In the Central District of Madrid we find two unofficial neighbourhoods, which deserve a visit both for their atmosphere, their history, their streets and squares and for the great charm that you can find in them. These are Chueca and Malasaña, two areas in the center of Madrid that you should not miss.
The two neighborhoods are together, separated by the commercial Calle Fuencarral, and you can visit them together. Chueca has become one of the fashionable neighborhoods in Madrid thanks to its atmosphere, its shops, monuments and its streets and squares. Malasaña also has a great atmosphere, and both neighborhoods are also a benchmark for Madrid culture.
Come with us to get to know both neighborhoods and immerse yourself in one of the most charming areas of Madrid. Also, if you prefer so that you don’t miss anything and they tell you about it in detail, we recommend you do this free tour of Chueca and Malasaña.
Visiting the Chueca neighborhood
Chueca Square and its surroundings
We are going to start our tour of the Chueca neighborhood in the very heart of it, in the Plaza de Chueca, which you can reach by Metro. As soon as you go out into the street you will get an idea of what you will find with street musicians, lively terraces and many people enjoying the atmosphere of the center of Madrid.
From there we can start wandering around and admiring its shops or bars and enjoying the unique buildings that you come across in this network of narrow streets. So until you reach, leaving aside the San Antón Market, the Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, also full of terraces, and the Plaza del Rey, where the famous House of the Seven Chimneys is located, which according to legend is inhabited for a ghost
From there, we’ll walk north along Calle del Barquillo, once lined with electronics stores, to Calle Fernando VI, the northern boundary of the Chueca neighborhood.
The museums of Chueca
In the Chueca neighborhood we find several very interesting museums that you should not miss. But before reaching them we will pass by the Palacio de Longoria, an impressive modernist palace from the 20th century that is the current headquarters of the SGAE and that surprises anyone who is in this area, in which there are also several pubs and some of the most famous nightclubs in Madrid.
Nearby is the Museum of Romanticism, in a palace whose exterior will not attract much attention but with an incredible interior with a series of works of art that you cannot miss. The museum houses a collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and decorative arts that perfectly summarizes the aesthetics of the Romanticism movement that took place in the second half of the 19th century.
Nearby, next to the modern Barceló Market, is another of the city’s most important museums, the Madrid History Museum, which is also free. In this museum you will discover the history of the city since it was declared the capital by Felipe II in 1561 to the beginning of the 20th century through models, paintings, sculptures and other works of art. Without a doubt, an essential museum to visit in Madrid.
The shopping streets of Chueca
After visiting these museums, we find ourselves on Fuencarral Street, the boundary of the neighborhood and where the other neighborhood we are going to visit, Malasaña, begins. But in the first place, instead of going into it, we will begin to walk along Calle Fuencarral itself, since it is one of the most commercial streets in Madrid with shops of the main brands and also with a great atmosphere.
Parallel to Calle Fuencarral is Calle Hortaleza, a street also with interesting shops, to which must be added traditional bookstores, coffee shops and some of the most historic cafes in the city. In addition, on Calle Hortaleza we find the Church of San Antón, from the 18th century but with a very modern aesthetic not typical of other churches that we can visit.
It is managed by Mensajeros por la Paz and is famous for being the place where on Saint Antón’s Day, the people of Madrid who wish to take their pets. Next to it are the Pious Schools, current headquarters of the College of Architects of Madrid. Do not miss the Fuente de San Antón that is located in one of its corners.
After visiting these very commercial areas, we can wander around to finish the tour of Chueca in the Plaza de la Luna.
Visiting the Malasaña neighborhood
The churches of the Malasaña neighborhood
We are in the Plaza de la Luna, which is not really called that but Plaza Sta. María Soledad Torres Acosta. But the people of Madrid know her by that name. In it is the Church of San Martín de Tours, of baroque style and dating from the mid-nineteenth century after being rebuilt since the one that was in the same place was demolished by José Bonaparte. The girl Alexia González-Barros, known for the film Camino, is buried inside.
On the other side of the Plaza de la Luna is the Iglesia de la Buena Dicha, which goes unnoticed on the narrow Calle de Silva, which takes you to Gran Vía, and stands out for its Mudejar style.
From the Plaza de la Luna starts the Corredera Baja de San Pablo that takes you to one of the most spectacular churches in Madrid, and quite little known. We are talking about the Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, which goes almost unnoticed on one of the street corners but has a truly spectacular interior.
The interior of the Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes is baroque in style and all the walls and the vault are painted with incredible frescoes that you will not be able to stop admiring, which, together with its main altarpiece and the different sculptures, make this church a an essential visit and one of the best things to see in Madrid.
The Plaza of the Two of May
We will continue strolling through the narrow and historic streets of Malasaña enjoying the atmosphere and the famous bars and alternative shops that we find in Calle del Pez and its surroundings and Plaza de San Ildefonso, where the church of the same name is located, until we reach the which is the nerve center of Malasaña, the Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
In the center of the Plaza del Dos de Mayo we find an arch under which are the sculptures of Daoiz and Velarde, who died on May 2, 1808 trying to defend the city against the French troops that had invaded it. They belonged to the disappeared Monteleón Barracks, which was located in this square, and whose entrance door is the arch under which they are located.
Another of the heroines of that day, who also died defending the city, and who also gave the neighborhood its name, was Manuela Malasaña. On the street dedicated to her is the Maravillas Theater and numerous alternative shops that you cannot miss.
The streets of the Malasaña neighborhood are also full of theaters where you can enjoy Madrid’s cultural offerings. In addition to the Maravillas Theater mentioned above, there are also the Alfil, the Lara, the Victoria and the Microteatro, where 15-minute plays are performed for a maximum of 15 spectators.
The urban sculptures of the Malasaña neighborhood
Walking through the streets you will surely have come across different sculptures without really knowing what they represent but they give Malasaña a very special air. If you have not seen them all, we encourage you to go look for them because they are worth it.
The most famous of the sculptures is that of Julia, located at the end of Calle del Pez leaning against the wall and holding several books in her arms. It represents a student named Julia who wanted to study in the 19th century when women were forbidden to do so and she had to dress up as a boy to go to university. It must be said that the Barrio de Malasaña is located in the neighborhood with the official name Universidad, since the University of Madrid was located here.
Another of the sculptures that you can find is La Paseante, located on Calle Palma. It represents a girl walking who turns to see what is in the La Palma Art School, in front of which it is located.
The Young Woman Walking, located in the Plaza de San Ildefonso, is another of these urban bronze sculptures that you can admire and that with some folders under her arm seems to be heading to the previous art school.
Lastly, we must mention La Lectora Empedernida, another sculpture with a more abstract style than the previous ones and which is located in the Plaza del Dos de Mayo.