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Best known for its punkish la movida revolution in the 80's after the end of Franco, this hip, city-central barrio now hosts Madrid's best cultural and alternative venues for shopping and socialising.
Malasaña district is situated North of Gran Via, on streets between Fuencarral, San Bernardo and del Pez which cluster around Malasaña's most extensively social square, Plaza Dos de Mayo. The most central Metro is Tribunal (L1 & 10).
To truly experience Malasaña like a local, getting a rental apartment, such as the Vista Malasaña apartment (approx. 30 Euro each per night) is ideal. Although there aren't Malasaña views as such from the windows, up on the roof terrace is the place to enjoy some spectacular city centre skyline.
Located right on Calle San Bernardo, there's also a deli style supermarket, Rotterdam, just up the street, with a great meat and bakery section, or the cheap and cheerless Dia supermarket, for all your basic needs, on the corner of San Bernardo and de la Palma.
Saving several Euro on the accommodation and food budget gives more allowance for hoking through rails of the many vintage shops in this district. Dotted with many quirky little boutiques with even more eccentric opening hours, there are a couple of staple stores which should be noted.
Holala (Calle del Pez, 7), admirable for its large and quality selection of fashionable vintage pieces, usually comes with fairly shocking price-tags for second-hand ropa (90 Euro for a beautiful 60's dress, for example). Full of bargains it is not, however this chain vintage store does sort out its stock properly and it is well-presented according to season. Lotta (Calle Hernan Cortes, 7) is yet more upmarket, boutique-style, with vintage designer gear and dresses by Dior and the like, as is Corachán y Delgado (Calle Barco, 42).
Malasaña has been compared to London's Camden town or New York city's Lower East Side, for its down-home, relaxed feeling and pretty cool locals. Around Plaza Dos de Mayo and Plaza Santa Ana you will find the best way to join the local madrileños of an afternoon. An abundance of pizzerias and bakeries are complimented with busy terrace cafés and bars such as Pepe Botella, which lets you bring in food. Café Isadora and bar Dos 2 are great local haunts, with the latter spinning a good mix of ska and rockabilly music.
Aside from the art spaces hidden around the streets of Malasaña, cross over Calle San Bernardo to the Centro Cultural Conde Duque. Originally 18th century military barracks, this place is hard to miss. Inside, check out a diverse range of art and interest collections, such as Pop-Up books and 20th century Spanish sculpture, or catch a music performance in the courtyards. Admission is free and you'll have fuel for discussion later on over copas.
Any madrileño worth his or her salt will know that the best way to start a night in Malasaña (after tapas) is to bar-hop. On Plaza Dos de Mayo, sit at the terrace outside Bar Arco, try a "Ramones" shot in Nueva Vision, or head over to Calle de la Palma for a drink in El Vaca Austera or Angie's.
After a late drink in Pez Gordo, locate the popular basement club nearby, El Perro, which plays a grungy mix of hip-hop and funk. Another favourite with the locals, on Calle de Ballesta, is club Démodé. Its former life as a brothel lends well to the ambience, along with its red sofas, oil paintings and chandeliers. A night in either venue promises to be late.