Kittens & coffee at Polineko, an ethical cat cafe in La Latina


You may have heard of the Japanese concept of a ‘neko café,’ or a cat cafe, which has made a splash in the world’s biggest cities in recent years.

In Japan, the idea was born because most landlords don’t allow pets. So animal lovers go to a cat cafe and pick which cat they’d like to play with. Each time they visit, they spend time with the same cat, forming a relationship with him or her. It’s kind of like having a part-time pet.

In other cities though, like London and New York, it works a bit different. You simply pay to hang out in a feline-filled cafe, and the cats roam free while you sip a latte and relax.

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The latter has arrived to Madrid. There are a handful of options, but my favorite is Polineko, recently opened in La Latina. It stands out for several reasons:

  • Its authentic Japanese style. Between the decor, the Japanese snacks like doriyakis, and the anime-themed items in their shop, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a real neko café.

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  • Its mission. Above all, Polineko aims to foster loving relationships between humans and their feline friends. Unlike other cat cafes in Madrid, you can touch and play with all the cats, and almost all of them are available for adoption. They partner with animal protection agencies like ALBA that facilitate the adoption process, guaranteeing that all cats are healthy and vaccinated, and that they end up in loving and reliable ‘furever’ homes.

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  • Its staff. Everyone who works here is incredibly friendly and knowledgable, from Steven (the warm and open co-owner), to Juan (barista extraordinaire), and its other co-owner, Melisa, who I didn’t meet but is a veterinarian and does free behavioral consultations for your cat every Friday!

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  • The environment. The cafe is spacious and opts for couches instead of tables and chairs. There’s free wifi and they won’t bat an eye if you choose to work on a laptop, or if you prefer to sit on the ground and play with the kitties.

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  • The coffee. It’s delicious. That’s all. Oh, and they have every kind of milk variety you can think of. Try it with almond milk!

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In addition to coffee and Japanese snacks, Polineko also offers bowls of cereal (Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, oh my!) and Japanese beer and tea.

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Polineko is open Sunday-Thursday from 11am-10pm, and Friday and Saturday from 11am-11pm.

Prices are as follows:

  • 4€ for 30 minutes and a beverage
  • 6€ for 30 minutes, a beverage, and a Japanese snack
  • 6€ for an hour and a beverage
  • 8€ for an hour, a beverage, and a snack

The staff is also planning to launch intercambio nights soon—stay tuned for more info by following them on social media.

Here are more cat pics.

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Photos courtesy of Polineko and the author.

 

Info

  • Address: Carrera de San Francisco, 11
  • Metro: La Latina
  • Facebook 
  • Instagram & Twitter: @polineko_madrid
  • Website: www.polineko.com
  • Phone: 680 85 83 89



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:

 




Live In Theater’s "The Lombardi Case" comes to Madrid from NYC!


It’s not everyday that you get to help solve a murder case, interview a drag queen, or be transported to another era. But that’s what you’re in for with the interactive show The Lombardi Case, brought to us by the NY-based Live in Theater group. I had the chance to go the premiere in May and here’s what it was like.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

When I stepped into the theater, I was first greeted by a cop with a Brooklyn accent, played by a Scotsman; and then grabbed a seat among the 60-person international audience. We got split into small teams and an officer presented us with the case details in effortless Spanglish.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

It’s suddenly the early 1980’s and we’re in the midst of Madrid’s sex- and drug-ridden La Movida movement. The daughter of the US ambassador has just been murdered. And it’s on us to find out who did it.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

Readily equipped with clues, a map and a list of suspects – from a doorman to a junky – we headed out onto the streets to conduct our interviews at nearby locations like a jazz bar, public plaza and street corner; and then came back and tried to solve the case with our findings.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

The 7-member bilingual cast relied heavily on improv to communicate with us as we interrogated them, and they impressively stayed in character the whole time.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

Although none of us ended up solving the tricky case, it was a really fun and unique experience, with lots of laughter and participation between the actors and audience. I loved being able to play an active role in the show, get out there on the street, interact with new team members and in Spanglish, no less. All in all, it’s a guaranteed great time and as a benefit you’ll get to learn about the history of Madrid.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

Since the debut, Live in Theater has put on two more productions of the The Lombardi Case in the heart of Malasaña at La Industrial. While the format is identical to the NYC show, the storyline has been adapted to Madrid’s history. For example, the original takes place in 1975 which works in a time of drugs, disco and gentrification in NYC, while the Madrid show takes place in the early ‘80s during the time of La Movida, the experimental movement that broke out after the fall of the Franco regime. This is especially pertinent as audience members get to actually interview suspects in the neighborhood that was the epicenter of the movement, Malasaña. Another key difference is that here, the show is put on in Spanish and English.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

The Lombardi Case has been brought to Madrid by three partners: Carlo D’Amore, the founder (and guru) of the NYC-based theater group, Live in Theater; Leslie Freschet, who’s been living in Madrid for 25 years; and Benjamin Nathan-Serio, who’s been an active member of Barcelona and Madrid’s English-speaking theater circuit for nearly a decade. He’s also one of the Madrid organizers and co-founders of Mad Improv.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with Ben and talk about the Lombardi Case and what makes interactive theater so special. He said:

The show offers a truly unique experience for the audience because interactive is empowering. It’s a real niche for actual human, genuine interaction. There’s something magical about this show. It’s not just conversation in a bar or speed dating, or meet-ups; it’s super empowering because you become a cop. You have a mission. You become a detective. There’s a murder, and you need to solve it! And there’s a time limit… urgency.

See a show!

Stay tuned for upcoming productions by following their Facebook page or put in a request by emailing them at liveintheaterproduction@gmail.com.

You can also book them for private events such as company team-building exercises. The show has a very versatile format – you can hire them to go into your apartment as long as it has 2 rooms, with 3 actors playing 6 characters; and it can also be presented to up to 200 people.

And if you feel like getting more involved in Madrid’s interactive theater scene, definitely check out Mad Improv which holds free improv workshops on Sundays and monthly performances.




María Pandora, a dark and artistic champagne bar in La Latina


If you’ve ever spent an evening watching the sunset with a liter of Mahou in Parque Las Vistillas (and if you haven’t, get on that ASAP), you may have spotted this beautiful, borderline-creepy cocktail bar.

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid
Cryptic, dripping golden letters read MARÍA PANDORA, and the sound of a dramatic poetry reading demand the curiosity of passersby not yet in the know.

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Once inside, you’ll already be hooked: every inch of the walls is covered with sinister sketches, the tables are adorned with misshapen melted candles, and vintage furniture adds the finishing touch to make you feel like you’re in a haunted mansion.

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But despite the ghoulish vibe, the servers here are cheery and chatty. When we ordered champagne and white wine, our server plopped a frozen raspberry in our glass, assuring it would add a little somethin’-somethin’.

Oh, and the tapas here are my kind of food: mounds of candy and fruit.

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid

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But the best it yet to come. A meeting point for lovers of art, the bar also functions as a stage for poetry readings, microteatro, and literary chats several nights of the week. The wall of antique books are for sale (but the century-old portraits of the owner’s family are not).

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Sign up for an event, order a glass of bubbly, and if you get there early enough, grab a window seat. María Pandora does not disappoint.

*Just note that their opening hours can be a little funky – they tend to open at 7pm except on Mondays, although sometimes they throw private events. So it’s best to call ahead to make sure they’re open!

Info

  • Website & Facebook
  • Phone: +34 910 42 82 13
  • Address: Plaza de Gabriel Miró, 1
  • Metro: La Latina or Ópera



Volunteer Opportunities in Madrid for Everyone


If you’re looking for ways to get involved in the Madrid community and help out – from donating clothes to teaching English in city jails – here are a few non-profit organizations recommended by international volunteers who live here. While some require long-term commitments and knowing Spanish, others can benefit from just a few hours of your time and have no language barriers.

So whether you’re new to the city or have very little spare time, there are plenty of ways to give back – even the smallest gesture can make a difference.

Casa Solidaria

While Madrid operates government-run food banks for its residents in need, there are many people who can’t take advantage of this service due to lack of paperwork. Casa Solidaria aims to fill this void, organizing volunteers who prepare food in their own homes and deliver to 150+ people in Plaza de Tirso de Molina every weekday at 8:30pm. Each person gets a hot meal, a sandwich and a piece of fruit.

One volunteer said: “For most of these people, this is their primary source of food for the day. Without this, they are at serious risk.” With no regular funding, the charitywhich also operates in Barcelona and Lleidais always always looking for volunteers and donations.

Robin Hood Restaurant

NPR

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Another noble organization feeding the hungry of Madrid is the Robin Hood restaurant on Calle Eguilaz. During the day, Robin Hood is run like a typical Spanish café. But by night, the chefs and waiting staff use the profits to feed Madrid’s most in need residents.

At this catholic charity-run eatery, the idea is to offer the homeless of Madrid not only their daily bread, but also the civility of dining at a restaurant. Father Ángel García Rodriguez told NPR, “I want them to eat with the same dignity as any other customer. And the same quality, with glasses made of crystal, not plastic, and in an atmosphere of friendship and conversation.” The restaurant is attracting the talents of celebrity chefs and staff from the city’s top hotels.

Support Robin Hood by dropping in for a bite to eatjust be sure to make a reservation first as it’s booking up months in advance.

CONCAES (Confraternidad Carcelaria Española)

CONCAES is a Madrid-based NGO that works to provide support to people affected by crime, whether they’re prisoners, victims or family members. One of their main initiatives is giving educational workshops for inmates, to provide or increase skills and help with rehabilitation. English classes are currently run in two different penitentiary centres and give inmates the opportunity to learn English, or improve their level with native teachers.

As a volunteer you are responsible for planning and leading the classes, while you are accompanied by other volunteers or coordinators. According to one volunteer, “It can be challenging at times but it is without a doubt the most rewarding thing that I’ve done since moving to Madrid. In my experience the students are very motivated and the classes have a great atmosphere. The English workshops take place on Friday mornings so it’s easy to combine with work. It can take a while between signing up and getting permission to enter the centres so this is definitely one for people who are in Madrid for more than a few months.”

Madrid for Refugees

ways to give back in Madrid by Naked Madrid

Madrid for Refugees is run by a group of international volunteers who work closely with refugee centers in the Comunidad de Madrid. Their main goal is to help refugees from all over the world to build a life for themselves here in the city, from finding housing to work. One way to support Madrid for Refugees is by attending a Chefugee event  – monthly dinners organized where the entire menu is prepared by a refugee seeking work opportunities in Madrid’s culinary scene. Other ways to get involved include donating clothes and doing language exchanges as well as running errands and being a chauffeur. You can also attend their fundraising events and concerts which are announced on the MfR Facebook page, and all benefits go to helping refugees.

Facebook & Website

Serve the City

Serve the City is an international volunteer movement that began in Brussels in 2005, and is now located in over 95 cities around the world. It aims to connect people with local opportunities and events in their cities, so they can show kindness in practical ways to people in need, including refugees, the homeless, orphans, victims of human trafficking, the disabled and the poor. Serve the City believes that even the smallest efforts can make a big difference, and we agree.

Website & Facebook

Know of any other organizations to add to this list? Let us know!




Street spotlight: Calle Ruda, a tiny portal between La Latina & Embajadores


It goes without saying that there’s no shortage of things to do in Madrid. In fact, sometimes there’s so much, you don’t know where to start. On those days when the sun’s shining and you’re itching to get out of the house, sometimes it’s best to just walk to a cool part of town and let the city do its thing. We’re here to give you some inspiration.

Calle de la Ruda

La Latina and Embajadores—bustling multicultural hubs—are connected by a string of tiny streets full of surprises. One of them is Calle Ruda, which takes you straight from Mercado La Cebada to Plaza Cascorro, and makes the very short walk well worth it.

Calle Ruda by Naked Madrid

Onis, for old-school charm

If you enter the street from Calle Toledo, you’re greeted by the classic corner bar, Onis.

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This place is the definition of castizo. Tapas in the glass display case, tobacco machines, weird arcade games, and a grumpy server who has probably been here since the place opened (which was 1976, I’ve learned).

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Ruda Café, for coffee

Looking for something more modern? We got you. Keep heading down Ruda and you’ll come across Ruda Café, a new (opened last year) coffeeshop that’s riding the wave of java experts that has hit Madrid in recent years. We’re not mad about this trend. And yes, they have wifi. They also sell packaged artisanal coffee and tea, jam, art, and coffeemakers.

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De Piedra, for handmade jewelry

But there’s only so much coffee you can drink (unfortunate, I know). So now that you’re fueled up, you’re ready to browse the cute little shops of this gem of a street. If you’re a fan of jewelry and creepy mannequins, pay a visit to De Piedra, an artisanal jewelry shop at C/ Ruda 19. They haven’t been at this location long, but the store has been open for some 15 years.

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Molar, for records, books and cassette tapes

Next you’ll come across my personal favorite place on the street, Molar. Think record store meets bookshop.

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They even sell cassette tapes, which is not something you see every day in Mad City.

Mamá Elba, for something sweet

Got a sweet tooth? Mamá Elba has been open a mere 3 weeks, and is already drawing a loyal customer base. Their selection of ice cream (including vegan and gluten-free), cakes, and coffee will leave you overwhelmed by heavenly choices.

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Erre Catorce (R14), for art and design

R14 is another brand new spot on the street, just open for a month. It’s a modern interior design shop, with local art, restored vintage furniture pieces (from around the world, namely Scandinavia and the US), apparel, and lots of cool home decor.

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Soon they’ll be putting on events to promote and discuss interior design and art, so keep your eyes peeled and follow them on Facebook.

La Tienda de Cerveza, for craft beer

Next up: craft beer. Okay, I lied before, THIS place is my favorite. La Tienda de Cerveza is a must in La Latina (and in the city, really). The shelves are lined with hundreds of bottled or canned craft beers and ciders from both Madrid and around the world. They have a few tables in the back, and they hold tasting events often. An absolute must for cervecerxs.

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Tienda Biológica, for something healthy

Something I love about Madrid is that you can eat healthy without going bankrupt. Tienda Biológica is living proof of this. This small organic food shop sells health products at reasonable prices, and it’s run by the sweetest lady.

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La China Mandarina, for a great meal in a modern space

And last but not least (and not even covering half of the street’s spots), for a great meal and a laidback ambience, visit La China Mandarina at the end of Calle Ruda (closest to Plaza Cascorro). It’s one of those places that masters the art of offering both very traditional and very modern cuisine on the same menu. So if you’re craving a tortilla de patatas but your friend has a hankering for a vegan burger, there’s something for everyone.

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They have great wifi and won’t roll their eyes if you work on your laptop all morning (I know from experience).

Calle Ruda is just one of a plethora of tiny goldmines in Madrid. If none of these spots call your attention (tough crowd!), we suggest you still come to the area on a beautiful day and just get lost. You can’t go wrong.

 




Chefugee, pop-up dinners featuring homemade cuisines from around the world


Chefugees are monthly dinners organized by Madrid for Refugees, where the entire menu is prepared by a refugee seeking work opportunities in Madrid’s culinary scene. Six events have been held so far, each with a different location and setting, featuring foods from Syria, the Ukraine and Venezuela. The upcoming dinner will be from Cameroon and if you want to attend (I highly recommend you do), you can book online, paying €25 in advance, all included.

Chefugee Dinner Madrid by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

Chefugee dinners are fun, warm and truly insightful events that allow you to try different foods from around the world and show your support in a unique way. They also provide an opportunity for the chefs to share their home country’s cuisine and traditions while showcasing their culinary skills. Following past events, chefs have been hired to work at restaurants and do private catering.

Chefugee Madrid dinner by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

The last Chefugee dinner was catered by a woman named Wesal from Hama, Syria. She prepared a full-on feast, complete with traditional appetizers, main dishes and desserts. We started out with dips such as hummus and baba ghanoush with pita bread, tabouleh and salad. The main dishes included rice with chicken, and vegetarian options. Everything was homemade, delicious and full of Middle Eastern flavors and spices. Not to mention the portions were generous – there were plenty of leftovers to go around.

Chefugee Madrid dinner by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

Dinner was served on the floor, with guests sitting on blankets and sharing dishes in the traditional way.

Chefugee Madrid dinner by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

The event was held at one of the volunteer’s homes. We all took our shoes off when we entered, laid our coats and bags down in the bedroom, and were then greeted in the hallway by our organizers, who offered us a glass of wine. We next walked into the living room and found a spot on the floor to sit down. The evening was very warm and casual, with about 30 guests from everywhere.

Chefugee Dinner Madrid by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

There was no formal speech at the end, just a friendly toast (in Spanglish) and a brief introduction about the event and Madrid for Refugees, so patrons can get involved and know more about it. At some events, the chefs like to come out and tell their story; while at others, the chefs prefer to stay more behind the scenes and let the food be the night’s main highlight.

Chefugee Dinner Madrid by A Second Art and Naked Madrid

If you have the chance to attend a future Chefugee event, trust me you’re in for a unique dining experience that’s well worth your while!

Madrid for Refugees: an active, hands-on community

MfR is run by a group of international volunteers who work closely with refugee centers in the Comunidad de Madrid. Their main goal is to help refugees from all over the world to build a life for themselves here in the city, from finding accommodation to work opportunities. All of the funds raised from MfR events and donations go towards helping refugees.

Get involved: events, clothes drives, language exchanges…

Attending a Chefugee event is a unique way of supporting MfR’s efforts. But there are plenty of other ways to get involved, from donating clothes and doing language exchanges to running errands and being a chauffeur. You can also attend their upcoming events, such as the fundraising benefit concert on April 20th, that MfR is joining with MASS to sponsor and host.

Contact info

All photos by Jose Luis Magaña – Instagram: @asecond.art / Facebook / asecondart.com

 




A Mini Guide: how to make the most of rainy Madrid


When the sun shines on the big city… Madrid is spectacular, especially in the sun. The authentic Spanish architecture on every building looks picturesque against a backdrop of blue skies, and even the areas coated graffiti look artistic and vibrant in a summery light. You can walk pretty much anywhere; take a stroll in El Parque Retiro; sip sangría in Plaza Mayor; visit a rooftop in almost any barrio.

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But with some Autumnal showers it can be difficult to experience Madrid to the full, so here are a few ideas to keep you busy come rain or shine…

Get even more culture in you

It goes without saying that rainy days are perfect museum days. Stay warm and dry inside beautiful exhibition rooms, and feel like you have really experienced at least a snippet of the art and culture that Madrid has to offer, even on a miserable day.

This can also be a free way to enjoy Madrid! Just as though you were wandering through tourist sites in the sun, like the grounds of Palacio Real or within Plaza Mayor, many art exhibitions in Madrid are free to the public.

To get started with art in Madrid, a true tourist or cultured expat must visit the city’s main art museums. El Museo del Prado houses Spain’s finest works ever produced, and is free from 6 to 8pm every day. La Reina Sofia boasts the breath-taking Guernica (Pablo Picasso) and four floors of thought-provoking artwork; it is free on Sunday mornings and afternoons. To get even more authentic, El Museo Taurino is Spain’s bullfighting history museum, and is free to the public every day of the week.

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For less well-known exhibitions, keep checking websites to find the best ones, as lots are exhibited for limited time periods. Photography exhibitions seem to populate the Embajadores area: La Tabacalera is home to many temporary shows for renowned Spanish photographers and artists.

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When you think of Spanish culture, you think of Flamenco. A quintessentially Spanish dance art that is both vibrant and dynamic. La Villa Rosa Flamenco is the oldest flamenco bar in the world. It opened in 1911, and has since promoted the Flamenco art with regular shows. Enjoy a class of vino in this relaxed, lively atmosphere.

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Foooooooood: cake, churros and tapas with a twist

When its rainy, chilly, or just a bleak day, we often entertain ourselves with food. I mean, eating is great at any time, but there seems to be something about a miserable day that makes you feel peckish for a tasty gastronomic experience. Luckily, any street in the centre of Madrid is largely populated by tapas bars and restaurants. But these can too often feel very same-same.

When it comes to eating tapas and savouring every single taste because you have never tasted anything quite like it before, think: LA MUSA. It’s what foodie dreams are made of. Forget your standard croquette, and think Croqueta 2.0. Forget your standard patatas bravas, and think of La Patata Bomba filled with meat and served on bread crumbs and a magical pea puree. If you are lucky enough to go to La Musa you will enjoy the fusion of Asian and Spanish cuisines in one, revolutionary tapas menu. Find La Musa in both La Latina and Malasaña.

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As well as typical Spanish bars, Madrid boasts a plethora of cool artisan cafes to choose from. Cosy up on a Central Perk style sofa with a caramel macchiato and a slice of red velvet cake. There is always a buzz running through such places, whether that be from the coffee grinder or the many chatty customers: they really seem to be a hub for expats and travellers sheltering themselves from the drizzle. Some personal favourites in Malasaña include: 

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La Bicicleta: an industrial-chic, modern and artistic café with homemade cake and great coffee. It has a work station for those with laptops, and slowly transforms throughout the day from a bustling café to lively and casual bar by night. Here, I would recommend their Chai Vanilla Latte (not many places do it Madrid!) and a slice of fluffy carrot cake. Be careful not to head there in peak hours (2-5pm) as you will struggle for a table.

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HanSo Café: a hidden gem. By hidden I mean there is literally no sign on its exterior. Inside it is pretty minimal too, with concrete walls, floor and bar area. The grey tones are contrasted with the warm low-hanging lighting, and the soft sound of music and subtle smell of sourdough toast adds some atmosphere. Fresh cakes are constantly brought out by HanSo’s friendly owners, with some postres looking colourful and fruity with an Asian twist. There is a large central table for social hipsters and a few window seats for more private coffee dates. They have a never-ending list of frappes – so you will be spoilt for choice.

When you think of Madrid in cold or rainy weather, you will warmly dream of chocolate y churros. In fact, you can kill two birds with one stone. You get your daily dose of ‘culture’ by trying typical Spanish delicacies, whilst also satisfying your chocolate cravings…

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Artesanos 1902: ‘La mejor churreria’: This churros joint stands wide and proud on Calle San Martín (between Sol and Opera), complete with twinkly fairy lights that make it all the more inviting. What better way to spend your day eating churros than in a place that has made them their speciality for over 100 years? They serve their rich chocolate accompaniment in either dark of milk flavours, and also have waffle and crêpe options just in case their mouth-watering churros don’t tickle your fancy. 

Still up high: panoramic views without getting soaked

One of Madrid’s principal attractions is the ability to take in the majestic skyline at sunset from one of its many rooftop terraces. In the rain however, this is still possible! Just find somewhere indoors that is still high up with panoramic views of the city.

miniguide to a rainy day in Madrid by Naked Madrid

To many, El Corte Ingles is just a large department store with everything you may want from furniture to fashion. But it can also be on your list of ‘things to see and do’ in Madrid. The 9th floor in Sol is a foodie hub, with many street food stands and joints offering all types of world cuisines. Called Gourmet Experience, El Corte Ingles’ 9th floor has cafes and restaurants with window tables that provide customers with an almost birds-eye view of the city. It provides a warm and dry haven to enjoy while feeling on top of the world.

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Mercado San Anton, Chueca: here you will find 4 floors of foodie market heaven, topped with a rooftop restaurant and bar. Fear not, 70% of this floor is covered to keep you dry from the rain, and you still feel as though you are high up in the city air with the ability to take in the views.

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Faro de Moncloa: a viewpoint standing tall in the heart of Madrid’s university district, Moncloa. Visitors have access to two panoramic lifts that will take them up to the 92 metres high, glass viewing room. Although yes, a view so high of Madrid would probably look better on a sunnier day, it’s still a tourist activity that grants a breath-taking view sheltered from rain or wind.

By night: secret gardens and sandy beaches 

A problem with rain is that you can’t access a sandy beach or an enchanted forest without getting soaked. That’s where Madrid’s bohemian and artistic student area, Malasaña comes in handy.

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El Jardín Secreto: a bar disguised by indoor plants, trees, fairy-lights, unicorn heads, bird cages and swinging princess-style chairs. For a simple cocktail with friends, you can enter this enchanted world and keep dry from the rain. It’s most definitely Instagram worthy: you won’t be able to keep your eyes from gazing around the room at all the Midsummer-Night’s-Dream-style décor.

best brunch in Madrid by Naked Madrid

Ojalá: a tastefully decorated cocktail bar and eatery upstairs, and a sandy beach downstairs. I don’t know who came up with the idea to create an indoor beach bar, but it’s genius. Relax on their floor level seating whilst running your hand through the sand and enjoying a nice copa, cocktail or milkshake. Who says Madrid doesn’t have any beaches?!

So here you have it: just my personal selection of the endless activities available in this amazing city, during rainier weather. Other indoor pursuits include Madrid’s many cinemas and theatres, but the list could go on forever.

It is often way too easy to opt for a day in bed watching Netflix when the weather gets miserable, but that’s no fun is it? You may be able to take advantage of Madrid’s frequently fine weather and stunning outdoor spaces most of the time, but rainy weather brings with it the chance to discover quirky bars and cafes, taste amazing food and appreciate Spanish art in all its glory. Enjoy!

By Rosie Dowsing

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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.

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Madrid with Kids! – Tips from a Mom


Whether you’re planning a trip to Madrid or a long-time resident looking for new ideas, Madrid is full of great options to keep your little ones entertained.

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Parks

Madrid is home to several great parks that offer lots of fun activities.

keep fit madrid by Naked Madrid

Madrid Rio: Why not go for a run with your baby along the park lining the Manzanares River? Parents running with a jogging stroller in Spain used to get a lot of odd stares. The running boom has changed all that and made jogging strollers a trend that’s here to stay. Get yours at Baby Running – an online store with top-of-the-line sport strollers.

Casa de Campo:  Casa de Campo is a huge park housing the amusement park, zoo aquarium with more than 6,000 animals, and a scenic lake with outdoor cafes and boats for rent. If you’d like to avoid traffic jams and screaming kids on the metro, try the cable car for a scenic view of Madrid along the way. You may want to make sure you are out of the park before it gets dark as escorts tend to make their appearance later in the day.

Retiro: Look for a puppet show at the outdoor theatre on weekends and enjoy the many other street performers surrounding the pond at the center of the park. You can also rent row boats if you’re feeling confident in your deltoids, or sit back and relax on the solar boat. If you are looking to get some exercise, Diverbikes across from the O’Donnell entrance rents all different kinds of bikes, and surreys.  Rain driving you and your kids up the wall? Check out the second floor of the library in the park for a space dedicated to babies and children.

Theme parks and zoos

In addition to the amusement park and zoo aquarium in Casa de Campo, your children will also love seeing the animals at Faunia in Valdebernardo. Visitors can interact with cage-free animals, and even feed them. The manatee exhibit and petting zoo tend to be a big hit.

If you have a car, the 30 kilometer drive to Warner Theme Park is the worth the trip. With five different park areas, including Hollywood Boulevard, Superheroes World, Cartoon Village, the Old West and WB Movie World Studios, there are plenty of options to keep everyone in your family happy. Younger kids will love seeing Batman, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Superman while older kids and parents check out the latest roller coasters, log fumes and rapid rivers.

You also have the largest water park in Europe about 15 minutes from Madrid in Villanueva de la Cañada. Aquópolis can get very packed during the peak season so you may be better off going to one of Madrid’s outdoor pools on hot summer weekends.

Summer pool by UCM

Summer pool by UCM

Sports fans

Kids dreaming of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo will forever thank you for taking them to the tour of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Mini Real Madrid fans will be in heaven as they visit the players’ locker room, the President’s Balcony and even sit on the players’ bench.

Little ones hoping to join Cholo’s squad will love seeing the Atlético de Madrid Museum. Atlético fans will adore looking at the trophies, memorabilia and collection of shoes and balls dating back to 1903.

Kid-friendly museums

If your kids hear the word “museum” and start to groan, several museums in Madrid could change all that.

The Wax Museum has over 450 figures including Harry Potter, Snow White, The Simpsons and Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings”. Look online for special discounts for families.

The Madrid Railway Museum contains a selection of 19th century trains, related exhibits and a wide range of family friendly activities. Take a break afterwards and have a snack in the café located in a 1930s carriage. In Spring and Fall you can also take a ride to Aranjuez on an old-fashioned train, the Strawberry Train (Tren de la Fresa).

Madrid’s Planetarium lets little explorers observe other galaxies, planets, stars and black holes. Children’s workshops are also available for Spanish-speaking little ones.

With huge dinosaur skeletons and weekend workshops for children, the National Museum of Natural Sciences is another good option for families.

Theatre and concerts for babies and kids

Madrid offers a wide range of theatre and concerts designed for babies and children. The bill is constantly changing so check BabyTribu and Sapos y Princesas for the latest options.

Other ideas

Older kids who are into go-carts will love the Carlos Sainz Center in Madrid and Las Rozas.

Little ones may enjoy visiting The Casa Museo del Ratoncito Pérez – the Spanish version of the tooth fairy. The hours change so check their website before going.

Located inside the Kinépolis movie theatre, The Magic Forest is a children’s park with slides, climbing trees and mazes.

Nearly every neighborhood in Madrid has a play center (ludoteca). Find the one closest to you here.

By Marybeth Redheffer

Marybeth is the founder of Baby Running, an online store selling sport strollers so you can stay fit with the little ones in the city! Check out her website and facebook.

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