When it comes to culture, Madrid has no reason to envy its little sister Barcelona! The Spanish capital is abuzz with quirky and festive (not to mention sun-soaked) cultural initiatives. Among them, a former slaughterhouse transformed into an art center, a record store that’s as on-point as it is passionate, and a bar serving up Sunday morning paëlla to soothe your hangover. Discover the best of the city’s local alternative scene with these five spots taken from Indie Guides Madrid!
El Matadero: Old slaughterhouse converted into an art space
The main slaughterhouse of Madrid has been converted into an art space along the river with galleries, a cinema, a library, and a restaurant. As indicated on their website, the mission of this project was “to promote creation in all its forms and expressions” and this is exactly what they do. Their program includes all kinds of creative activities and workshops you can sign up for.
Make sure to spend at least one leisurely morning walking around and exploring the amazing architecture and all of the multifunctional spaces that make up the Art Center. If you have enough time, you can visit the Arganzuela Cristal Palace right next door — it’s a wonderful, secluded green house with plants from all over the world (don’t miss the cactus hall!).
Plaza de Legazpi 8, 28045 Madrid
Open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 10pm
peSeta: An ode to DIY and handmade crafts
PeSeta is located on one of my favorite streets in Madrid — Calle Noviciado. This kind of Spanish Penny Lane is a small street where you can find anything you need — it feels like you’re in a cute little village where everyone knows you. They offer a nicely designed line of handmade clothes, both for men and women, with an excellent variety of well-designed prints, and sewing workshops are held regularly. You can also find a ton of accessories here (bags, wallets, etc.). They have also been selling records lately and displaying collages on their walls. A real island of creativity!
Calle Noviciado 9, 28015 Madrid
Open Monday through Friday from 11am to 2pm and from 5:30pm to 8:30pm and Saturday from 10:30am to 3:30pm
Mercado de San Fernando: Renovated local market
Close to El Rastro (the biggest European street market), Mercado de San Fernando is one of the best places to start your day, especially on weekends. It used to be a traditional outdoor market, but in the last few years, young people have started taking over the abandoned stands, and they’ve opened up modern businesses that still maintain the spirit of the old market. Buy something to eat and sit on the stairs by the entrance, or walk around and let yourself be guided by the colors and aromas of all kinds of Spanish specialties.
The market also has a cozy central patio where you can listen to flamenco DJs or hear original performances by local artists (mainly on weekends). Fair trade products, gluten-free and vegetarian meals, hand crafted goods, and workshops on every topic imaginable are also part of the market’s offerings.
Calle Embajadores 41, 280012 Madrid
Open Monday from 9am to 2pm and from 5:30pm to 8pm, Tuesday through Thursday from 9am to 8pm, Friday from 9am to 11pm, Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm
Radio City: Pop music for sad boys
Every time I visit this cozy record store I can’t help but think of John Cusack in High Fidelity wondering if he was sad because he listened to pop music or if he listened to pop music because he was sad. This place has the same romantic spirit of his shop in the movie — Championship Vinyl. The owner’s knowledge of music is as vast as his patience in selecting the best pop, folk, indie and alternative releases, along with a few necessary classics and other genres like jazz, latin beats and African music. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask — he will give you excellent advice and will kindly invite you to listen to what you’ve picked out before you decide to buy anything.
Calle Conde Duque 14, 28015 Madrid
Open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to 9pm
Fotomatón Bar: Pillar of the indie musical scene
At Fotomatón Bar, there’s always something going on. You can come in for guitar lessons on Monday afternoons (when musicians from the Spanish scene teach students how to play their songs while sharing a beer), watch a football match, participate in their short film festivals, or taste the paellas that they serve for free some Sunday mornings to relieve the hangovers of their beloved community.
Their schedule is eclectic and varied, but they tend to focus on promoting indie music. Their program includes concerts almost every day of the week. There are so many activities, we almost forgot to mention that it’s a nice place to have a drink while you listen to their DJs.
Plaza Conde de Toreno 2, 28015 Madrid
Open Wednesday and Thrusday from 9pm to 3am, Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 3.30am
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Madrid with our city guide Indie Guides Madrid.
Photos: courtesy of the places mentionned & Drumkit (Fotomatón Bar)