Malasaña - La Latina: A Neighborhood Guide

Our resident’s guide to getting to know Malasaña and La Latina, in Centro, Madrid

May 27, 2024

Everyone knows that Madrid has a lot going on. Its fame as a city of history and the arts is well deserved. It’s a thriving, diverse, multicultural city with something for everyone. Two neighborhoods which most epitomize the different characteristics of Madrid are Malasaña and La Latina, thanks to their character and location.

Madrid is divided into districts, which are split into different administrative wards. You rarely hear people talk about the ward they live in, as within the wards are different neighborhoods, which are what people really identify with. Madrid’s central district is called Centro. Being the heart of the city, Centro is the main hub for business, tourism, culture, and nightlife. The six wards of Centro are: Sol, Justicia, Embajadores, Cortes, Universidad, and Palacio. For this guide we’re focusing on the last two. Universidad, named after the old central university, contains the Malasaña neighborhood. Palacio, named after the Royal Palace, contains La Latina.

These two neighborhoods are vibrant, bohemian, and two of the very coolest in the city. Thanks to their location in Centro, they are also well connected, and full of landmarks and business opportunities. We think they’re the perfect all-round choice if you’re spending some time in Madrid. In our resident’s guide, we tell you everything you need to know if you’re here.


Malasaña only got its name in 1980, but its history stretches back much further, when it was a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Madrid. In the 1960s and 70s, as the nation broke free from the oppression of Franco, it became a center of counterculture and artistic expression. Today it is the most artistic and bohemian neighborhood in Madrid, and one of the most popular.

La Latina is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid, with a history that dates back to the Middle Ages. It was originally a working-class neighborhood, which is reflected in many of its narrow streets and traditional buildings. Today, La Latina is a trendy and eclectic neighborhood, popular with locals and tourists alike.

Both neighborhoods are perfectly situated. You can walk from each to Sol, the central neighborhhood, in 10 minutes, and from one to the other in 20. With so much to see and do on your own doorstep, you certainly won’t need to waste time traveling.

What to do in Malasaña - La Latina

Go for a wander

These are two of the best places in Madrid to meander around aimlessly. The winding, colorful streets are picturesque, and lined with interesting bars and shops. Malasaña is also one of the best places in the city for street art, with colorful murals and graffiti adorning many of the buildings and walls in the area. Some of the most famous street art in Malasaña is on Calle de la Palma and the Calle de San Vicente Ferrer. Tours are available, but my advice is to start off on your own and see what you find.

Whether by accident or design, you will at some point end up at the main plazas. Plaza de la Cebada is one of the main squares in La Latina. There’s a market, bars, restaurants, and community cultural events like salsa dancing take place there. A great place to sit and watch the world go by. Plaza de la Paja is the other one you should definitely visit. A beautiful, shady square, and a more peaceful option.

Plaza del 2 de Mayo is the heart of Malasaña, and the liveliest of the lot. Named after the 1808 uprising against the French, it’s home to many of the best bars and restaurants in the area. A great spot to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere of the neighborhood. Plaza de España is part plaza and part gardens. The most visually impressive, it’s a wonderful place for an afternoon stroll.

Marvel at the Grandeur

Madrid has many spectacular buildings to take your breath away, and many be seen on a 20 minute walk from Universidad to Palacio. First up is the Templo de Debod in Parque del Oeste. This ancient Egyptian temple was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in the 1960s as a thankyou from Egypt to Spain. The temple is beautiful whenever you visit, but especially at sunset.

The Royal Palace is one of the most important landmarks in Madrid, and a short walk from either neighborhood. This grand palace was built in the 18th century and is still used as the official residence of the Spanish royal family, and for state ceremonies. Visitors can take a tour of the palace to see its stunning interior and learn about its history. Beautiful gardens surround it, including the Sabatini Gardens, which offer a peaceful escape from the city.

Next door is another of the most popular attractions in the area, Almudena Cathedral. This stunning cathedral was completed in 1993 and is one of the newest cathedrals in Europe. It is also Madrid’s most important religious building. Visitors can take a tour of the cathedral to see its impressive architecture and artwork. There is much to admire about the cathedral, but more than anything it’s the sheer scale of it. An extraordinary building.

Keep going down Calle de Bailén and you can complete the tour at the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande. While it doesn’t lack for size, the exterior is not the prettiest. Inside is where it really shines, and the beautiful basilica is complemented by paintings from Zurbarán and Goya.

Peruse the Markets

Markets in Madrid are great places to while away an afternoon shopping, eating, and drinking. Our two neighborhoods are home to some of the best. Malasaña is Madrid’s coolest neighborhood, so it’s no surprise that its coolest street- Fuencarral, is home to the city’s coolest market. Now more a food hall than a traditional market, Mercado de San Ildefonso is a hipster’s dream. Exposed pipes, international craft beers, and delicious food, from Mexican to Korean. Also boasts a great outdoor terrace.

La Latina is home to Madrid’s oldest market- El Rastro, which takes place every Sunday morning. The large outdoor market sells everything from antiques and vintage clothing, to handmade crafts and souvenirs. A great place to find unique gifts and bargains, as well as soak up the lively atmosphere of the neighborhood.

If it’s food shopping you’re after, La Latina’s main square has a more typical food market- Mercado de la Cebada. Sample all Spain’s tasty treats here- meats and cheeses, fruit and veg, wine, and much more. The produce is top quality, and the building itself is a work of art. They hold a seafood extravaganza every Saturday lunchtime, which you mustn’t miss if you’re a fan. San Miguel is the gastro market in the area. This indoor market is home to dozens of food stalls and vendors selling fresh produce, and other culinary delights. Visitors can sample a variety of traditional Spanish dishes here, including croquetas, jamón ibérico, and churros con chocolate.

Where to eat and drink in Malasaña - La Latina

Both of these neighborhoods have excellent reputations for food and drink. Malasaña is a foodie's paradise, with a wide variety of cafes, bars, and restaurants to choose from. The neighborhood is particularly known for its trendy coffee shops and brunch spots, as well as craft beer bars and cocktail lounges.

La Latina is often associated with tapas and beers, for good reason. People flock to the neighborhood for the bars, restaurants, and terraces, which fill up quick. It’s the most popular place in the city to stop for a tapa and a beer in every other bar you walk past. Besides the markets we’ve already mentioned, here are some other places you should definitely check our while you’re here:

Calle Cava Baja

Sticking with the theme for now, Calle Cava Baja in La Latina is the number one place in Madrid for beer and tapas. You’ll immediately know you’re in the right place as the atmosphere is buzzing. Hundreds of people hop from bar to bar for drinks, delicious pinchos, and tapas. It’s best to try several, and be your own judge about which places you like best, but some of the best are Lamiak, Taberna La Concha, and Casa Lucas, where they serve a fantastic Huevos rotos (fried eggs cut up with potatoes and other tasty bits).

The Oldest Restaurant in the World

Sobrino de Botín, between La Latina and Sol, has opened every day since 1725. This makes it the oldest continually running restaurant on Earth, according to the Guiness world records. People come here for more than just a story to tell though. The food is excellent, especially if you like pork. They sell one of the best cochinillos (suckling pig) in Madrid.

Brunch in Malasaña

We’ve mentioned that Malasaña is Madrid’s hipster central, and if there’s one thing hipsters do well, it’s brunch. There are lots of places in the area with delicious food and great coffee. Carmencita Bar might be the best of them. As well as the tasty brunch classics, you can also get a mimosa for an absurd €1, and they have hash browns. What more could you ask for?

La Tasquita de Enfrente

A unique dining experience. Run by a father and son, whose creativity also provides a solution to today’s food mileage problem. Each of their dishes use only three ingredients, and take advantage of the freshest, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. They also offer 8 and 10 course tasting menus. They aren’t cheap, but are certainly memorable.


Ojalá means “if only”, and it is a literal beach bar in Malasaña where you can relax on their lounge seating, and feel the sand between your toes. They also have several sister restaurants, including Musa Latina, and Musa Malasaña. All are characterized by creative design, and excellent food and cocktails.

La Vía Lactea

For something livelier later on in the evening, the “Milky Way” is an iconic bar in Malasaña that gained its reputation in the 80s as the place to be for music concerts. The party here is still going strong, and you can dance, play pool, or just drink and enjoy the music.

Where to stay in Malasaña - La Latina

Both neighborhoods are very central, so they have plenty of options whether you’re looking for a hotel, a hostel, or a short-stay apartment to rent. If you’re staying for a longer though, you’ll probably find these options are not great value for money. There are lots of apartments you can rent long term in Madrid, but you’ll need to deal with quite a bit of paperwork before you do so. For mid-term rentals, Ukio is your best option. By fully furnishing our unique apartments that you can book with just a few clicks and a passport, we save you so much of the hassle.

Whatever type of accommodation you choose in the end, you’ll quickly agree with us that both Malasaña and La Latina are fantastic places, either to visit or live in. With so much character, and such proximity to Madrid’s greatest attractions, they’re the perfect choices to take advantage of the spectacular city of Madrid.