Having the opportunity to live in Madrid’s center allowed me to take long and short spontaneous walks around the vibrant city. This lead to discovering some hidden gems Madrid had to offer. Here are some the non-touristy activities to check out below:
On the outskirts of the multicultural neighborhood of lavapíes, you can find this hidden gem. The Tabacalera was once a tobacco factory hence its name. It is now an Art Museum. Note, that there are two entrances and both of those entrances lead to different art exhibits. One is a regular museum with abstract art pieces that play on perspective points, reflection etc. and the other one is more exciting! The fun Tabacalera is close to the embajadores round about. Upon entering you might find some art students passing flyers and then you’ll go inside and you’ll see a dark empty space with a stage. Sometimes concerts, fashion shows, or theater event do take place in this space. At the extreme left of this vast space is where your adventurous journey begins. Walk through the pathway on the left as you go underground. You can’t help but feel like Alice going to wonderful. Follow where the path leads or where the music takes you (I’m serious!). You will come across a slanted T Crosspath. At this point, you can go through any path ( on the straight left, right or sharp left). Each path consists of a long corridor with interesting looking doors leading to the unknown. Some with danger signs on them. On the wall is where you’ll see the art works. It’s not like the modern day or contemporary art you’ve seen advertised. These are thought-provoking art pieces that sometimes tell a story and how the artist illustrates the event of today’s society. As you marvel at the colorful and meaningful pieces, you will hear the beautiful sound of reggae (if lucky) being played in one of the rooms.
My favorite art piece in La Tabacalera
Walk around and enjoy the art. La Tabacalera is a great place for taking selfies and the best part is that it’s free.
P.s. The place is usually dark and I advise you to go with someone because random people just go in and out of this underground hidden gem.
Café Swinton & Grant
One block to the left of the Tabacalera you can find this fun multifunctional location.
P.s. As you walk to this location, marvel at the wall opposite it, there is always an interesting painting every other week.
I digress. Although it is called a “café” this place is more than that. One simply can’t spend less than an hour here. It has a bookstore with interesting books ranging from stories about its neighborhood, Lavapies to books from well-renowned authors (in the English and Spanish speaking world). These books are written in both English and Spanish as well. Adjacent to the bookstore is a café with fresh drinks and pastries, I might have to add that the pastries could be a bit pricey. The café has more than one large windows that showcase street activities, each windowsill has comfy pillow poofs to sit, read, chat, and eat while observing the eclectic locals. That’s not all Café Swinton & Grant has to offer. There is a stair leading down to an art gallery!
Art Gallery with a skate board theme
The art work always exhibits a certain theme. What’s interesting is that some of the artists that have their exhibits in the Café Swinton & Grant’s gallery are also the same artists that post their work on the wall opposite the Café. Café Swinton & Grant is great for a relaxing day alone or with whoever. They also have events once in a while, you can look at their calendar to see what they would be.
Salon de té al Yabal
Just around the Santa Maria de la Cabeza street, you can find one of the best tea places in Madrid. It is easy to pass by as this teteria (tea house) camouflages itself within the street walls. Outside, the tea house doesn’t show how wide and comfy this place is. Upon entering you immediately get welcomed by the bartender and relaxing Arabic music. The theme of al Yabal is Moroccan. It’s as if you are in a luxurious tent in the Sahara desert.
There are comfy puffs for sitting with regal carpets on the floor and well-decorated chandeliers on the tall tent like ceilings. When you get seated, you are given a menu. What I love is that you can find chai here, which is a hard find in Madrid.
Another thing I love here is the cute kettle that you are given once your tea is served. al Yabal té is perfect for the cozy winter evening to hang out with friends or a significant other. The place is dim so if you do take pictures, you might need to turn the flash on.
This is a fairly new place that I had the pleasure of discovering. It is a healthy food store, a gym, a restaurant, a hotel, and an entertainment hub. I always go here for the good vibes and their milkshakes. Depending on the time of the day, there might be a long line to get on the 4th floor. In general, there is a lively vibe to the 4th floor. Once you get up, you have 3 options, to eat in the inner restaurant, to eat outside and see the view of buildings or to have a drink outside in the more intimate lounge. I should mention that there is a pool there and during the summer the pool is usually open. Gymage terrace is a fun place and is perfect for a fun afternoon or evening with friends.
P.s. The strawberry milkshake is Ah-maziing! Check their site for events to attend.
A lot of people go to Ojala and have no idea that only if they venture further downstairs, they will be pleasantly surprised. The hidden gem here is that there is a beach! There are picnic mats placed on the sandy restaurant. The lighting in the area changes time to time from dim to bright. The theme is rustic and beachy.
Ojala has the best Patatas Bravas I have had in Madrid. It is perfect for a fun time with friends or family
Selfie with the Statue of Julia
Address: Calle del Pez, 42,28015, 28015 Madrid, Spain
Wow, most of the hidden gems I have mentioned consist mostly of food. Let’s switch to something more intellectual. Created by Antonio Santin in 2003. His sculpture tells a story of Julia, a brave woman that dared to attend university in 1840 when it was prohibited for women to do so. She cut her hair, wore her father’s pants and went to the old University of Madrid in an attempt to look like a boy. There is little to no information in English about Julia but if you are brave enough or can find the translation, listen to this captivating story of her life in Spanish.
Watch the sunset at Cerro del Tio Pio
This is a little bit far from the center but it’s well worth the 30 mins train ride from Sol. Grab a blanket or picnic mat, sit on one of the curved hills and watch the sunset!
Now you can finally have additional list of activities to enjoy with your friends or families when they visit you.
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