Context Tavernas and Tapas, a culinary tour through the bars of Huertas


If you’ve done any traveling lately, you might have noticed that food tours are rapidly becoming a global trend. Companies around the world now offer guided visits to restaurants, bars, and markets, promising to let you in on culinary secrets or show you how to eat like a local. Madrid is no exception. In fact, this city has more than its share of options, thanks to its vibrant dining scene and world-famous cuisine.

I recently had the chance to participate in a food tour for the very first time, thanks to Context Travel. The company offers “tours for the intellectually curious” in cities across the world, including several in the Spanish capital. Many are focused on history or art, but this one was especially intriguing: Savoring Madrid: Tavernas and Tapas.

According to the Context website, the goal of this culinary tour is to define the concept of tapas through tastings at tavernas in the city center. Like all of their Madrid tours, it’s meant to offer an in-depth look at local culture, customs, and in this case, cuisine. But considering the dozens of bars, restaurants, and specialty dishes that are scattered throughout the city, how could it be possible to cover such a broad topic in just 3 hours? That’s what I intended to find out.

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Intricate mosaics decorate the exterior of one of the many historic bars in Huertas.

Hungry for history

The tour began at 7pm outside the Westin Palace hotel, close to many of Madrid’s main tourist attractions. Context limits the size of their tours to create a personalized experience—this one consisted only of me and a couple who were on vacation.

Our guide was Tessy Carrada, a culinary journalist of Mexican origin who moved to Madrid a few years ago. She started off by explaining the basics, with the help of maps and diagrams: what are tapas, where did they come from, and how are they eaten? What makes Spain’s cuisine unique? What can you expect when you go out for tapas in Madrid?

Next she told us how the tour would work. We’d visit three or four places, all in the Huertas neighborhood (also known as Barrio de las Letras). The idea was to show us non-touristy spots, the kinds of places locals go, where we’d get a true taste of the local culture. At each place, she would order a few tapas to share, taking into account our preferences, interests, and appetites. With the ground rules laid out, we set off into the city.

Cervecería Cervantes

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First up was a true classic, a place that was packed with customers even at the early hour of 7:30pm. We ordered drinks, and Tessy explained the particularities of Spanish brewing as we admired the collection of beer cans displayed on the restaurant’s walls. The waiter brought out a plate of giant olives and mussels, exemplifying the tradition of providing something to snack on along with every drink.

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Tessy then ordered several raciones to share: ham croquetas with padrón peppers, manchego cheese, and jamón ibéricoAs we ate, she offered insight on each and every item: how to make croquetas, what makes Spanish ham so special, and how to distinguish true manchego from imitations.

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I’ve lived in Spain for a while, and I’ve eaten (more than) my share of all of these classic tapas, but I’m not exaggerating when I say this might’ve been the best ham and cheese of my life. It took a lot of self-discipline to restrain myself and save room for the next destination…

La Fábrica

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As soon as we entered this colorful, crowded locale we were welcomed with the sights and smells of seafood. We gathered around an old barrel-turned-table and ordered albariño wine to accompany the salpicón (a kind of seafood salad) and boquerones (marinated anchovies) that Tessy suggested. I was quickly reminded of one of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made in Madrid: despite my preconceived notions about slimy, stinky seafood, here it’s a true delicacy.

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The salpicón consisted of shrimp, mussels, and octopus swimming in olive oil with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It was fresh, light, and incredibly delicious. A loaf of crusty bread was brought to the table, and Tessy encouraged us to break off pieces and soak them in the flavorful oil.

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The boquerones were perfectly seasoned and accompanied by olives and crispy potato chips. We were also served a small plate of cheese and chorizo—but it couldn’t compete with the perfection we’d already experienced at Cervantes. The star here was most certainly the seafood.

La Vinoteca

Although we attempted to find a spot at the renowned Casa Alberto, at 9pm on a Saturday night it proved difficult. Instead we went to La Vinoteca, which had a much more modern and upscale atmosphere than the previous bars. We ordered wine and cava from an impressively long and detailed list.

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To round out the night, Tessy ordered patatas bravas (fried potatoes smothered in slightly spicy sauce) and two pinchos (small toasts): one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onions, and another with potato cake and duck magret.

Although the ambience here was lovely and the wine exceptional, I have to admit that the tapas weren’t quite as impressive as their successors. That being said, they were still delicious, and certainly provided a well-rounded sampling of some of Spain’s most famous specialties.

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For the last course of the evening, Tessy chose a layered trifle of chocolate and cream, as well as a sort of mini apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Although these were pretty standard sweets that didn’t exactly scream “Spain,” it’s hard to complain when there’s chocolate involved. After devouring dessert, we parted ways for the night with full bellies, satisfied palates, and a whole lot of newfound knowledge.

An interesting aftertaste

For me the best part of this tour, surprisingly, was not the food itself (although of course it was incredible). As a resident of Madrid, I can get authentic tapas whenever I want, on nearly every street corner. What this experience offered me was the chance to engage with the food I was eating on an intellectual level: to learn why tapas are called tapas, what distinguishes jamón ibérico from jamón serrano, and so much more. It was a lesson in being conscious of what I eat and the history and culture it reflects.

For travelers who only have a few days to sample the best of local cuisine, who don’t speak Spanish, or who simply don’t know where to begin, Context provides an ideal solution. Tessy’s insider knowledge and impeccable taste made for an interesting, entertaining, and thoroughly authentic journey through the taverns of Huertas.

Whether you’re a tourist who wants to experience the tapas culture firsthand, or a seasoned local who wants to learn more about the city you love, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Context Tavernas and Tapas tour.

To learn more about Context or book a tour, click here.




Tapapiés: a guide to everyone's favorite food and culture festival in Lavapiés


It’s that time of year again. The air is turning chilly, the leaves are starting to change, and the millennial obsession with all things autumn is taking over social media. But here in Madrid, there’s a whole different reason to be excited. With October comes Tapapiés, the annual festival that inundates the streets of the Lavapiés neighborhood with delicious food, cheap drinks, and live music.

For 11 days at the end of October (this year’s 7th edition lasts from October 19—29), dozens of restaurants and bars in Lavapiés offer a very special deal. Each one develops their own signature tapa, and offers it to the public for just €1.50. For an extra euro, you can also get a botellín (a 250 ml bottle of beer) to wash it down. The event is sponsored by Barcelona’s Estrella Damm, and at most places you can choose between a regular beer or Damm Lemon (beer and lemon soda).

A bar advertises its participation in Tapapiés with the festival's official poster.

A bar advertises its participation in Tapapiés with the festival’s official poster.

Lavapiés is known for its incredible cultural diversity, with large immigrant populations from all over Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Central Asia. As a result, it’s full of international eateries offering everything from Senegalese thieboudienne to Syrian sweets. A good number of these establishments participate in Tapapiés, which means that in one night you can practically eat your way around the world, just by exploring the neighborhood’s sloping streets.

The delicious "Crepioca" tapa from Saboor Tapioca in Lavapiés

The delicious “Crepioca” tapa from Saboor Tapioca

In other words, this festival is every adventurous foodie’s dream come true. There are various strategies for tackling the overwhelming amount of options (122 tapas in total) and chaotic crowds. You can simply wander around, dropping into whatever bars you come across and trying your luck. Each one usually advertises a photograph of their tapa with a huge poster out front, so you’ll know more or less what to expect. Don’t forget to stop by Mercado de San Fernando and Mercado Antón Martín, where several vendors also participate.

A tray of tapas at Toscanaccio Italian bakery in Lavapiés

A tray of tapas at Toscanaccio Italian bakery: marinated eggplant, walnuts, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pesto on spelt bread

If you’re (A) a picky/allergy-prone eater or (B) determined to try as many different tapas as possible, you might want to consider a more organized strategy. Ask for a brochure at any of the participating places—you’ll get a pocket-sized booklet that contains a list of every single tapa being offered, as well as a color photograph and a detailed ingredients list for each. They’re all plotted on a numbered map, so you can plan out your ideal route. Be warned, though: it’s hard to stick to a set plan when there are so many tempting options around every corner.

Dishing out the "Moqueca de Mandioca con Pesto" tapa at Maloka Bar Brasileiro in Lavapiés

Dishing out the special tapa at Maloka Bar Brasileiro: yuca in a coconut milk sauce with peanut pesto

My advice? Grab a group of friends who aren’t afraid to elbow their way through some crowds and try as many new things as possible. This is not an activity for those who would rather settle in at a cozy restaurant for a relaxed dinner.

Expect to eat standing up while balancing a beer in one hand a a tapa in the other, and shouting at each other just to be heard. It’s messy, it’s crazy, it’s loud—and it’s totally worth it.  The frenetic and colorful spirit of the neighborhood is never more alive than on a night of Tapapiés.

"Carrillada melosa" from Maldito Querer in Lavapiés

“Carrillada melosa” from Maldito Querer: braised beef cheeks in a sauce of caramelized onion, garlic, herbs, and Pedro Ximénez reduction

To complete the experience, it’s essential to attend one of the various outdoor performances by local musicians, dancers, and entertainers that take place throughout the event. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons and evenings, you can catch live music and shows at nine different designated spots (a full schedule is included in the brochure). There’s also the simultaneous Chollopiés festival, which spotlights the neighborhood’s local businesses by offering special discounts on certain products.

Plaza de Lavapiés on a night of Tapapiés

Maybe you live in Lavapiés and want to get to know your barrio better. Maybe you’ve never been and want to see what all the hype is about. Or maybe you’re just hungry, thirsty, and low on cash. Whatever the case, Tapapiés is bound to become one of your favorite events in Madrid. If you go into it with the right mindset, a healthy appetite, and a handful of coins, I guarantee that come next October, there’ll only be one thing on your mind. Who needs pumpkin spice lattes, anyway?

Info

Check out our roundup of Tapapiés’ offerings last year!




Take a Peek Inside 5 Historical Madrid Bars


Madrid is full of amazing bars that have played a role in Spanish history. Whether it’s art, literature, or the Spanish Civil War, these bars hold some sort of significance to Spain’s past and are definitely worth the visit.

Here’s a sneak peek into the stories behind our favorite historical Madrid bars.

Fatigas del Querer

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Located in Sol is a restaurant with an exterior as beautiful as its interior dating back to the 1920s. This restaurant will grab your attention with its beautiful Andalusian tiles dedicated to Spanish painter Julio Romero de Torres. Even one of his paintings is depicted on these beautifully detailed tiles.

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Typical free Spanish tapa

Not only is this bar related to historical Spanish art, but it also has an impressively large menu of Spanish dishes such as setas empanadas con alioli. These fried mushrooms with alioli sauce would go great with one of the many vermuts that Fatigas del Querer has to offer.

  • Address: Calle de la Cruz, 17
  • Metro: Sol
  • Phone: +34 915 23 21 31

La Casa del Abuelo

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Just by the name alone, it’s clear that this bar has stood the test of time and still remains a Madrid classic.

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Established in 1906, La Casa del Abuelo has seen Spain at the best of times and the worst of times, including the Spanish Civil War. During this time, La Casa del Abuelo only served garlic or grilled shrimp paired with a Spanish sweet wine due to the food shortage. Since then, this bar’s gambas al ajillo and gambas a la plancha have become a delicious specialty.

  • Web & Facebook
  • Address: Calle de la Victoria, 12
  • Metro: Sol
  • Phone: +34 910 00 01 33

La Venencia

During the height of the Spanish Civil War, this bar was one of the few spots where Republican soldiers and other anti-fascists, such as Ernest Hemingway would go. Taking photos has been prohibited since the 1930’s just in case there were any fascist spies around.

Nevertheless, this bar is incredibly beautiful with its antique bottles and large barrels of wine that haven’t changed since this historical time period. And if you’re a sherry lover, known as Jerez in Spanish, this bar has an amazing variety to choose from.

  • *Cash only
  • Address: Calle Echegaray, 7
  • Metro: Sol, Sevilla
  • Phone: +34 914 29 73 13

1912 Museo Bar

Westin Palace Hotel

Located inside the Westin Palace Hotel is the perfect bar if you’re in the mood for an elegant night out. Rumor has it that this high-end bar has had a fair number of influential guests such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Ernest Hemingway.

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Established in 1912, this bar still maintains a museum-like appearance with old photographs of the history of the hotel and life in Spain. The bar itself has some of the most high-end alcohols that you can find here in Madrid. Although this place is a little bit on the pricey side, you won’t be disappointed by the service or the selection.

  • Address: Plaza de las Cortes, 7
  • Metro: Banco de España, Sevilla, Antón Martín
  • Phone: +34 913 60 80 00

San Ginés

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And if you’re looking for a break from all the alcohol and tapas, this chocolatería is the perfect place to switch it up. San Ginés has been a Madrid classic since 1894 and is easy to miss while walking through the crowded center of the city. It had even been named “La escondida”, or “the hidden one” by some during the Second Republic of Spain. Regardless, this café has gained a lot of fame over the years and has even been mentioned in great works of literature, such as Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s Bohemian Lights.

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Original image by: @carlas.abreu via Instagram

San Ginés has by far the best chocolate con churros in Madrid. The menu also consists of porras, known as giant churros, a variety of coffees, and even chocolate liqueur. So if you haven’t already, head on over to San Ginés and get your sugar fix.

  • Web & Facebook
  • Address: Pasadizo de San Gines, 5
  • Metro: Sol
  • Phone: +34 913 65 65 46

You might also like: 5 authentic Madrid bars loved by locals




What to See in Barrio de Las Letras


Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras is a timeless neighborhood that stays true to its Spanish roots, while still giving a modern feel that leaves visitors coming back for more. With its amazing food, culture, and ambience, you can’t go wrong when it comes to exploring this classic barrio.

Here are a few insights into its history, hotspots and 3 restaurant recommendations!

History with a Modern Twist

Barrio de las Letras, also known as Huertas, is less than a 10-minute walk from Sol and was once home to some of the greatest Spanish writers. The streets are paved with recognizable quotes from writers such as, Miguel Cervantes and José Echegaray.

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There are even plazas and streets dedicated to writers such as Plaza Jacinto Benavente and Calle Lope de Vega. The houses of some of these writers still stand today and are open to the public, such as Casa Museo Lope de Vega which offers free guided tours.

Plaza Jacinto Benavente

Plaza Jacinto Benavente

Calle Lope de Vega

Calle Lope de Vega

Nowadays, this historic neighborhood has become a trendy spot for people to get together and have a drink paired with a few tapas. Calle de las Huertas is the main street where you can easily find great shops, cafes, and some of Madrid’s finest eateries.

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While exploring the side streets that branch off the main road, keep an eye out for the various boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, and antique shops that make this neighborhood so authentic.

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Must-Sees in Barrio de las Letras

Plaza Santa Ana is a well-known hangout spot in this neighborhood. Here you can find a number of restaurants with outdoor seating areas that are perfect for enjoying the ambience with a nice wine or beer.

Plaza Santa Ana

Plaza Santa Ana

Plaza Santa Ana is also where you can find monuments of Calderón de la Barca, Federico García Lorca, and the Teatro Español, making it a popular spot for tourists.

Monument Calderon de La Barca

Monument Calderon de La Barca

Monument Federico Garcia Lorca

Monument Federico Garcia Lorca

Teatro Español

Teatro Español—Madrid’s oldest theater

 

3 Restaurants in Barrio de las Letras

This neighborhood is a hot spot for some of Madrid’s oldest taverns and restaurants that serve typical Spanish dishes and tapas. Here are some of the best ones.

Cervecería Cervantes is a favorite among the locals. It’s decorated with beautiful tiles that give a traditional Spanish feel. Every time I walk past this bar, it’s always packed with people enjoying tapas and beer. This cervecería is known for its seafood that can be ordered in small portions. So stop in and try them all!

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Another go-to place is El Lacón on Calle de Manuel Fernández y González. This place has been around since the 60s and has been considered a classic ever since. It’s known for its drink and tapa deal, meaning that with each beer you order, the waiter will bring a small plate of tapas to your table. Not only is this restaurant famous for its incredible deal, but it’s also known for its full plates such as, cocido Madrileño and the meat or fish tablas that can easily feed 3 people or more.

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And if you’re looking for a place that has it all, Casa Alberto is the place for you. This restaurant is hard to miss with its red exterior, antique writing, and open door which allows people to take a peek inside.

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When first entering Casa Alberto, it’s hard to get past the crowd of people drinking and ordering tapas at the bar. But once you’re in the dining room, you are guaranteed a great sit-down meal. For starters, the croquetas de jamón are an amazing way to start your meal. Another great starter is the gazpacho de melon with a prawn tartar. This gazpacho gives a modern twist on the classic Spanish plate by creating a sweet but savory infusion.

Not only are their appetizers high quality, but so are their main dishes. Casa Alberto makes an incredibly flavorful and hearty callos a la Madrileña that’s perfect for a mid-day feast. As a U.S. Midwestern girl who loves red meat, I had to second guess myself after trying the ventresca de bonito. This fish plate was grilled to perfection topped with quality olive oil, fresh garlic, and a side of potatoes.

Make sure to leave room for dessert because Casa Alberto won’t disappoint. Their cream-filled crepes topped with homemade blueberry and cheese ice cream are the perfect go-to dessert. But if you’re looking for something with a bit of an alcoholic twist, the apple and cider sorbet is highly recommended.

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Check out all the spots in Barrio de Las Letras featured on Naked Madrid!




Get interactive at "Mad Improv" theater workshops and shows!


Madrid’s theater scene is brimming with activity. You’ll find live micro-theater being performed in bathrooms and lingerie stores, as well as acting classes and alternative shows scheduled daily throughout the city.

But there isn’t much available in English, which is why I want to introduce you to Mad Improv, an English-speaking improv group that’s been shaking things up in Madrid’s interactive theater scene since 2014.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Mad Improv hosts shows and workshops on a regular basis, all run by its cast members in English. Free improv workshops – called “gyms” – are held on Sundays from 5pm-7pm. Gyms are purely donation-based and absolutely everyone is welcome so you never know who might show up. People have even come in on flight layovers!

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

They also hold monthly open shows – called “jams” – where anyone can get up on stage and play improv games. Jams cost €3 with a drink (which probably comes in handy).

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Locations for gyms and jams vary from Fundación First Team in Sol to Retiro when the weather allows. And right now they have a new set of upcoming shows at La Escalera de Jacob!

So check out their Meetup, Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up to date. Once you attend an event you can also ask one of the organizers to add you to the whatsapp group.

My experience – great way to step out of your comfort zone

I had secretly always wanted to drop in on an acting class, but never got around to it until this summer when two friends, Riju (India) and Laura (Spain), enthusiastically agreed to join me at one of the Sunday gyms. This was in August so the workshop was held in Retiro behind the Palacio de Cristal.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

An international group of about 15 people showed up – the different backgrounds and languages definitely added an element of fun and spontaneity to the mix. And our organizer, Summer Banks (in the photo below), did a great job at including everyone and making sure the exercises were easy to follow.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

What started out with simple warm-up games quickly gave way to more challenging improv activities that admittedly made me feel ridiculous. But it’s a wonderful way to get out of your comfort zone, connect with people and laugh a lot. My friends and I left with the feeling that we wanted to try our hands at improv again (and hopefully do it better next time), which meant the fun far outweighed the awkwardness!

Chat with the founder, Ben

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Just before going to the workshop, I had met up with Mad Improv’s founder Ben Nathan-Serio at the newly opened Plántate Café. After studying drama in NYC and working in the field, Ben moved to Barcelona where he first started working in children’s theater. Four years in he launched his own interactive theater production, The Barcelona Time Detectives, and was also a founding member of BIG, The Barcelona Improv Group.

When Ben came to Madrid, he quickly became involved in Madrid’s English-speaking theater scene and founded Mad Improv in 2014. Ben says, “The reason I started Mad Improv was because there was no improv community here; I wanted to reach out to the community in a bigger way, to get people involved.”

What makes improv and interactive theater so special is that it’s empowering, says Ben, as it allows for genuine human interaction and connection. Not to mention, getting out of your comfort zone is both invigorating and fun.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

In addition to Mad Improv, Ben also recently co-founded Live in Theater Madrid, a NYC-based group whose hit interactive show, The Lombardi Case, debuted here in summer. It’s a truly unique and entertaining two-hour event where the audience tries to solve a murder mystery – read our previous article about The Lombardi Case on Naked Madrid!

More to come

While Mad Improv and Live in Theater are alive and kicking in Madrid, Ben just relocated to Austin, Texas, where he’s taking part in a 9-month research lab called The Interactive Deep Dive. And he can’t wait to “come back with some very fresh, invigorating ideas for Live In Theater, Mad Improv and just the city in general.”

So stayed tuned, because we’ll make sure to fill you in on what’s in store.

Mad Improv Info:

 




Museo Cerralbo, an art lover's dream house


If you’re looking to explore Madrid’s museum scene beyond the famous Prado and Reina Sofia, I recommend starting with Los Cinco Museos, five former mansions that are all perfectly restored and house outstanding art collections: Cerralbo, Lázaro Galdiano, Artes Decorativas, Sorolla and Romanticismo.

These five museums take you on a journey to a different era, allowing you to see and feel what life might have been like when they were occupied. While each one is worth visiting, Museo Cerralbo is my personal favorite. I’ve been here twice – first on my own and then on a guided tour – and both times I was blown away by the museum’s special charm.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Tucked away on a side street near Plaza de España and Templo de Debod, this museum is one of the former residences of the Marquis of Cerralbo, who lived here with his family in the 19th century. Today, everything remains exactly in tact, from the furniture and art pieces to the wall colors and lighting.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

As you walk through its many rooms and corridors, let your imagination run wild, picturing what life was like when this house was actually a home.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The Marquis was a well known archeologist and passionate art lover. He amassed a collection of art, furniture and objects from Spain and around the world that you can see in every nook and cranny. You’ll see beautiful paintings, mirrors, chandeliers and clocks dispersed throughout, and so much more.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The house has two floors. The first floor was where the family actually lived their normal lives, while the second floor is where you’ll find the extravagant ballroom and dining room, for example, that were meant to be shown off to guests.

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Each particular room had a different purpose and decor, acting as a unique exhibition space. Here are a few examples.

The armor collection

After going up the gorgeous stairway (the house was actually designed to accommodate for a unique wooden banister), guests would step into the hallway displaying the Marquis’s armor collection. This is my favorite exhibit.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The ballroom

To the right of the armor collection you’ll find the stunning ballroom. I would certainly like to dance here one day…

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

As you can see, the Marquis was particularly fond of playing with lighting and mirrors to add as much depth to each room as possible. And not an inch of the house was left unadorned.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The library

The library features British-style decor and houses an impressive collection of books in several different languages, some dating back as far as the 15th century. Here you’ll also find one of the largest coin collections in Spain.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The billiard room

Right off the dining room you’ll find the billiard room. In that time, women weren’t expected to join in on the game, so there was a seating area designed just for them to watch as the men played.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Snapshots of more rooms and objects

There are so many little rooms and corridors to check out, each one providing a window into another era and giving your eyes plenty to marvel at. I don’t want to give away too much, so here are just a few more images to give you a glimpse of the Cerralbo Museum’s collection. But please don’t pass up the chance to see it in person!

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art
Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Photography by Jose Luis Magaña from A Second Art (Facebook & Instagram)

Info

  • WebsiteFacebook & Instagram
  • I highly recommend booking a guided tour in English, Spanish or French
  • Address: Calle Ventura Rodríguez, 17
  • Hours: Tues–Sat 9:30am-3pm; Thursday also from 5-8pm; Sundays and holidays from 10am-3pm
  • Metro: Plaza de España
  • Los Cinco Museos pass: if you want to visit all five of these former mansions turned museums, you can purchase a €12 pass called Los Cinco Museos at any of their ticket offices. The pass gives you unlimited access to all five museums for 10 days, and after that you can enter on Saturdays with a plus one for the rest of the year.

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Boconó Art Wall, Madrid-based photography by "A Second"


About three weeks ago I went into a new specialty coffee shop in La Latina, Boconó, and ordered a cortado to go. The next time I stopped in, I had the chance to sit down with the owner, Carlos, and my friend, José Luis, who happens to be a regular Boconó customer. Our conversation gave me plenty to write about for a first post on Naked Madrid, but there’s so much more to the story!

Bocono Coffee Shop Madrid by Naked Madrid

What do you do with a big white wall?

As we were talking, we couldn’t help but notice the blank wall in need of attention. José Luis, who’s a photographer, took out his phone and started snapping photos of coffee cups located around the café, adding filters and creating unique images. One thing led to another, and we all agreed we should transform that floor-to-ceiling canvas into a photo gallery.

Then…

Bocono Coffee Shop Madrid

Now

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The process

It took José Luis, Andrea (another friend) and I over a week to get it all set up. I couldn’t possibly count how many hours we’ve spent in Boconó’s basement cutting paper, fitting photos and tinkering with random bits of material. Nor how many trips we’ve taken to the print shop and hardware store. Not to mention how many picture frames we bought, and how many we broke…

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

And today, as I look at the wall, I see so much more than beautiful artwork on display. I see the entire creative process that went on behind it, from the first day we sat down with Carlos at his café and pitched the idea, to the way the photos catch your eye even as you walk down the street and peer through Boconó’s window.

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

It’s thrilling to see how that seemingly random idea is now something real.

Boconó Art Wall

No longer a big white wall, Bocono Art Wall has become a showcase for local Madrid artists. Come and enjoy your coffee and take a look at the featured exhibits which will change monthly. If you’re an artist and want your work to be showcased, get in touch with A Second on Facebook.

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Current exhibit – A Second / Art

The first installation features the images shot at Boconó itself – photos that capture the essence of its coffee, ambience and the neighborhood. All photos are by José Luis Magaña, creator of A Second, a Madrid-based platform meant to create, inspire and share art projects in the city (show some support by liking the Facebook and Instagram pages, please!).

A Second Art by José Luis Magña photography Madrid

More to come

Thank you, Carlos, for your generosity and openness to create a space that supports artists in your café. We look forward to collaborating with you on the Boconó Art Wall and other art-related projects that are currently in the works.

Stay with us as we announce upcoming exhibits, as well as other venues in the near future!

Info

  • #boconoartwall
  • Where: Boconó Specialty Coffee Shop (calle Embajadores, 3)
  • Who: @bocono.coffee @asecond.art @nakedmadrid
  • When: February 17, ’17 (ongoing)

Also read our full article on Boconó, a Specialty Coffee Shop in Plaza de Cascorro

 

 

 




Where to Dance Bachata and Salsa in Madrid


Always wanted to learn how to dance bachata but didn’t want to pay high costs for private lessons? Well, look no further!

It is muy de moda, or very popular to dance bachata right now in Spain.  Each year there seems to be more meet-up groups and more bars offering noches de bachata or noches latinas.  Located right by Templo de Debod, The Host offers three bachata classes followed by social dancing every Wednesday night.
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For 8 euros you’ll have entrance to the bar, access to three classes over the course of two hours and a drink (alcoholic or not) of your choice.  You can choose to take all three classes or just one.  If you’re more of a “people watcher” there are plenty of seats at the bar and around the perimeter of the dance floor.  Don’t show up too early though because the first class starts when the bar opens at 9PM.

Where to dance bachata in Madrid

For new dancers, the first question often asked is “Do I need to bring a partner?”  You do not need to bring a partner but you can if you’d like! The classes tend to begin with the basics, which everyone dances individually.  Then, when you do partner up, the pairs rotate so often that by the end of the class you’ll have danced with nearly everyone, you might even remember a few names or have made a new friend by the end of the lesson. On this particular Wednesday, the classes were: modern bachata, Dominican bachata and lastly, sensual bachata.

Where to dance bachata in Madrid

After the classes end and the students watch or record as the dance instructors model all the steps learned, the social dancing starts!  You get the chance to practice what you learned with friends from the class or meet others who are just arriving for the social dancing.  The fun doesn’t end until 3AMIf you’re more interested in salsa, you should join The Host on Thursdays for class (see below).  You’ll also hear a little bit of salsa and kizomba throughout the night but Wednesdays are specifically for bachata at The Host!
  Where to dance bachata in Madrid

Info

  • Address: Calle Ferraz 38
  • Metro: Argüelles / Ventura Rodriguez / Plaza España
  • Facebook

Other classes at The Host:

Tuesday: Kizomba (classes 21:00-23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Wednesday: Bachata (classes 21:00- 23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Thursday: Salsa (classes 21:00-23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Friday: Bachata (classes 22:00-@24:00 and social dancing until 5:30)
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Facebook pages and groups on Madrid’s salsa and bachata scene:

  1. Salsa Madrid (page)
  2. Salsa Madrid  (group)

Here are some more salsa places to check out:

Azucar:

For 8 euro you can enjoy classes and a drink at Azucar near Metro Atocha.  It is a smaller nightclub but brings in dancers of many levels.

Tropical House:

Near Metro Plaza de España is the best place to start dancing salsa or bachata as a beginner.  Tropical also offers kizomba lessons on Fridays and Saturdays.
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Cats:

On Sundays at Cats (now called Sala Mitty) you can dance salsa and bachata.  The crowd is great and there’s plenty of room to dance as it doesn’t get completely packed.

El Son:

A close walk from Puerta del Sol, El Son offers classes from Monday through Thursday at 6 euro a class.

La Negra Tomasa:

In Sol but doesn’t feel like it.  Live Cuban music every night and although there isn’t a lot of space to dance, if you love salsa music, La Negra Tomasa is a must.

You may also like: Where to get fit in Madrid




Café Barbieri: A 114-year-old Art Noveau café in Lavapiés


Café Barbieri first brought modernist charm to Madrid’s working class district, Lavapiés, in 1902, and although the barrio has evolved dramatically over the last 114 years, the interior of this elegant bar hasn’t changed one bit.

Some things have changed though – Café Barbieri is owned by a charismatic chap from New Delhi and staffed with bilingual youngthings. It also now has a small terrace, but this is not why you’d come here – its appeal is truly the interior.

The whole place is lined with mirrors which back then were a symbol of wealth. These mirrors are now aging well, stained a smoky bronze colour with dots of grey rust creeping in from the edges. The ceiling is framed with grids of ornate girders that are connected to decorative cast-iron beams, typical of older buildings in Lavapiés. Although never on, there are ceiling fans too – something increasingly rare in Madrid.

At the back of the bar is a grand piano on a small raised stage. Almost every evening there’s a live music session often featuring the piano, and this place does food too – typical Spanish stuff but with an edge.

The worn white marble table tops and red velvet seating lining the dining area mark this place out as opulent, but that’s really not the vibe – it’s chilled and cosy and attracts a spectrum of people, from the intrepid tourist who’s braved it down the hill, to the unassuming local who fancies a read of one of the papers on offer.

Café Barbieri by day

Café Barbieri by day

Café Barbieri's beautiful ornate cieling

Café Barbieri’s beautiful ornate ceiling

The grand piano taking centre stage, and look at all those beautiful mirrors

The grand piano taking centre stage, and look at all those beautiful mirrors

Look at that original tiled floor!

Look at that original tiled floor!

The bar has a great selection of spirits & vermouth on tap

The bar has a great selection of spirits & vermouth on tap

Café Barbieri by night

Café Barbieri by night

Café Barbieri is also on the same street as the Greek foodie place, Egeo, so there you have it, your night is planned!

Info




Manzana Mahou: Gourmet Art Experience


Manzana Mahou is the concept sponsored by Madrid’s most iconic beer, Mahou. It’s located in Malasaña (between metro stops Tribunal and Alonso Martinez) at Palacio de Santa Bárbara, a beautiful palace built in 1866. For the third consecutive year, the outdoor space has been turned into a popular terrace designed to provide an oasis during Madrid’s warmest months.
Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

The idea behind Manzana Mahou is to bring together art, gourmet food and beer, to create a unique experience. It is open until October 8th, after which it will be temporarily closed until next summer. This year, the stars of the show will be chefs María Marte from Allard Experience, Javier Goya, Javier Mayor and David Alfonso, from Triciclo and Roberto Ruiz from Cascabel by Punto MX.

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

These top chefs will be in charge of creating exclusive dinners inspired by the four resident artists at Manzana Mahou. In addition to this, two restaurants, La Cabra and Tandem will offer a more casual dining experience. La Cabra is a Michelin Star restaurant that will also offer brunch on Sundays from 12pm to 4pm for only 25€, led by renowned chef Javier Aranda, who at just 29 is one of the most acclaimed chefs in Spain. Tandem, on the other hand, is Triciclo’s little brother which has also become a leader in Madrid’s restaurant scene.

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

This year, the outdoor space has expanded, enhancing the experience. Four artists will be exhibiting, Julia Llerena, María Platero, Françoise Vanneraud and PLAYdramaturgia. The latter are a group of artists that create a mix between visual and performing arts, while the first three are focused mainly on visual arts. 

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

Entrance on Calle Hortaleza

Open Monday to Sunday, from 11am to 1am, Manzana Mahou is a great opportunity to try some of Madrid’s greatest restaurants at a more affordable price while enjoying art and a few beers.

Info

Facebook & Website

Address: Calle Hortaleza, 47

Metro: Alonso Martínez & Tribunal