A Love Letter to Palos de la Frontera

This post is part of our Love Letter series, first-person accounts of what we love about Madrid.

Palos de la Frontera is the best Madrid barrio you've never heard of. Full of authentic local shops, great hidden wine bars, funky cultural spaces and so much more, you're missing out if you haven't checked this vibrant neighborhood off your Madrid to-do list! #Madrid #Spain #local #barrios #PalosDeLaFrontera #culture

When I first realized I was officially moving to Madrid, I was so excited to live in the center, surrounded by stunning historical architecture and the best bars and restaurants. What I quickly learned however, is that if you have any kind of budget, you don’t really get to choose where you live in Madrid—your neighborhood chooses you. It all comes down to finding an apartment within your budget, and having the absolute luck of being the first person to call right after it’s been posted. We also had to find someone that would accept our cat and dog we brought over from the US, which was another added challenge! Luckily, we finally found the perfect place and I quickly fell in love with my new neighborhood of Palos de la Frontera. It’s smack dab in the middle of Lavapiés, Delicias and Atocha. Confused yet? Me too.

Don't just limit yourself to the city center in Madrid! Authentic neighborhoods like Palos de la Frontera can be much more rewarding.
Authentic, local charm is packed into every corner of Palos de la Frontera.

Where I live is just outside of what is technically considered the center. However, I’m no more than five minutes walking to Atocha, the Reina Sofia museum and the Lavapiés neighborhood. Within five minutes walking from my house I have access to ten (yes ten!) different grocery stores! (When you have to carry all your groceries home by hand, these types of things become extremely exciting).

What’s great about living just outside of the center? You find truly authentic places that cater to the locals, as not a lot of tourists come where I live. It’s a truly authentic barrio.

Few tourists visiting Madrid make it out to Palos de la Frontera, which means that the neighborhood retains its authentic charm. You won't find any tourist traps here!
No tourist traps here! Just the kinds of old-school, local shops that have been around for generations.

It takes a long time to feel like a local in a country so different from the one you grew up in. I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever truly feel like a local, but what I do feel, is home. I remember one lazy day, my husband and I went to the little cafe on the corner and sat on the terrace. We ate pan con tomate and sipped our coffees for what felt like hours and watched people just go by. We took our dog Ludo to the local park and played ball, chatted with our dog park friends and then sat at a table and played scrabble and drank wine we’d picked up at the Mercado de Santa María de la Cabeza nearby. We finished our day with croquetas and more wine on yet another terrace, and watched as the sun set behind the trees that lined the street. It was one of those magical, lazy days and the entire day we were never more than three blocks away from our apartment.

Palos de la Frontera is the ideal Madrid barrio for living like a local. For one thing, there's plenty of space for pets to run around and have fun while owners enjoy a leisurely chat.
Courtney’s dog, Ludo, agrees: Palos de la Frontera is the place to be!

That’s what I love most about Palos de la Frontera: new discoveries every day, and enjoying the simplicity of living outside the city center. Sure, that means we have some ugly block buildings, but we have history too! The building I live in was built in 1912 and the streets nearby are spotted with historical gems. Just the other day, after living in my neighborhood for two years, I found a hidden street lined with one-story homes from the turn of the century. I’ve lived here for years and still constantly find surprises. You turn a corner and never know what you might find. So come on down to the south of Madrid and get lost. We’ve got plenty to offer, and if you need recommendations, let me know. I’ve got plenty.

Courtney’s picks in Palos de la Frontera

Bars & Restaurants

  • Bodegas Rosell: A classic! It’s one of the best wine bars in the city and has been open since 1920. It has the most beautiful Spanish tiles inside and out. They have a more formal restaurant, a more casual bar and a patio with plenty of seating.
Madrid's Palos de la Frontera neighborhood is full of charming locales that have been around for generations, like the iconic wine bar Bodegas Rosell.
Bodegas Rosell is the kind of place that’s been the same for ages, and that’s a good thing. Why mess with perfection?
  • Hermanos Valdivieso: One of my favorite places to grab a glass of wine. Fun, innovative tapas with a twist on traditional Spanish cuisine. This place is tiny, they have an amazing wine list that is constantly changing and the food is out of this world. Go on a Friday night, squeeze your way into the bar and enjoy a free tapa with every drink.
  • Bar Lacón: My very favorite restaurant in all of Madrid. Yes, I said it, ALL of Madrid! This place is like a time warp back to the 1960s… I don’t think anything has been changed since then. This is traditional comida casera at its best. Owned and run by a husband and wife team, they have a daily menu del día for 10 euros and some of the best simple, traditional food I’ve had in the city. It’s completely tucked away down a side street. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never find it!
  • There’s also a large Central and South American population where I live, so we have tons of Latin American food options too. Try a pupusa at Pupuseria Madrid Rio Grande… they’re to die for! Need some hot sauce? El Huerto is your place.
Palos de la Frontera is the place to be if you want to get off the beaten path in Madrid!
A gorgeous fall day in Palos de la Frontera!

Things to do

If you’re looking for culture, we’ve got that too. Just down the street from me in the Delicias neighborhood is an incredible art exhibition space called Sala El Aguila. The greatest part is that it’s free! It’s housed in a former brewery from the early 1900s and has a beautiful little courtyard where you can sit at a terrace under trees and have a few cañas. I recently saw an outstanding exhibit there about old Hollywood in Madrid. They showed picture after picture of glamorous movie stars from the golden age of film right here in Madrid and I learned that many classic movies were filmed here. They show open-air movies in the summer and always have something new going on.

Palos de la Frontera is full of unique, off-the-beaten-path hidden gems like Sala El Aguila.
Sala El Aguila is easily one of Madrid’s coolest buildings—and most tourists have no idea it even exists!

Also, one of the greatest markets in Madrid is not far, at the Museo del Ferrocarril. It’s the Mercado de Motores, where not only can you explore all the antique trains inside, but can shop for artisan goods, antiques and eat at food trucks! It’s the second weekend of every month and free to enter.

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2 Comment

  1. GAY FLYNN says
    November 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    What an excellent article, really caught the flavor of your neighborhood and piqued the interest of the reader!

    1. Devour Tours says
      November 28, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks so much Gay! We love the way that Courtney transported us there as well 🙂


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