If you’re visiting Spain and want to experience life like a local, I would suggest taking a trip to La Latina in Madrid! This characteristic neighbourhood captures the essence of Spain, but with a twist. Think tapas, cold beer and evenings spent with friends on a packed-out terrace in a leafy square. But there’s more to this Madrid neighborhood in the network of narrow streets that lie beyond the main plazas. There are so many hidden spots to discover and you could walk for days and not get bored! But you probably don't have days to spare, and even if you did, it would be pretty tiring to traipse through the barrio on foot for days on end. So instead, I decided to share my favourite spots in the La Latina area where Madrid can be experienced at its best. This spirited neighbourhood might be central, but if you don’t know where to look, the area’s unique, vibrant and buzzing character can remain hidden out of sight. So get ready for the ultimate adventure!
A vibrant community spirit
Sometimes when you explore a city you can find certain areas which have something else about them which makes them very different from other neighbourhoods. This is definitely the case of La Latina, Madrid's best kept secret, in my opinion. This area is considered by many to be one of the most unique parts of the capital of Spain. This Madrid barrio has a vibrant energy that spills over onto the streets and as you wander the maze of narrow lanes you will soon plug in to its community spirit. There are so many places to discover, faces to see and stories to hear in La Latina, where Madrid's rich cultural diversity shines through on every corner. The streets are lined with tapas restaurants and bars, plazas and old churches and you will soon discover why this place is so special to me, and its locals.
Basílica de San Francisco Grande
This is definitely one of the most impressive features of this Madrid neighborhood. A stunning Catholic church that’s home to numerous impressive paintings by famed artists such as Goya and Velázquez. Here you can hear tales of kings who once ruled the Madrid neighborhood - and Spain! The Basílica was built in 1760 by King Carlos III. It was designed in a Neoclassical style in the second half of the 18th century. The Basilica features the largest dome in Spain, standing at 108 feet in diameter, so it is well worth checking out this gem hidden at the heart of La Latina, Madrid. Visits are free during religious services, and I would recommend going with a guide who explains the history behind the church. Another insider’s tip for visitors to the La Latina area in Madrid: watch the sunset next to the Basilica, where there are stunning views of the city!
Plaza de los Carros
One of my favourite La Latina attractions is Plaza de los Carros, the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon while reading a book or just to relax in this open area where you can appreciate the beauty of this Madrid barrio. There is a bit of history to Plaza de los Carros as well. It was once used as a market for enslaved people but nowadays this picturesque triangular plaza is a place where locals come to relax. Wander through the arcaded walkway and stop by one of the confectionary stands selling sweets galore! You can admire the statue of Pedro de Heredia, who founded the city, and relax by the fountain as the sun slowly sets over this Madrid neighborhood. Plaza de los Carros is a great way to enjoy la Latina when you just want to stop by and chill.
Plaza de la Cebada
In La Latina, Madrid's love for fashion and shopping shines through at Plaza de la Cebada, a big courtyard next to el Mercado de la Cebada where the locals do their shopping. Meander through Mercado de la Cebada, where you will discover wine bars, organic veggie shops, neon-clad taco spots, and soak up its unique, eclectic vibe. There’s always something going on in the La Latina area of Madrid and this is especially so in Plaza de la Cebada. From fitness competitions to markets to concerts, there is just so much to see and do! And there are amazing paintings all over the walls that are changed quite often along with a garden and basketball court where many events take place.
Eat, drink and be merry
While exploring the La Latina area of Madrid, you will work up an appetite- and a thirst. If you want to experience life as a local, head to Los Pajaritos or Leka Leka, two laid back bars where you can enjoy a drink and soak up the good vibes. Popular with locals for working and meeting friends after work, the food is great too and not overpriced! Speaking of food, the best cuisine can be found in La Latina, where Madrid's culinary delights merge to form a vibrant food scene. There are two fancy restaurants with luxurious food that are worth visiting: Juana la Loca and Toga. Juana is a pintxos restaurant with both traditional and modern Spanish dishes on the menu, which is great if you’d like to try a good variety of different things in just one night. My personal recommendation to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet is to ask for the typical tortilla de patata and the oxtail fajita. And for dessert, without a doubt, try the volcan de dulce de leche.
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