Have you heard of Malasaña? No, not the yoga squat, though that too is worth a Google. We’re talking about the cool, graffiti-covered barrio of Madrid, which has been steadily filling with the prettiest cafés, trendiest bars and buzziest nightlife in the city. When it comes to partying like a Madrileño, there’s no better spot. Here are the highlights.

 

1. There’s art on every street

Malasaña has always been at the forefront of Madrid’s counterculture scene – after Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, the rising tide of free creativity found a home in the area’s streets. Today that artsy heritage continues with graffiti. Look out for work from Madrid’s answer to Banksy, Ze Carrión.

2. They’ve reinvented the Madrid market

2. They’ve reinvented the Madrid market
Where the cool kids hang out / Images: Joseph Fox

Sure, the iconic Mercado San Miguel is a Madrid must-visit. But for a modern take on the classic food markets, you have to sample Mercado de San Ildefonso. Its two storeys house the who’s who of Madrid street food and are the younger, cooler alternative to the classic wine bars and croquetarias of San Miguel.

Calle de Fuencarral, 57
mercadodesanildefonso.com

3. Hotels and palaces are one and the same

3. Hotels and palaces are one and the same
A moment of chill / Images: Joseph Fox

Escape the hustle and bustle in the Urso Hotel & Spa, which lies a few steps from the main street of Malasaña. In a calm, 19th-century former palacio, there’s a mahogany elevator – complete with cushioned seat – to whizz up and down in, a ridiculously beautiful restaurant and a jet-laden underground pool.

Calle de Mejía Lequerica, 8
hotelurso.com

4. Modern mixology is on the rise

San Mateo Circus opened last year on the site of a legendary old dive bar called San Mateo Seis. In this reincarnation, instead of sticky floors, you’ll find plush, dramatic showbiz interiors (complete with usherette-style servers) and phenomenal cocktails. Try the ultra-refreshing Wallendas, a twist on the classic Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit, agave and pink grapefruit soda.

Calle de San Mateo, 6
sanmateocircusmadrid.com

5. The drinks are garnished with history

5. The drinks are garnished with history
Make a night of it at La Via Lactea / Images Joseph Fox

For a taste of Madrid history, all you have to do is sip on a drink. During Franco’s reign, merrymaking was put on a back burner, so in reaction came la Movida Madrileña, one of the most hedonistic movements Spain has ever seen. And the hub of it all was Malasaña’s alternative bar scene. Head over to TupperWareLa Via Lactea or El 2D to soak up some of the lingering free-spirited atmosphere.

6. And the brunch is a cure-all

6. And the brunch is a cure-all
Hangovers are scared of Misión / Images Joseph Fox

The newest addition to Malasaña’s café scene, Misión, comes from Madrid’s poster boys of coffee, Nolo Botana and Pablo Caballero. Hangovers disappear real quick when confronted with their speciality coffee and superb chickpea stew on toast.

Calle de los Reyes, 5
mision.cafe