As a person who loves moving from country to country and actually quite often, I usually catch my self seeking for neighborhoods keen on internationalism. Such neighborhoods give you the feeling that you’re not the only “foreigner” or let’s better say “expat” living far from home; everyone is welcome and the feeling of community you get while exploring them is massive.
Such a neighbourhood is the barrio of Lavapies in Madrid. They say that Lavapiés, is the cradle of Madrid's multiculturalism.
This barrio represents the fusion of peoples and cultures that Madrid has experimented within recent years. Indian restaurants stand alongside typical Madrid taverns, and immigrants make up the social fibre that holds Lavapiés together.
It is believed that the main artery of the neighborhood, the street of Lavapiés, was the initial ground of the primitive Jewish quarters of Madrid and even came to have a Synagogue, located where today stands the Church of San Lorenzo.
At the same time, during the decade of the 90s 'the great majority of the houses of the neighborhood had been abandoned fact that led a great number of libertarian groups, anarchists and squatters to install in them. This led to some media declare that Lavapiés had become one of the areas of Madrid with the biggest density of “occupied” houses .
As mentioned, Lavapies, has the largest number of neighbourhood associations and self-managed centres in Madrid; the most well-known is La Tabacalera de Lavapiés. Located in an old tobacco factory, it’s a collective cultural space where anyone can submit a proposal to set up an exhibit, organise a debate or show a documentary they've made!
Every autumn, the neighbourhood of Lavapies is buzzing since it’s hosting #Tapapies — la ruta multicultural de la tapa y la música — a one-week celebration where you can enjoy delicious bites from around the world and enjoy music and theater performances! A tapa plus an Estrella Damm beer (mini-bottle or caña) will cost you just 2.50€. As you walk around the neighborhood, you’ll be able to easily spot the poster and which bars are taking part in the event.
Summer in Madrid sounds and feels “hot” however, believe me, there’s no better time to explore the city, to participate in the local fiestas and to actually feel the city’s culture! Madrid's history and tradition cannot be understood without its famous "verbenas" or open-air festivities, two of which are being held in neighbouring districts on successive dates during August.
The city is teeming with colorful food markets offering traditional goodies like jamón, trendy items and prepared foodstuffs. But with so many options in the city, knowing where to go—especially if you want to experience the city like a local—can be tough. One of the best things about these markets is getting the chance to try a little bit of everything. Thankfully, both boast enough vendors to satisfy hunger pangs. If looking for something a bit different, Italian pizzas and pastas, Greek dishes, African dishes and a plethora of raciones prepared back in a kitchen can be found in most of those markets. Additionally, if you are looking to get some grocery shopping done, the mercados sell fresh meats, fish, cheese, hamburgers and whatever would satisfy your appetite!
Nowadays Lavapies is a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood full of bars, terraces, cultural centres, urban squares decorated with edgy but extremely impressive graffitis, and always filled with groups of all ages drinking and enjoying its international mentality!
If you’ love experiencing alternative ways of living, if you love drinking & meeting with your friends in squares, if you love shopping from local supermercados (flea & food markets) , if you love arts, or if you’re one of those people staring at graffitis for hours, then Lavapies is not to be missed!
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.