Set out on foot to discover the energetic vibe that permeates the streets and plazas of Malasaña. This is Madrid’s student district, an area packed with bars, fashion outlets, galleries and museums. The Movida Madrileña counterculture movement began here in the 1970s and an underground scene continues today. Malasaña takes its name from Manuela Malasaña, a heroine of the 1808 uprising against French troops.
Fashion conscious visitors relish in the diverse retail options, which range from bookshops to vintage stores and upscale fashion outlets. Once part of the city’s poorer area, Calle Fuencarral is now home to popular clothing brands such as Mango and Levi’s. Visit the 400-year-old Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes. It’s notable for its Baroque interior, painted by acclaimed artists including Francisco Ricci.
Enjoy people-watching at Plaza del Dos de Mayo, named after the date of the 1808 uprising. Bars surround the square and the Saturday Malamarket sees artists and designers selling unique wares. Find brewpubs, concert halls, international restaurants and tapas joints along cobblestone streets that lead from the square. Local musicians entertain punters at the three-floor Mercado de San Ildefonso street food market.
Appreciate the enormity of the neoclassical Palacio de Liria, which is among the largest private residences in Madrid. Guided tours of the palace’s impressive art collection take place on Fridays by prior appointment. Close to here, the Museum of Contemporary Art features works from the mid-1800s onwards. Graphic arts and illustrations are the focus of the free Museum ABC.
Another major attraction in the area is the Conde Duque Cultural Center, housed within a huge former royal barracks. It has auditoriums, exhibition spaces, libraries and theaters. Catch shows by independent theater groups at Teatro Maravillas and productions of Broadway musicals at Teatro Coliseum.
Malasaña occupies much of the northern section of central Madrid. It’s easy to get here by taking the metro to any of the Gran Vía, Noviciado, Plaza de España and Tribunal stations. Several public bus lines also stop in and around the neighborhood.