“Is it busy out there?” asks Isabelle, owner of La Casa de Maletas in El Rastro. That day was the first day of the Rastro for eight months, since the pandemic shut Europe’s largest open-air flea market down in the second week of March.
“The best pastelería in Madrid” is a bold claim, with the potential to spark messy cream fights. But a good argument can be made that El Artesano, a small pastry shop in Ventas serving the local community for over 50 years, is an honest contender.
During lockdown, the nightly applause for healthcare workers here must have been epic. Thousands of people opened their windows onto their wide, windy boulevards and, for a few minutes, clapped as one giant entity within Spain’s biggest human beehive.
These stubborn little tin huts that churn out churros hold the torch of Madrid’s street food culture. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and our new desire for outdoor eating, they’re a way of life that may well return!
Welcome to the golden age of ceramic art that took Madrid by storm, until the dictatorship and renovation works meant that all these beautiful old works of art were covered, sealed up and entombed for a future accidental renaissance which is happening right now.
Last Sunday, hundreds of market stall holders occupied the streets of the Rastro to defend their right to reopen their stalls and to preserve an ancient Madrid tradition. The same leafy street, lined with numbered buttons marking the location of each stall, was suddenly bustling again but with cries, chants and a live klezmer version of Bella Ciao.
I’d had a tip-off that the neighbours of Calle Carlos Arniches had taken lockdown solidarity to knew heights, so I decided to take a short stroll to see if it was true.
Bodegas Rojo, like any diamond in the rough, lies unbeknownst to many, tucked away on a residential street. Families and groups of teens walk by but few so much as throws a furtive glance its way.
Down Calle Tribulete, just a few minutes from Plaza Lavapiés is Cómics El Coleccionista, where it has stood seemingly forever. Opened in 1993 by a pair of friends who met each other through their mutual love of comic books, El Coleccionista has remained virtually unchanged throughout its 27 years of existence.
A year ago, my photo series of 100 of Madrid’s no-frills bars reignited the nation’s love for a time-honoured aspect of Spanish culture, but around 20 of these no-frills bars are actually Chinese-owned.