Culture

A stroll through La Latina’s ‘memory lane’

There are few streets in Madrid with such a well preserved traditional shopping district. Green grocers, bodegas, a coal merchant's and a wicker store are just some of the living museums I found on the short stretch of Calle Calatrava and its surrounding streets.

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

It's raining but perhaps you've already been to all the museums, or maybe you just fancy something a bit less obvious such as spending the afternoon in a mercado, doing a no-frills bar crawl around a barrio you haven't visited before, exploring the labyrinthine tunnels of the old tobacco factory or finally enjoying it being cool enough to eat hearty food again! Here are 10 rainy-day activities that you won't find anywhere else on the Madrinternet...

No frills, nostalgia and resistance at Madrid’s summer Fiestas

An elderly woman dressed in all black is straddling the wrong side of a first-floor balcony. Standing up there with her is another elderly woman wearing a floral smock, bellowing unsolicited advice about how her friend should tie up the bunting. Fierce high-rise arguing descending into laughing, and I watch on in horror yet reassurance that, somehow, these ladies have got it handled. After all, it is quite possibly their 90th year of decorating the streets.

Latest obsession: Urban Sky Frames

What is an urban sky frame? It's a worm's-eye view centring around the sky, almost seamlessly framed by urban structures (a term invented right here, right now).

Meet Madrid’s veteran micromerchants

They're perfectly placed should you spontaneously decide to get your shoes shined, grab a bag of chestnuts or pick up a newspaper, but these gifts of the street are rewarded only to those who slow down. Allow yourself an extra five minutes to get to the nearest no-frills bar, and you'll witness our streets come alive with a multi-generational community of micro shops.

Behind the gates of Madrid’s secret, historical gardens

Our city gardens are something to be treasured dearly, with so many being lost over the years. Hundreds of grassy nooks and micro orchards have become victim to our ever-expanding metropolis, leaving those that remain with an almost mythical status.

Latest obsession: confessionals

I've got a confession to make: I'm a little bit obsessed with confessionals. I suspect this might be one of the weirdest things a priest could ever be told through a latticed window, but although I have no intention of repenting my curiosity-related sins, an explanation might be helpful…

The ‘secret’ Lavapiés jazz club

Those hermetic voile curtains are partly to preserve Café El Despertar's clandestine atmosphere, they're but mostly there to deter the naive walk-in customer. The steely elderly owner, with his enviable beard, is interested only in clientele who are specifically here for his jazz music, and most certainly not the police, who, for good reason, he constantly fears.

The Duck Church of Lavapiés

Unless you live on this quiet, narrow street in Lavapiés, there's almost no reason for you to walk down it – that is, unless you're going to the Duck Church. Nestled into the ground floor of a centenarian building lives a tiny temple devoted to the rubber duck, and its priest is Leo Bassi, a 66-year-old clown who was born on tour.

71 enchanting years of Bodegas Jiménez

When I asked Jose Luis Jiménez who the people in the photographs were, he spent the next half hour telling me stories from his childhood and showing me pictures taken by his friends from all over the world.