Lavapiés was one of the most castizo (traditional) neighbourhoods of Madrid, but a couple of decades ago became the most international and exotic borough of the capital. In Lavapiés, very different communities coexist: Chinese, Arabs, Pakistani, Indian, Africans and many others. Lavapiés is the zone located, more or less, between Atocha street, Ronda de Atocha, Ronda de Valencia, Ronda de Toledo, Embajadores street and Tirso de Molina Square. This area is very close to Sol and Central Madrid and it is also well connected by public transportation: the main Metro Station is Lavapiés (Line 3) but there also are other stations close to here: Embajadores (Line 3 and 5), Antón Martín (Line 1) and Tirso de Molina (Line 1).
There are some interesting monuments in Lavapiés. One of them is Escuelas Pías de San Fernando, a building that used to be a school with a church attached. Today, it is a High School that belongs to UNED University and it includes an urban café on the roof. This building of Lavapiés was built in the 18th century but was ruined during the Spanish Civil War. That’s why it looks like mystical.
In Embajadores street, tourists can visit one of the most important churches of Lavapiés: San Cayetano. This building was built in the late 17th century in Austrias style, using red bricks, grey granite and decorating it in a Baroque way. It was reformed because the interior was also ruined during the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that hit Lavapiés a lot. But the type of architecture that defines Lavapiés is the ‘corrala’.
This kind of building is a neighbourhood house developed in Madrid since the 16th century. The feature that stands out is the central courtyard, where many plays of theatre were performed. All the corridors of the building face this courtyard, giving the complex a particular look. Lavapiés is the area of Madrid that keeps the best preserved examples.
As Lavapiés is an international borough, the thing a tourist will enjoy most is going and trying the varieties of the food and drink the locals offer. In Lavapiés, you will be able to have an Indian rise for lunch, Saharan African vegetables for picnic, a Moroccan couscous for dinner and a Kurdish smoking pipe at night, for example. Besides, some locals of Lavapiés organize live music. In these concerts, tourists can listen to folk music coming from many different countries, but also garage rock, flamenco, blues and other genres, played by young bands that choose Lavapiés to begin their careers. Apart from the music, the culture is in the heart of Lavapiés.
This neighbourhood has seen how the classic companies performed plays of Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca and many others in their ‘corralas’. And today, right at Lavapiés square, a modern building called Teatro Valle-Inclán hosts one of these classic companies: Centro Dramático Nacional (CDN). One of the jewels of Atocha neighbourhood is also close to Lavapiés: the Reina Sofía Museum, where visitors can admire the best modern works of Spanish and foreing artists, such as Salvador Dalí or Pablo Picasso.
Young people usually choose Lavapiés to stay because there are a couple of youth hostels. Cat Hostel and Mad Hostel are located in this neighbourhood and both have a central courtyard that reminds us to the traditional ‘corralas’ of Lavapiés. Anyway, there also are other alternatives such as apartment hotels, two-stars and three-stars hotels (Artrip Hotel, for example), as well as luxury hotels in the surroundings: Catalonia Hotel, NH Palacio de Tepa or ME Meliá are some of them.