What to do in Malasaña: Madrid’s Hippest Neighborhood (+Photos)

Just north of the heart of Madrid, the neighborhood of Malasaña stands out as a haven for artists, rebels, students, and those who revel in the rhythm of urban life. It’s one of the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid, where history effortlessly blends with the eclectic trendiness.

I spent a full day exploring the ins and outs of this neighborhood while I was on holiday in Madrid. It stood out amongst other regions as a vibrant center of Madrid’s youth culture. So, I thought I would share my experience and insights into the neighborhood.

A Short History of the Hipster Capital of Madrid

Hipster Capital of Madrid

Once a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Madrid, Malasaña was initially known as the Barrio de las Maravillas. Back in 1808, the area set the scene for the Dos de Mayo Uprising against the French Occupation. You can still visit a commemoration of this event in the Plaza Dos de Mayo in the heart of the neighborhood.

As Madrid evolved, so did Malasaña, which blossomed into an artistic hub during the 70s and 80s. Today, the city mixes architectural gems from the 19th century with vibrant street art and coffee shops spilling over onto sidewalks.

Getting to Malasaña

Getting to Malasaña

Madrid is a pretty big city. Not to mention, super urban. Luckily, it has an incredible public transport network.

Using the Plaza Mayor as a landmark for the center of the city, you can get to Malasaña in just a 22-minute walk through three of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods (Sol, Gran Via, and Malasaña). I’m a huge fan of walking through a new city, as I feel like there is so much to see and absorb on foot that can’t be experienced while on a bus or train.

Alternatively, you could take the Line 1 metro two stops from Sol to Tribunal. Time spent on the train is just two minutes, but the walking to and from the stations adds ten minutes to the journey. Trains come every five minutes (as do most lines on the Madrid metro) and cost €1.50 for each trip within Zone A.

The 147 Bus Line will get you from the Plaza Mayor to Malasaña in a similar time frame but includes more walking time.

The Streets Are Alive

Streets Are Alive

I chose to walk from my hotel in Sol into Malasaña, which was a great start to my day in the neighborhood. On the walk, I passed through Madrid’s most famous High Street, called the Gran Via, and chose to walk up the narrow side streets as opposed to the route most taken.

Having arrived hot and in need of a pick-me-up, I headed to Bianchi Kiosko Caffe for a cappuccino. This curbside cafe was as cool as they get, with street benches, individually stamped take-out cups, and a barista so trendy he could effortlessly turn an espresso into a fashion statement. My coffee cost €3.70 without service and was the perfect boost of energy to start the day.


With my cappuccino in hand, I headed back into the unknown streets, wandering past huge street art murals, boutique shops, and trendy cafes. Walking through this hood is like embarking on a sensory journey through the boho soul of Madrid.

Ambling through the narrow winding streets past graffiti art you can’t help but stare at, diverse crowds of locals, expats, and students going about their morning routines, and street performers setting up for the day, it’s easy to see why this has become such a center for Madrid’s youth. The streets are alive with energy here.

Breakfast in Bohemia


Having experienced a small taste of Malasaña, it was time for breakfast. I stopped at Toma Cafe on Calle Palma, which is known for its world-class coffee and cozy atmosphere. Even though I had been walking the neighborhood in circles from the Tribunal station, this cafe is just a seven-minute walk down one street.

What looked unassumingly average from the street was quite the opposite inside. A vibrant coffee shop with simple yet delicious tostadas and sandwich combinations and coffee that did not disappoint.

I ordered a ricotta and sundried tomato tostado with olive tapenade for €4.50, paired with an iced latte for €3.80. With a tip, my breakfast cost me €10.

Retail Therapy

Street Scene

It was then time for some shopping. If you’re after the classic Zara, H&M, and Bershka, the Gran Via will satisfy all your retail needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, Malasaña’s shopping scene caters to those looking for a break from mainstream fashion and large brands, with more of a focus on individuality and creativity. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice with vintage finds and locally produced gems.

Flea Market
Flea Market

First and foremost, the neighborhood is famous for its Flea Market at Plaza del Dos de Mayo. While there is no set organized day for this market, the plaza is known for its markets, usually held on a Saturday morning during the summer months.

Here, you can browse everything from vintage clothing to old records and books to handmade crafts and antique interiors. Bargaining isn’t super common in Spain, but it certainly isn’t unheard of. For up-to-date info on what markets might be on during your visit, ask local guides or your hotel reception.

Calle Velarde is a short street at the heart of the neighborhood, which is a haven for vintage enthusiasts. You could call it the Brick Lane or Haight Ashbury of Madrid, with shops like Magpie and La Mona Checa filled to the brim with a carefully curated selection of retro clothing and accessories.

Calle Espiritu Santo is another excellent street worth walking down. Just a four-minute stroll from Calle Velarde, this road is dotted with a mix of boutique shops, jewelry stores, and craft stores. ‘El Templo de Susu’ and ‘Pepita is Dead’ were two of my favorite finds here.


I fell in love with a shop on this street called Libros pada un Mundo Mejor, which was one of the coolest bookstores I’ve been to. They offer new and secondhand books in a cozy setting with comfy seating and beautiful displays.

In the same area, Calle del Pez is home to La Integral, which is a famous design and art store that is the perfect place to find one-off crafts and decor for your home.

Tapas at Mercado de San Ildefonso

Mercado de San Ildefonso

With a few bags of unique finds in hand, it was time to do what I do best and find a great spot for lunch. Now, there were plenty of options for restaurants for a bite here, from Mercaro Bellaro for Italian fare, Lolina Vintage Cafe for tostas and cocktails in a retro setting, and MÜR Cafe for a casual lunch on the terrace.

I chose to visit the famous Mercado de San Ildefonso, a three-level street food court with twenty stalls selling a unique selection of local and international cuisine. The market opens at 1 pm and closes at midnight. With three cocktail bars and an outdoor terrace overlooking the city, it’s also a hotspot for post-work drinks or a casual dinner.

It’s not the touristy market you might expect (especially compared to the iconic Mercado de San Miguel) and instead is packed with locally-owned restaurants and vendors serving super casual food. It’s a much-loved staple for locals of the Malasaña and Chueca neighborhoods since it sits on the border between the two.


Taking full advantage of the city I was in, I opted to order a selection of tapas snacks from a stall called Iberico Grill and Pintxos. Altogether, my snacky meal cost around €15. I finished off with a Nutella crepe from Crepes & Gofres Dulces for an additional €4.50.

Not only is this trendy market a hotspot for its culinary delights, but it also houses a fair share of boutique fashion and lifestyle shops. Depending on when you visit, the venue is also used to host book launches, fashion shows, courses, film screenings, and pop-up exhibitions.

An Afternoon at Palacio de Liria

Palacio de Liria

Ending things with a change of scenery from the street art and unassuming cafes, I headed to the western part of Malasaña to visit the iconic Palacio de Liria, an 18th-century neoclassical palace with an impressive collection of art, antique furniture, and sprawling manicured gardens.

A big fan of a walk after a meal, I walked 16 minutes from the Mercado de San Ildefonso, following my Google Maps recommended route. If you’re tired at this point, you could walk and catch the 133, 001, 2, or 44 bus from Santo Domingo. Buses come every three minutes, and the trip will take you around 15 minutes.

It’s essential to get your entry tickets in advance since the palace museum can book out fast. Since the palace is the permanent residence of the Dukes of Alba and a private property, you need to visit with a guide.

Opening hours for the museum are between 10 am and 12:45 pm before the palace closes for a mid-afternoon siesta and reopens between 4:15 pm and 7 pm. General admission into the palace with a guided audio tour costs €15, while a 65-minute group tour will set you back €35.

The urban lived-in palace is as spectacular as The Royal Palace of Madrid (just a lot smaller), with incredibly well-maintained antique furnishings and world-famous art, all surrounded by landscaped gardens of lush greenery and fountains. It really was a contrasting end to a day in one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods.

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