01 Jun Madrid by Barrios: Lavapiés
Madrid By Barrios: Lavapiés
Contributed by: Bridget J. Bailey
The first barrio (neighborhood) I want to breakdown is one of my absolute favorites in the heart of Madrid. This was where I called home when I first arrived in Spain. Its name literally means ´wash feet´ in Spanish. Welcome to the barrio of Lavapiés! This neighborhood derives its name from being the Jewish quarter and more specifically, from the practice of feet washing before entering a temple. Along with its unique name, Lavapiés offers some of the trendiest and most exotic locales in Madrid.
First, we must start with food because, hey, everyone likes to eat. Right? Due to its large immigrant population, Lavapiés offers up some of the best ethnic cuisine in the city. Not only is it some of the best food, it is also some of the cheapest. So, if you’re on a budget but still want something tasty, I recommend Dakar. Dakar is located on Calle Amparo, 61. While it may not look like much from the outside, it has some of the best food I have tasted in Spain. The menu is classically Senegalese and the portions are large. My favorite dish is called ´vermisel.´ It is a meat based dish with either chicken or beef covered in a spicy, onion gravy and is served up with a big plate of rice. All off this deliciousness can be yours for the low, low price of six euros. I would recommend having the Babu milkshake along with it. The Babu milkshake comes from the Babu root and is unlike anything I have ever tried. However, be forewarned, it is incredibly sweet!
Once you have tried Dakar, I would advise walking down to Plaza Lavapiés. The traditional Spanish square is always bustling with life. There are shops everywhere on either side. One of my absolute favorites is the tienda (store) El Afilador. The owners Cristina Domínguez and Antonio Cruces restore old furniture with one idea in mind: each piece is unique. Every time I have walked in here, both Cristina and Antonio have been more than friendly and accommodating. Their pieces are beautifully restored and Cristina does much of it in the shop. If you are looking for quirky, lower cost pieces to make your new rooms feel like home, I recommend this shop. They have every colored lamp you can imagine with old vinyls and loads of unique furniture pieces you will not find anywhere else. Check them out on Calle Jesús y María, 28.
If all else fails, try the sprawling Rastro Market. Every Sunday, the market opens shop from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. With a history spanning 400 years, it is definitely worth a visit. This ‘mercado’ stretches and winds endlessly throughout Lavapies, Embajadores, Tirso de Molina and La Latina. Here you can find everything you’ve ever wanted and even some things you don’t. From handmade leather bags to custom jewellry, El Rastro has it all and for not a lot of price. Just be forewarned, the streets are packed and pickpockets are rampant. It is best not to carry cell phones, purses or wallets. Simply take out the amount of money you would like for that day and only take that. My advice would be to start in Tirso de Molina, the neighborhood right next to Lavapiés and work your way down Calle Mesón de Paredes to Plaza Lavapiés.
So, if you’re in the mood for great food, fun ambiance, international flavor and a bit of quirkiness, please check out Lavapiés. It will be well worth your while.