more easily than we did.
4. SOL’S GHOST METRO ENTRANCE
Madrid Metro decided that three metro entrances were quite enough, closing up and sealing off the one visible in this photograph.
But wait! it turns out that the staircase of this former entrance still exists and is now an emergency exit. Can you spot it in this more recent photograph? It’s the row of concrete panels with little handles on them, in front of Zap Shop (formerly Bar Sol).
5. THE BURNT-OUT DRIVER’S CABIN
6. VALLECAS’ NO-FRILLS SEAFOOD BAR
This deceptively large offbeat find is perfect for a group get-together for a long, lazy lunch. The €60 sharing option comes with a bottle of wine and three courses: tender octopus doused in olive oil, a huge platter of succulent seafood and a serving of steak cutlets to end – plenty between four.
The décor is perfectly no-frills and the atmosphere is relaxed and sociable with a noisy, bustling bar area and a warm, jovial waiter who is always ready to tell you a story or two.
Location: Calle Ntra. Sra. de las Mercedes, 5
7. A PRETTY BODEGA IN THE HEART OF CHINA TOWN
Step into this packed Usera bodega and add to the wearing down of those charmingly fading floor tiles. Order a rioja and try not to knock the wooden shelves stacked with the finest Spanish preserves. Let all those delicious, olive-oil-drenched tostadas ruin your dinner plans, and take note of the bar facade: I bet those half wine barrels had no idea way back then that they’d be varnished and used to prop up the prettiest bar in the barrio. Taberna Andaluza Sacromonte also have a few Chinese influences in their menu – they’re located in the heart of Madrid’s China Town, after all.
Location: Calle Mercedes Manjón, 3
8. THE STREET FAMOUS FOR ITS HANGING WASHING
Hanging washing lifts the empty spaces between Vallecas’s council flats, bringing reassuring disorder to undeviating urban lines. It’s not the architecture, parks or squares that makes Madrid so beautiful, it’s the unintentional human details.
This work of accidental urban art is located right across the road from beautiful no-frills bar, Hermanos Muñoz.
9. THE TETERÍA NEXT DOOR TO THE MOSQUE
Tetería Alif, owned by Bilal from Tétouan in Morocco, is a small tea bar adjoining the large mosque complex in barrio Tetuán. It’s simple and no-frills, with the scent of mint tea wafting across the room to a backdrop of rolling Al Jazeera news coverage on the TV.
It’s a portal to the bustling Moroccan city of Tétouan, right in the heart of the neighbourhood of Tetuán. And if you’re curious, go and explore the mosque next door too – it’s really quite spectacular.
Location: Calle Anastasio Herrero, 3
10. THE NO-FRILLS MICROBREWERY IN VALLECAS
Disguised as a garage, there’s a no-frills bar in a kind of peculiar place: inside a microbrewery in Puente de Vallecas. It has seven types of artisinal beer, crisps and olives, and nothing else. Don’t mind the hot and steamy atmosphere, it is a brewery of course.
Location: Calle Enrique Velasco, 21
If you think you’ve got an eye for Madrid’s no-frills finds, could you make an MNF Detective?