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Lavapiés and La Latina, Madrid Travel Guide

Lavapiés and La Latina Summary

Pros

  • Cool, bohemian neighborhoods with art, music, and nightlife
  • Home to Madrid's best multiethnic dining, from Indian to Ethiopian
  • Lavapiés has indie art spaces like La Tabacalera and La Casa Encendida
  • High-end galleries and world-famous Reina Sofia Museum
  • El Rastro Sunday market in La Latina is packed with antiques (and people)
  • Lots of hole-in-the-wall discoveries like community gardens and trendy cafes
  • Terrace cafes and traditional tapas joints in La Latina
  • Fresh seafood and local buzz plus DIY concerts at Mercado de la Cebada
  • Hip boutiques and bookstores along La Latina's streets
  • Less overtly touristy than the areas near Sol and Plaza Mayor
  • Several metro stops, plus nationwide train lines from nearby Atocha Station

Cons

  • Some locals consider Lavapiés unsafe, and parts feel abandoned
  • Not too many hotels to choose from in these neighborhoods

What It's Like:

Lavapiés and La Latina sits side by side at the southern end of Madrid's densely packed Centro. Almost every visitor to the city will land in one — or both — of these neighborhoods, either to visit La Latina's Sunday market, El Rastro, or the world-famous Reina Sofia Museum in Lavapiés. However, the adventurous will be rewarded by getting lost, as some of the neighborhoods' best finds are hidden gems that will require a little skillful hunting. Make sure you take a camera, as the explosion of street art in Lavapiés and the classical plazas of La Latina are eminently picture-worthy.

There are a few things to keep in mind when checking out these neighborhoods. Lavapiés, in particular, gets either a good or bad rap depending on who's doing the talking, but this hipster-heavy alternative to Malasaña is quickly becoming one of Madrid's trendiest destinations. Yes, petty crime can be an issue and you'll probably see open drug dealing on its busier corners. But in addition to its crown jewel — the Reina Sofia — the barrio is also home to high-end galleries along Calle del Dr. Fourquet. This is to say nothing of DIY art spaces like La Tabacalera — an old tobacco factory that houses community-based art programs and collectives — and cutting-edge La Casa Encendida

La Latina is a barrio with a touch more traditional Madrileño style. The pastry shops and cafes along its narrow streets are prime real estate for long afternoons spent indulging at the local pace of life. Elsewhere, though, sleek design shops and indie bookstores are thronged with in-the-know residents looking for one-of-a-kind finds. Of course, the biggest bargain hunter's dream takes place every Sunday, as the vendors of El Rastro set up shop and throw open their doors, selling everything from new underwear and jeans to antique clocks, old dolls, and vintage posters. When the market isn't buzzing, expect to see seemingly endless terrace cafes packed with Madrileños, sipping wine and shouting out orders for tapas until late at night.

Don't be afraid to wander in either neighborhood, as the joys here aren't the big-box kind found closer to the center of Madrid. You'll find cat cafes next to used bookstores in Lavapiés, and if you keep your eyes peeled you might stumble upon a hidden community garden being tended by locals and ringed with street art. In La Latina, head down to Plaza de la Cebada, where young Madrileños pass paper-bagged cans of Mahou during impromptu concerts. Sound a little too scruffy for you? Dip into any one of the bars or laptop-packed coffee shops and you'll probably feel right at home again. Or, for an even more authentic afternoon, have a seat at the dozens of stalls in the Mercado de la Cebada and fill up on fresh seafood. 

Where To Stay:

These two barrios aren't packed with hotels, and vacation rentals are likely the way to go for anyone interested in staying here. The few hotels that are on offer are likely to be smaller, boutique properties that are a little easier on the wallet than hotels closer to Sol and Gran Via. You'll also be farther from the hordes of tourists in those areas, but without sacrificing the convenience of being in the Centro. There are a number of cheap hostales — simple guesthouses — along Calle Atocha, at the eastern edge of Lavapiés, though we like Artrip Hotel, a cute boutique outfit right near the Lavapiés Metro station. Most of the hotels in La Latina are located along the western fringe of the neighborhood, near Puerta de Toledo.

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