We recently discovered , a series of terrific apps written by locals (usually musicians) covering shops, restaurants, culture, and bars in a city through an artistic prism. (Read Pavia's Q&A with co-founder Anne Le Gal.) Here's a selection of the best of their Madrid guide, written by Iván R. Cuevas, an engineer-turned-filmmaker who spends his time teaching, playing in indie bands, writing and helping others with writing, and managing a publishing house for children's literature where the authors are kids. Sounds like a guy whose lead we'd be happy to follow.
A renovated traditional local market
Calle Embajadores, 41; Metro: Embajadores (line L3)
Close to El Rastro (the biggest European street market), Mercado de San Fernando is one of the best places to start your day, especially on weekends. It used to be a traditional outdoor market, but in the last few years, young people have started taking over the abandoned stands, and they've opened up modern businesses that still maintain the spirit of the old market. Buy something to eat and sit on the stairs by the entrance or walk around and let yourself be guided by the colors and aromas of all kinds of Spanish specialties. The market also has a cozy central patio where you can listen to flamenco DJs or hear original performances by local artists (mainly on weekends). Fair-trade products, gluten-free and vegetarian meals, hand-crafted goods, and workshops on every topic imaginable are also part of the market's offerings.
U2's favorite croquetas
Calle de la Madera, 37; +34-915-227-274; Metro: Tribunal (lines L1 and L10)
Casa Julio is famous for their croquetas, and everyone in the area is well aware that when U2 comes to town, they always come here. There are pictures of the band hanging on the wall to prove it. So obviously, if it's good enough for Bono, it must be good enough for you. The tiny place is often crowded, so consider yourself lucky if you can find an empty table. Apart from the croquetas, they have a great selection of traditional tapas, with many vegetarian options, like the delicious pisto manchego (a sort of local ratatouille). If you arrive early in the afternoon, you may find the former owner of the business — an elderly white-haired woman, preparing the croquetas herself. We think Bono probably composed "One" after contemplating that scene. By far one of my favorite taverns in town.
An alternative shop in the heart of Antón Martín market
Calle Santa Isabel, 5, Mercado de Antón Martín; +34-910-075-897; Metro: Antón Martín (line L1)
Sandwich Mixto (literally "ham and cheese sandwich") is one of the typically picturesque places you'll see in Madrid. You're likely to run across it if you stop by the traditional Antón Martín market, perhaps after your obligatory visit to the , while looking for some fresh fruit or picnic ingredients on your way to El Retiro park. Located right between a grocery and a pharmacy, you'll be drawn to the buzzing activity around the tiny shop — whether it may be an art show, a concert (you can even play music yourself, if you'd like, and drinks are on the house), or a Tortilla de Patata contest. It's also the perfect place to try a local wine while taking in the peculiar surroundings, buying some fanzines or alternative literature, and gathering ideas for what to do that evening. "Mens creativa in stomachus plenus" is their slogan. That says it all!
A café with a secret 11-seat cinema
Calle Olivar, 17; +34-911-736-273; Metro: Tirso de Molina (line L1), Antón Martín (line L1), and Lavapiés (line L3)
Imagine going to see an Italian movie while tasting one of the pasta dishes in the film or watching a silent movie while live musicians play ambient music: All of this is possible in this tiny but very cozy café. Since the cinema hall seats only eleven people, the atmosphere is always friendly, and it's not uncommon to stick around after the movie to have a chat with the other moviegoers. The menu is simple (since they don't have their own kitchen) but full of surprises, including vegetarian options.
Let's start the night with a cocktail
Calle Minas, 1; +34-915-210-889; Metro: Noviciado (line L2)
Picnic might become your favorite place to hang out both day and night. It's an ideal spot to warm up the engines before a long night out, to relax with a cup of tea, or just to stop by and see what's going on in the basement, where they organize stand-up, short films, and open mic sessions. The retro and slightly kitsch decor makes for a warm and dreamy atmosphere. Their homemade cakes are also popular in the neighborhood.
Brunch accompanied by the music of the Vermouth sessions
Calle de la Ruda, 19; +34-911-725-740; Metro: Latina (line L5)
Is Café Molar a bookshop where you can buy records? Or a record shop that sells books? One thing is sure — it's the best breakfast place around. Café Molar is very well known in the area for their famous "Vermouth sessions" (little concerts that take place during brunch). Located halfway between Lavapiés and La Latina, it's the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing cafe experience while thinking about what to do with the rest of your morning (or with your life, for that matter, because there's no hurry once you get here). If you're here during the weekend, they often put on little concerts in the cozy basement. Café Molar is also family-friendly and even has a little play space for children.
The dream shop of a musical agency
Calle Velarde, 13; Metro: Tribunal (lines L1, L10) and Bilbao (lines L1, L4)
When you enter this place, you immediately feel like the people who opened it must have invented the shop of their dreams. Cuervo Store sells music, clothes, and all kinds of things the owners happen to like, that you're bound to like, too. There are books, jewelry, comics, art shows, live music, and basically anything that fits the spirit of the shop. With connections to the Holy Cuervo music agency, this is one of the most versatile shops in Madrid, and it's a good example of the new wave style that's trendy in the city these days. Even though music is their main focus, you may very well come here looking for an album, end up seeing an art show, listening to live music, and leaving the store with an extra sweater, a new book, and, of course, a nice selection of records.
An ode to DIY and handmade crafts
Calle Noviciado, 9; +34-915-211-404; Metro: Noviciado (lines L2, L3 and L10)
peSeta is located on one of my favorite streets in Madrid — Calle Noviciado. This kind of Spanish Penny Lane is a small street where you can find anything you need — it feels like you're in a cute little village where everyone knows you. They offer a nicely designed line of handmade clothes, both for men and women, with an excellent variety of well-designed prints. You can also find a ton of accessories here (bags, wallets, etc.). They have also been selling records lately and displaying collages on their walls. A real island of creativity.
Madrid's version of Hamburg's Cavern
Calle del Caballero de Gracia, 10; +34-915-221-815; Metro: Gran Vía (lines L1 and L5)
Supporting the indie scene since the beginning, this place has been a favorite place to play for local bands for nearly ten years. The first floor looks like many other bars in the area, but the real Costello is in the basement — a space where almost anything can happen. It will immediately remind you of the mythical Cavern in Hamburg, the birth place of The Beatles. Check out the schedule: Costello Club is very active — they organize festivals, parties, and all kinds of promotional events for both new and more established musical projects. When the live music is over, you can stay upstairs in the lounge listening to jazz, bossa nova, or down-tempo music while sipping on one of their cocktails. Or you can jump onto the Costello dance floor. It is quite close to Sala Sol, so if your body is still asking for more at the end of the night, you can move one street over and keep on shaking those hips.
Back to the Movida Madrileña
Calle de Velarde, 18; +34-914-467-581; Metro: Tribunal (lines L1 and L10)
A classic among classics, La Vía Láctea is certainly one of the highlights of the nightlife here. You can be sure that when you come here, you are always making the right choice — La Vía Láctea never disappoints! The decor, the community, the DJ sets, and even a pool make this one of the most charismatic places in Madrid. It used to be a kind of headquarters for young people in the ‘80s and during the years of the Movida Madrileña (the local punk and new wave movement). Basically, nothing has changed since they opened their doors in the late ‘70s, and you can see that every single inch of this place is saturated in rock and roll attitude. It's a living legend of the underground and a temple for those who love music and nightlife.