El Matadero, a slaughterhouse turned phenomenal cultural hub

Matadero Madrid by Naked Madrid

If you’re looking for something as impressive as the Prado or the Reina Sofia, but off-the-beaten-path, it’s El Matadero. The perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon alone or with friends in Madrid, here you can calmly diddle daddle through a maze of art exhibits and designer market stands. Then, enjoy a café con leche or a cold Madrid brew outside. El Matadero has it all–from Spain’s national dance company performances to international innovation conferences.

What is it?

Just a 10-minute subway ride from Sol, El Matadero is a culture/innovation hub and architectural treasure. The former slaughterhouse (hence, the name) is now a public-private entity offering book-readings, theater and music performances, photography exhibits and independent cinema on a nightly basis, most of which are free. 

Naked Madrid El matadero

on día internacional de la danza, image from Matadero’s Facebook page

Not to be compared with any other space in the city, El Matadero is an ambitious project and the fruit of a most innovative and modern Madrid. This cultural center also provides ongoing activities for families as well as a space for local innovators to develop their projects, all of which you can see while wandering through its enormous labyrinth of warehouses (naves) and open work spaces. 

art project at el matadero by naked madrid

There are six naves, each used for a different purpose. For example, the Nave Español holds theater and dance performances. The Cineteca showcases international and independent film festivals. The Música Nave holds concerts and recording studios.

la cantina

The old oven has now been usurped by the café, La Cantina, that sells locally produced food and wines, and has the kind of atmosphere that makes you want to stay forever. Plus, it has one of the best terrazas (outdoor seating areas) in all of Madrid, in my opinion at least.

La Cantina cafe and restaurant at Matadero by Naked Madrid

When the weather’s nice, my husband and I like to go there by bike; it’s a breezy 30-minute ride from Principe Pio along Madrid’s river (Madrid Río), which the city has done an amazing job of revamping. The river is now lined with bike and pedestrian paths, unique bridges, playgrounds (for grown-ups too!), street workout equipment, sprawling green zones and sprinkler areas. Plus it’s a straight shot to El Matadero.

la cantina matadero madrid by naked madrid

Last summer I took my sister, Amanda, from New York, to El Matadero for the whole afternoon. We first slipped into what used to be the slaughterhouse’s fridge area, where an odd fire exhibit was being showcased. When we stepped out onto the courtyard, a group of flamenco dancers were zapateando (stomping) and smoking in a circle, getting ready to go on stage in the Nave Español. Then we parked ourselves at La Cantina for a glass of wine and a plate of delicious vegetable dishes made from Madrid’s local gardens.

Amanda was amazed how all of this was so open to the public, and that it wasn’t even packed. She said that if this were to be opened in Brooklyn, lines would be stretching to Queens.

History

El Matadero was built in the 1920s as a pig slaughterhouse, and was turned into a cultural center in 2006. When they renovated the slaughterhouse, the goal was to keep the original columns, the beams, the ovens and exterior structure in tact. For example, the first room you see on the left of the entrance used to be the freezer. Now it’s an exhibition space. The dark, sinister feel makes you ponder what really went on in there. The interior was designed to be versatile and sustainable — most of the walls can be rolled away or folded up to make way for projects and events of all scale.

What to do?

Even if you’re in Madrid for a few days, don’t be intimidated by the amount of things going on. I highly recommend checking out their activities list (which is in English) or just stopping by to see the architecture and the vibe. As you stroll through the different spaces, you’ll stumble upon anything from an indoor garden to a conference on new technology. Activities are open to the public in the afternoon, and you’re free to walk around the plaza, find a nook to study in or have a drink at the café anytime.

What’s new?

Since October 2013, El Matadero has its own independent marketEl Mercado Central de Diseño.

Mercade de diseño central in El Matadero Madrid by Naked Madrid

El Matadero’s monthly market–El Mercado Central de Diseñois one of Madrid’s first design markets for entrepreneurs in the worlds of fashion, design and arts & crafts. During the two-day market, various free music concerts and events are put on as well, making it a hot spot to go with friends on the weekend!

Mercade de diseño central in El Matadero Madrid by Naked Madrid

Information:

El Matadero
Facebook
Where: Paseo de la Chopera 14 Metro: Legazpi (line 3, yellow)
Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 4pm to 10pm Saturday to Sunday from 11am to 10pm
Telephone: 915 17 73 09

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7 Comments

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  • […] This is one of our absolute favorite spots in Madrid. A former pig slaughterhouse, El Matadero was turned into an arts and cultural center in 2006. It has many warehouses (naves) showcasing film, theater performances and art galleries, as well as events and a great café called “La Cantina” where you can taste local food products from Madrid. We highly recommend going here, and taking a stroll along Madrid’s river (Madrid Río) afterwards which is just across the street. Here’s a more in-depth article we wrote about El Matadero. […]

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  • October 31, 2014

    Routes | Madrid City Tour

    Hi!

    El matadero de Madrid is the best building rehabilitation done in this city since long time.
    This pig slaughterhouse changed their main essence of slaughterhouse for a place for creating culture and art modern cutting edge.

    Another example of this is the old Tabacalera building and old cigarrette factory located in Lavapies neighbourhood. This center was renovated by the neighbours and also is very interesting to see.

    Great article!

    Regards,

    • November 4, 2014

      Daphne Binioris

      Thanks! We love Tabacalera too and will publish an article on it soon :)