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A Love Letter to Palos de la Frontera

When I first realized I was officially moving to Madrid, I was so excited to live in the center. I pictured myself 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. Instead, your neighborhood chooses you.

View down a quiet city street with people walking in the intersection.

It all comes down to finding an apartment within your budget. Next, you have to have the absolute luck of being the first person to call right after its posted. We also had to find someone that would accept our cat and dog we brought over from the US—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.

Apartment buildings in a residential urban area.
Authentic, local charm is packed into every corner of Palos de la Frontera.

Where Is Palos de la Frontera in Madrid?

Where I live is just outside of what most madrileños would technically consider 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.

Exterior of a traditional footwear shop in Madrid, Spain, with a sign reading CALZADOS.
No tourist traps here! Just the kinds of old-school, local shops that have been around for generations.

Local Life in Palos de la Frontera

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.

On one recent 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. Then, 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.

A dog lying in a park beneath orange and yellow trees on a sunny fall day.
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. You make new discoveries every day, and enjoy 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 dates back to 1912 and the streets nearby contain dozens of 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 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.

Where to Eat & Drink in Palos de la Frontera

  • 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.
Two men talking outside of a bar with blue window paneling and old-fashioned tiled advertisements.
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, serving 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.
  • 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! And if you need some hot sauce, El Huerto is your place.
City street lined with green and yellow trees in the fall.
A gorgeous fall day in Palos de la Frontera!

Things to Do in Palos de la Frontera

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.

Exterior of a large brick building against a bright blue sky.
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 takes place the second weekend of every month and is free to enter.

Palos de la Frontera FAQs

How can I get to Palos de la Frontera in Madrid?

The Palos de la Frontera neighborhood is an easy walk from Atocha train station, the Reina Sofia Museum, and the Literary Quarter. It’s also easily accessible on public transportation. The Palos de la Frontera and Delicias metro stations are served by the yellow line 3.

Is Palos de la Frontera safe?

Palos de la Frontera is a quiet residential neighborhood, and is generally very safe. Stay as vigilant as you would anywhere else in Madrid and always keep an eye on your belongings, but you will more than likely have no trouble.

Update Notice: This post was originally published on November 20, 2018 and was updated with new text and photos on April 9, 2021.

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting this ‘love letter.’ I’ve been to Madrid several times and this helped me choose where to stay outside of the usual suspects. Muchisimas gracias y te veo en Madrid!

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