A trip to the heart of alternative Madrid

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A trip to the heart of alternative Madrid

There is a thriving, quirky and laid-back side to the Spanish capital. A stroll around out-of-the-ordinary places in alternative Madrid is a must if you want to get to know this diverse and dynamic side to the city.

A trip to the heart of alternative Madrid

Street art and shows in a former tobacco factory

The acrid smell of cigarettes may have disappeared, but the walls of La Tabacalera, a former tobacco factory in Madrid, are still standing tall. The destiny of the plant in the Embajadores district changed in 2003, when the Ministry of Culture decided to give part of the abandoned building a second lease of life as an artistic and cultural space. Ever since, it has been hosting temporary exhibitions and organising workshops with a focus on photography or contemporary arts, as well as concerts.

There is a strong community atmosphere there, the sort of place where young talent and visitors alike can come together and express their creativity. The building has a second role as the social centre of the Lavapiés neighbourhood. A real laboratory of ideas, counter-culture and admirable practices independently managed by the locals themselves. The place is completely democratic where anyone from anywhere can come and experience art, debate ideas and attend social and well-being sessions. Stroll through its maze of old cellars which have sprung to life as pop-up art galleries with floor-to-ceiling street art. Artists can pretty much do as they like, giving free rein to their creativity and making the most of its one-of-a-kind freedom of expression.

Wander along to one of the centre's two courtyards and enjoy a bit of sunshine between the tomatoes and lettuces of the community vegetable garden! The outdoor tables are made from recycled wooden pallets and the customised armchairs from salvaged bits and bobs.

La Tabacalera
Calle de Embajadores 53
28012 Madrid
Spain
latabacalera.net/

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A trip to the heart of alternative Madrid

Vintage vibe in the Malasaña neighbourhood

Next up on your trip is Malasaña. You do not come to this neighbourhood for a visit; you come for an experience. Embodying Madrid's counter-culture, its cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries take on an offbeat air, far from the usual beaten track. A wonderful Bohemian atmosphere reigns over the place. Some say that a bit of the La Movida Madrileña, a cultural, artistic movement that swept over Madrid and its inhabitants in the 1980s, still lives on there. So, lose yourself in its streets, stop off for coffee in the Plaza del Dos de Mayo – peaceful by day, anything but peaceful at night, rummage around second-hand clothes shops with vintage outfits and retro boutiques each one prettier than the last… The bars, whose terraces spill out onto the pavements, are always full, whatever time of day or night. As you stroll past, you will hear customers sitting there having a laugh and reinventing the world. In this neighbourhood, the traditional way of life has disappeared, leaving a laid-back and free-spirited gentle lifestyle in its place.

If you are feeling a bit hungry, then a treat is in store on the Calle del Espíritu Santo. In this one street, you can take a gastronomic tour of the world with every imaginable flavour and colour! Crepes, cupcakes, tapas, sushi, Spanish hams... it is a veritable foodie festival. At Lolina Vintage Café, La Movida is alive and well: in its relatively small interior, sofas of various sizes and colours have just the right amount of old-fashioned charm, mismatched wallpapers with lurid geometric patterns date from the 1970s, while gilt mirrors add a touch of the Baroque to the place. And yet, the rag-tag collection of styles works really well together and cheers the soul! Take time out and enjoy its uncomplicated but delicious cuisine and uplifting atmosphere.

Lolina Vintage Café
Calle del Espíritu Santo 9
28004 Madrid
Spain
+34 807 57 59 77
lolinacafe.com/

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A trip to the heart of alternative Madrid

Cutting-edge fashion meets works of art

Your next port of call is Garcia Madrid, still in the Malasaña neighbourhood. Peer in through the windows of this cutting-edge mecca of Spanish men's fashion, now enjoying international acclaim. The hybrid space effortlessly combines graphic arts with sartorial elegance. Young designers present their autumn-winter and spring-summer collections at ultra-hip fashion shows frequented by droves of talent-spotters and journalists. The stage design is the height of creativity with live music, light shows and contemporary works of art on display… Garcia Madrid is both a boutique and a brand offering clothes and accessories directly inspired by Spain's fashion weeks. Gentlemen, take this opportunity to overhaul your wardrobe or give it a more youthful look!

Garcia Madrid Malasaña
Corredera Baja de San Pablo 26
28004 Madrid
Spain
+34 91 522 05 21
garciamadrid.com/en