It seems that after all what we have suffered from the Covid health & economic crisis since 2019, global tourism is slowly recovering. According to a recent report shared by Expedia about the travel trends for 2022, international travellers are planning their holidays again. For instance, they mentioned that 68% of American tourists are interested in travelling overseas. That’s the reason why we wrote this alternative guide, which includes the cultural routes that you shouldn’t miss in Madrid city.
In that sense, Cooltourspain is a social, cultural and educational project which counts with several local guides who are interested in showing you the Spanish capital city, in a completely different way. We’re experts on graffiti and street art. Our team members run daily urban art tours and contemporary art experiences to all audiences. To us, it doesn’t matter if you are an expert or an amateur on the field, what’s important is that you’re interested in learning something new!
This is our proposal for the time you spend in Madrid:
- The neighborhoods which feature the most important urban art
- How to eat like a local? Explore the municipal food markets
- Artistic spots that you shouldn’t miss while in town.
Would you like to walk around the trendiest cultural routes in Madrid? Write this down!
Just in case you were not interested in repeating the same touristic spots that other people visit, here you will find relevant information about the alternative cultural routes in Madrid. Whether it’s your first time in town, or you’ve previously visited Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol or Gran Via areas, make sure you walk around Lavapies and Malasaña districts. Despiste some people’s opinion, they are the trendiest but at the same time most gentrified areas.
It’s true that worlwide capital cities such as New York, Paris or London suffer from that problem as well, but the street art is a great element used by public and private institutions to embellish the urban landscape and change boring grey walls, into colorful open air museums. Would you agree with that statement? What was the main reason for you to decide visiting Madrid?
For your information, there are several neighborhoods located in the city center that still remain off the most touristic circuits in town. You will walk along different communities, while observing the ‘madrileño’ lifestyle and how do locals interact with others on their free time. Did you know that the majority of Spanish adults love being outside, whether in a park or in a terrace with friends?
Lavapies, one of the most multicultural neighborhoods in town
The neighborhood is located just 20 minutes walking distance from Sol metro station, or 1 stop in the underground on the yellow line. Lavapies is considered by many as one of the most multicultural districts, along with Usera (mostly Asian community). Consequently, the cultural routes in Madrid around this area will take you to a melting pot. You will not only observe many Indian, Moroccan or Senegalese resturants, but also small local shops where people usually do the shopping list.
One of the greatest things to do in the area is attending El Rastro. The biggest and most important flea market in town. Please bear in mind that it only takes place on Sundays and bank holidays. In case you were planning your holidays for week days, you could visit any of the following locations:
- ‘Esta es una Plaza’ (Calle Doctor Fourquet). An oasis of peace and calm in the middle of the urban jungle.
- CSOA La Tabacalera (Calle Embajadores). Former XIX century tobacco factory turned into an art center. Currently under construction works.
- Street art murals developed in the neighborhood at the Urvanity festival.
Check these cultural routes around Malasaña district, Madrid
If you recognize the artwork above, then you might have a previous contemporary art background. However, Malasaña is known among the cultural routes in Madrid because of the modern style that you’ll be able to observe within the mettal shutters and walls of local businesses. They are all taken by graffiti tags and throw-ups. Moreover, the area is known because of its after work spirit and weekend vibes, with terraces and bars full of young adults.
Locals may agree that it’s one of those areas where everybody wants to live. Thus you’ll find in that statement the rental prices. Within the area you’ll find pubs, trendy restaurants, tattoo shops, hairdressers and clubs. On top of that, there is a yearly street art festival with which graffiti takes over the place. Over 100 artists and graffiti writers painting at the same time on the streets!
- Solar Antonio Grilo (Calle Antonio Grilo). Former urban garden with amazing urban art murals.
- Mercado Los Mostenses (Plaza Los Mostenses). One of those still existing local food markets.
- The newest and redeveloped square at Plaza España.
Cycle around ‘Arganzuela’ on your own
Alternative travellers, specially from The Netherlands/Belgium, might be interested in exploring the city on two wheels. Besides our panoramic bike tours, you may find public bikes available to locals and turists along several dock stations in town. For instance, those located in Legazpi metro station. From there, you’ll have the chance to cycle along Manzanares River and its many modern and classic bridges.
No doubt that the most important spot in the area is Matadero. This former slaughter house company from the XIX century now hosts plays, concerts, TED Talks like projects and art exhibitions, along its different industrial warehouses. Entrance is completely free, except the events listed in their website.
- Teatros del Español, scenic arts for DELE students. Are you trying to learn Spanish language?
- La Riviera, one of Madrid’s most important concert halls.
- Okuda‘s mural artwork, the greatest Spanish post-graffiti artist.
Other ideas related to the cultural routes in Madrid for avid travellers
As you may have observed by now, we wrote this article about the cultural routes in Madrid to let you know what are the things that locals do. More than just art and social life, we’d like you to explore other indoor and outdoor locations. For instance, urban gardens or food courts. Weren’t the Spanish chefs ranked among the best in the world? So our recommendations would be. Sloppy food at city council markets.
You shouldn’t miss either to check who are the most followed tourism influencers on Instagram. For instance, @Madridnofrills, @putomadriz or @madridiana_ for foodie recommendations. Their accounts will show you Madrid in a different way, including but not limiting to art galleries, live shows, squat parties… Click on their links to get to know more details about how they would like you to explore the city where they live.
Are you interested in photography? You’ll find then that Madrid’s landscape offers its visitors the opportunity to mix between Renaissance architecture and modern buildings. On top of that, many parks and green areas fill the map. How many of them are you planning on visit? Just follow our guidelines.
‘Street food’ at the mercados (local markets)
Our toud leaders proudly recommend businesses which they have tried in the past. Whether is a fancy restaurant or an old tabern, our suggestions are worth the try. Cooltourspain’s cultural routes in Madrid also include food markets where elders and young adults hang together. While the former goes to the stalls for their daily shopping list (vegetables, fruit, meat or fish), the latter usually visits them to enjoy meal and drinks with relatives or groups of friends.
You’ll find a wide range of gastronomic products. For example, great hamburguers at a former butcher’s, Spanish olives to take home or seasonal handpicked wild mushrooms. Delicious recipes that are cooked by professionals that will welcome you as if you were a regular customer. We know that the most famous one is Mercado San Miguel, but we would like to recommend you any of the following ones:
- Mercado La Cebada (Plaza La Cebada). La Latina metro station.
- Antón Martin market (C. de Sta. Isabel, 5), Antón Martin metro station.
- Mercado San Fernando (C. de Embajadores, 41). Metro Lavapiés
Which are the less touristic cultural routes in Madrid?
Here we will make a list of things to do while in town. They were included in the cultural routes in Madrid because of their alternative atmosphere. Please take into consideration that if you plan ahead of time, you’ll have the opportunity to visit them all. They are all located within 20 minutes distance by metro:
- Esta es una Plaza
- Matadero Madrid
- PINTA Malasaña
- CALLE Lavapiés
- Mercado de San Fernando
- Madrid Rio
You may find even more punk locations. CSOA La Gatonera, in Carabanchel district, may offer you what you were looking for! Rap music concerts, charity markets and even free multidisciplinary workshops for locals and visitors who share the same point of view and life goals.
Urban gardens and other parks
Last but not least option would take you to the outskirts of the city. Actually, you’ll have to take the metro line #1 towards Valdecarros and get off by Buenos Aires metro station. From there, our cultural routes in Madrid will take you on a 10 minutes hike to a public park which features 7 hills. Parque de las Siete Tetas (translated to 7 ‘boobs’ park) is its name and probably offers the best panoramic views in town. The other spots would be Faro Moncloa and RIU Hotel, but both of them will cost you at least 5€ the entrance.
Our recommendation is that you visit the park, which formally receives the name Parque del Cerro del tío Pio, over the weekend by the sunset. If you could bring with you a blanket and some drinks, the better. From time to time, you’ll find local people playing live acoustic music. Such a beautiful experience! On the other hand, you could always visit the traditional Retiro Park and Casa de Campo.
Cooltourspain’s opinion about the cultural routes in Madrid
It’s been a pleasure to share with our readers what we consider as the most alternative cultural routes in Madrid. You may either visit those locations on your own, or with a professional guide. Whatever the option you take, you should know that we’re keen on having you as a visitor. We love what we do! We’ve been running this project since 2016 and hopefully there will be more successful years to come!