By Anabel Vázquez.
There are streets and then there are streets. There are streets that form the lifeblood of the city and then there are streets that are like mini cities within a city. They are streets that are self-sufficient and that make us feel like we are dancing a waltz that gives meaning to city life every time we walk up and down them. Madrid abounds with streets like this. We have selected six of these streets; alluring and ever-evolving, just like the city itself. Welcome to the world of these sub-cities.
FERNANDO VI: This is one of the hubs of the Las Salesas neighbourhood, a neighbourhood much-loved by the people who live here and all too often overlooked by visitors. A perfect blend of upper class and bohemian, cultural and commercial. It boasts one of Madrid’s finest examples of modern architecture (a style so-often forgotten): the Longoria Palace, today home to the headquarters of the SGAE (the Spanish General Society of Authors and Editors); however, although passers-by admire its beauty, this is a place where people come to shop and eat. The street offers some of the city’s most interesting independent boutiques.
Signature brands such as Do Design, Le Marché aux Puces and the legendary Machado book shop. Anyone with a sweet tooth is immediately drawn into La Duquesita, whilst those with a taste for the exotic will find it hard to resist a dish of mouth-watering Thai green curry at Krachai. Sooner or later, everyone also buys flowers from Margarita Se Llama Mi Amor.
BARQUILLO: Here is an example of a street that is ever-evolving, a characteristic so typical of Madrid. Up until a few years ago, Barquillo (which runs from Fernando VI to Alcalá) was a slightly uninspiring street, lined with electronics and lighting shops. Now it is full of exciting contrasts. From the city’s finest bakeries, Pomme Sucré (keep an eye out for their to-die-for croissants), to one of the most sought-after venues in the city for Bikram Yoga, as well as a boutique specialising in Japanese objects (Gion) and the authentic Castilian Infanta Isabel theatre. One of the stars of the street is the Only You Hotel&Lounge, with its spectacular lift and its stunning rooms decorated by the Lázaro Rosa Violán studio. The perfect rendez-vous for an unforgettable brunch. The Plaza del Rey is another of the locals’ favourites. Whilst the terrace at La Revoltosa is a gem the locals try to keep under wraps.
CLAUDIO COELLO: If asked what is Madrid’s best street for shopping, we would have two words to say: Claudio Coello. This has always been a good area for shopping, but in recent years it has combined major brands such as Miu Miu, Louboutin and Diptyque with creative spaces such as & Other Stories, located in a former theatre. The street may be long and thin, but there is plenty of room for retail brands, independent boutiques, such as Medwinds and concept stores such as Isolée, Delitto and Castigo. The street offers something for everyone. After a long day of shopping, what better than to relax and let your hair down at the Hotel Único. And why not visit Quintín for the perfect pick-me-up after an intense day of retail therapy, a unique modern-day take on the traditional Spanish grocery store that serves some of the best aperitifs in Madrid. We advise making a reservation: lots of other people will have had the same brainwave.
JORGE JUAN: On the face of it, this may appear to be just another upper class street in the Salamanca neighbourhood, but it offers so much more. Jorge Juan has become one of Madrid’s most prized gastro-havens. However, its transformation has been one fitting of such a neighbourhood, quiet and discrete. But there it is. People now come to this street to wine and dine.
The Puigcerdá alleyway was always very charming, but it is now home to some of the most sought-after restaurants, where you’ll be hard pressed to reserve a table, such as Los Gallos (on their glass-covered terrace if possible) and Babelia. One of the pièce de resistance on the street is La Bien Aparecida, offering its mouth-watering Cantabrian cuisine, and where there is hardly a cover to spare day in day out; Álbora and La Máquina are other firm favourites on the street.
But it’s not all about wining and dining: the Jorge Juan alleyway features exceptional boutiques, with names such as Masscob and IOU. Jorge Juan will wow you in all its forms.
RECOLETOS: It is, as its translation in Spanish might suggest, a peaceful and almost overlooked street, overpowered by the all-imposing Serrano that cuts a swathe through it. However, several gems are nestled away here. For example, you can find some very good Jazz clubs on the street. The AC Recoletos Hotel holds its Music Thursdays in the Suite Bar located in the lobby. This exclusive event is a firm fixture in the diaries of many locals. La Jefa is very close by and is one of those places that you always saw in other countries, but never thought you would see in Spain.
It serves food all day (their desserts are especially delicious) and is the typical place you could happily while away hours working away on your laptop or simply reading a book. The street also offers another rarity: the Hotel One Shot, a state-of-the-art/boutique hotel. Its concept is clear: a hotel dedicated to art; it offers temporary exhibitions, has agreements with art fairs and also displays private pieces. It is easy for this majestic period building (there are so many after all…) to go unnoticed as you walk by. That is the idea.
PONZANO: Home to yet another transformation success story that has been gradually forging forward over the years. Ponzano was a street in the Chamberí neighbourhood, with its traditional grocery stores, family restaurants and good pubs. Although it is true that it was already home to two of the best restaurants in Madrid, the type that do not need a Michelin star. One is Sudestada, a pioneer in experimenting with Asian flavours and home to some of the city’s best curries. And the other is Sushi 99, a standard bearer in Japanese restaurants. The turning point came in 2013, when Sala de Despiece opened its doors. The project spearheaded by Javier Bonet was the catalyst for what it is today one of the gastro-hubs of a gastro-city. After Sala de Despiece, with its intriguing and shocking concept, came Muta (a so-called “mutating” restaurant) and Academia del Despiece, all original ideas of Bonet himself. Along the way, thanks to past successes, the street has welcomed a wide variety of restaurants; from the French bistrôt Toque de Sal to the Argentinean pizzas at Picsa, although restaurants such as these have extremely long reservation lists. Come to Ponzano if you have plenty of time and a healthy appetite.