Where to Take Your Mom in Madrid – Round 2


Knowing where to take your mom in Madrid can be tough, especially if she’s already visited you five or six times. So here’s a follow-up to my first version of this post with some fresh ideas, some favorites, and some recommendations from fellow Naked Madrid writers – and my mom, too, of course. She also helped me edit this whole piece. Thanks ma! 

Not to mention these ideas are great for any out-of-town guests. Here goes:

1. Museo del Romanticismo for an intimate art experience

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Madrid has several charming museums worth visiting, and if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate their small size. My mom and I loved Museo de Artes Decorativas and Museo Naval; but we enjoyed Museo del Romanticismo the most. Something about wandering around someone’s former mansion makes it unique, and each room tells a different story. Just stay on the grey carpet or the attendant will scold you, like she did my mom when she wanted to take a closer look at the 19th-century furnishings and art! Plus it has a wonderful tea room.

For more ideas, check out Madrid’s obvious and not-so-obvious museums (and how to get in for free!)

2. Mad Improv events for fun and laughter

Mad Improv jams at VeraContent

This was such a great discovery. My mom has been to Madrid several times over my ten years of living here, yet we never quite found the right way to spend an evening out that didn’t just involve food. Mad Improv is an English-speaking theater group that holds shows (right now on Thursdays at La Escalera de Jacob) and regular workshops and jams at VeraContent (Naked Madrid’s sister company).

Jams cost 3€ and include a first drink. Anyone is welcome to get up and join in on improv games, or you can just watch if you’re on the shyer side – understandably so, as you’ll see some pretty impressive improvisors up there. Either way, you’re going to laugh a whole lot. I promise.

Here’s a full post on Mad Improv to find out more.

3. Juana la Loca for excellent Spanish food

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Juana la Loca is an exceptional family-run restaurant in La Latina, serving Spanish food with lots of fusion and lots of love. Everything you eat here is exquisite, from the pintxos at the bar to the main dishes. I had been several times before I finally got the chance to speak to one of the family members, the son, who explained everything on the menu with such passion. Culinary arts clearly run in the family.

4. Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa for cozy and chic diningBosco de Lobos Madrid

I wanted to include a few more restaurants on this list so I asked for recommendations from Cat, one of Naked Madrid’s most active writers. With no hesitation at all, she said: “Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa are both mum pleasers!” Bosco de Lobos is situated in a beautiful courtyard of an architecture school in Chueca, and its casual-chic look immediately lures you in. Ana la Santa also has a great location, right in Plaza Santa Ana. Cat especially recommends going here when it’s cold outside, as it’s the perfect place to warm up.

Check out Cat‘s articles on Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa – I’d definitely take her word for it.

5. Chuka for Japanese ramen and gyozas

Chuka Ramen Bar Portada

Once you’ve had your taste of Spanish food, you shouldn’t feel bad about going to an international restaurant. Really, it’s okay. Madrid’s culinary scene is full of fusion cuisine from all over the world, and Madrileños love it. Chuka is one of our all-time favorites for ramen, gyozas and baos. And we just found out the owners are actually two Americans who have been living in Madrid for over a decade. Go figure!

Here’s a full post on Chuka. Another great restaurant nearby is L’Artisan Furansu Kitchen, offering French-Japanese fusion cuisine and a menú del día that changes daily.

6. Salmon Guru for fun cocktails

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Before going into Chuka we had a half hour to kill so we walked down the street and got a drink at Salmon Guru. This funky bar has a great cocktail selection and truly unique decor. If we’d stayed a little longer and sampled another round, my mom thinks we might have solved the mystery of what “Salmon Guru” actually means.

Read our full post on Salmon Guru here.

7. Swinton & Grant for when you’re working

Swinton & Grant art books and coffee Naked Madrid

Coffee shops are always great places to park your mom while you’re working (or napping). If she hasn’t brought her own book with her, she’ll surely find something to read at Swinton & Grant – a café that sells art books and also has a downstairs gallery – while enjoying a cortado, a spicy ginger soda, or a beer.

Another one of my mom’s favorites, mentioned in the previous article, is Café La Libre, right by the Reina Sofia museum. She couldn’t resist going back twice on her most recent visit. And we always make a pit-stop at Desperate Literature to check out their international book selection and delightful event calendar.

8. Templo de Debod for stunning views

Templo de Debod Naked Madrid

This beautiful ancient Egyptian temple is perched on a hill providing breathtaking views of the city, making it the perfect spot to watch the sunset or have a picnic. Templo de Debod is also a great place to walk to after a visit to the Royal Palace or the Cerralbo Museum which are both a hop skip away. You’ll find a free-entrance museum inside the temple – one of Mad Improv’s organizers, Summer, said her parents loved it.

9. Casa Pueblo for another cocktail

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I’ve been going to this bar since my first year in Madrid. You can bring anyone here – a date, a friend, a colleague. There’s something warm and special about Casa Pueblo that makes me keep coming back. And my mom couldn’t agree more. There’s also a small stage in the back where they regularly put on live music. 

10. The Rastro for a Sunday flea market experience

When I asked for a recommendation from Leah, she said: “My mum absolutely loves the Rastro, of course. She wants to buy everything but can’t fit it in her suitcase, but she always manages to squeeze something in like a spoon!”

Leah has been writing about and capturing the Rastro for years on her awesome blog, Madrid No Frills, and instagram accounts @rastrolife and @portaitofmadrid. Here’s her latest Rastro-inspired post: Seven eccentric museum-worthy collections found only in the Rastro

11. Shopping day in Malasaña – and a mandatory drink afterwards

Mojitos at Cubanismo, a rooftop bar in Malasaña

Mojitos at Cubanismo, a rooftop bar in Malasaña

When it comes to shopping, I like getting it over with in one shot on Calle Fuencarral (which merges with Gran Vía if you want to hit all the big stores like Zara and H&M). Afterwards, there’s beer and tapas waiting for you at some of our favorite spots. I recommend going into one of the happening food markets in the area – Mercado de San Ildefonso or Mercado de San Anton – both with great outdoor seating areas.

Another amazing place for a post-shopping drink is El Paracaídas. This multi-story and multi-purpose concept store actually has two rooftops – our favorite is Cubanismo, a tropical rooftop escape!

12. Food tour for insight into Spanish bar culture and cuisine

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Another Naked Madrid writer, Melissa, recently went on the Context Tavernas and Tapas Tour in Barrio de las Letras. Melissa is a true foodie, and works as a full-time writer and translator at VeraContent, where she researches Spanish food on a daily basis. She said the culinary tour was truly insightful, and a wonderful way to better understand the history and nuances behind Spain’s delicious cuisine as you enjoy every bite.

Read Melissa’s full article on the Context Travel Tours here.

 

Don’t forget to read round one of Where to Take Your Mom in Madrid for more ideas!

You might also like: Take a Peek Inside 5 Historical Madrid Bars

Of course Madrid is full of more options that mothers will love, so please feel free to share in the comments!




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!




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