For the past few centuries, Spaniards from all over the country have been packing their bags, saying adios to their towns and villages and setting sail for the big city. When they arrive in Madrid, they disperse into many different lines of work, but there’s one business over any other that harks back to the most recent migration boom. You guessed it: Madrid’s no-frills bars.
I’ve been working on revealing these restricted rooms for a little while now – negotiating access to locked spaces and requesting permission to take photos you won’t find anywhere else on the internet. And it’s all been worth it, because we finally get to see inside the most restricted corners of one of Madrid’s most emblematic buildings. But first, there are rules…
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.
This small collections of Spanish vintage Christmas cards celebrate Spain’s traditional occupations, but look closely at the design details of each card. These beautifully ornate illustrations give us a fascinating insight into the bygone era of these time-honoured professions, especially into those that are now obsolete.
Sergio is the 4th generation of his family to run this kiosk by Opera, and just as his ancestors did, he stocks every national newspaper. There are no echo-chamber algorithms here – not even the positioning of each newspaper is strategic. At Sergio’s news stand, you can see how the rest of the world thinks.
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.
In the depths of the financial crisis, biologists Guillermo and Laura took over the neglected family olive grove and embarked on a risky project: to make farming a sustainable way of life once again.
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.
The best thing about exhibitions in La Tabacalera Promoción del Arte? They let you see inside this beautiful building. And the best kinds of exhibitions are the smaller, more subtle ones, opening up all corners and details of this 225-year-old industrial masterpiece.
Meet Laye. He was once one of the young black men you’d see running from the police with a big white bag slung over his shoulders. Perhaps you were there, and maybe even stepped aside to let him run past.
Manuel Moreno de Valle, the owner of Cervecería La Carpa, has fallen asleep on shift again. It’s an unusually hot afternoon and the 69-year-old waiter is perched on a bar stool outside…
Those seven little holes lead to an underground prison where over the centuries, controversial influencers of their time were incarcerated.
Growing up in Chueca was eye-opening for Miguel. He was exposed to things that some parents would do their best to protect their child from seeing. He was surrounded by drugs, sex, filth and death – the foundations upon which Chueca’s character is built.
Austere expressionist paintings, an antique mahogany piano, dark red walls and white doily tablecloths. Restaurante La Polonesa’s old-world style is like a time traveller’s collection, and the nostalgic food fits in perfectly.
“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!”