This post is part of our Love Letter series, first-person accounts of what we love about Madrid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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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Courtney fell in love with Spain the minute she set foot in this magical country in 2007. She has an intense love for Spanish wine and food… and Javier Bardem. She’s always on the lookout for the next best tapa to go along with a refreshing caña, and dreams of buying a ruin in Andalucía with her husband Dani one day.