Located just north of Gran Vía and Plaza de España, Malasaña is a buzzing hub of restaurants, shops, and culture that never seems to sleep.
The omnipresent hip, youthful vibe in Madrid’s trendiest neighborhood makes it a favorite hangout among both locals and visitors, giving it n fun and welcoming feel. And where there are good people, you can almost be sure that there’s good food nearby, too.
Tapas in Malasaña are practically a dime a dozen. You’ll find them served up everywhere: from the century-old watering holes favored by Madrid’s abuelos to the sleek, contemporary places putting a modern twist on old favorites.
With that being said, narrowing down where to eat from among so many bars can seem daunting—but no worries, we’ve got you covered.
1. Casa Macareno
Let’s start things off with a classic. At more than 100 years old, the locale now known as Casa Macareno has changed names and owners a handful of times over the years. But it has never lost its identity as a traditional, down-home place for good, honest Spanish food.
Today, its cheerful, colorful interior—a vintage look that doesn’t feel stuffy or old-fashioned—will welcome you with open arms. Make your way up to the marble-topped bar and order a tapa of jamón ibérico croquettes (their secret ingredient is truffle) or their special patatas bravas. Then wash it all down with an ice-cold beer or a splash of vermouth.
Malasaña restaurants can’t get more old-school than this place, and that’s exactly why we love it.
2. La Palma 60
If you’re looking for more contemporary tapas in Malasaña, give La Palma 60 a shot.
Yes, from the outside it looks like your standard old Madrid bar that’s been there for ages. But looks can be deceiving. Their market-fresh cuisine takes on the form of pleasantly surprising, innovative tapas you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Their Instagram-worthy dishes look almost too pretty to eat (but are too delicious not to), so there’s no shame in snapping a pic or several before you dig in. Come for the beef tataki and white truffle risotto; stay for the fun and lively atmosphere that will keep you ordering round after round of food and drinks.
3. La Carbonera
Do you like cheese? Wait, don’t answer that—a better question would be, who doesn’t like cheese?
That’s the specialty of the house at La Carbonera, home to some of the simplest yet most delicious tapas in Malasaña. In fact, they describe themselves as a “bar de quesos,” so if a cheese bar sounds like heaven to you, you’re in luck.
Their homemade dishes are excellent and worth a try, but the true stars of the show are their gorgeously presented cheese plates. We’re talking sheep, cow and goat cheeses, most of which come from Spain with a handful of international options. Just don’t forget the wine.
4. Bar Antonio
Don’t let all the shiny and new tapas bars and restaurants in Malasaña fool you. There’s still plenty of old-school Spanish charm to go around—if you know where to look.
Exhibit A: Bar Antonio. The colorful tilework and retro Spanish photos lining the interior are a trip back in time in and of themselves. A true bar de toda la vida as we say here in Spain, it draws hungry and curious diners from all walks of life, eager to try their simple yet delicious house-made specialties (madrileños rave about their croquettes in particular).
No frills, no bells and whistles—just good, down-to-earth home-cooked food served up in an establishment beloved by generations.
5. Casa Camacho
Not much has changed in the near-century that Casa Camacho has been open, and that’s just the way we like it.
Popular among hipsters and grandpas alike, it’s the type of place that seems to constantly be buzzing with activity and conversation. The three brothers who run the show at this hotspot for tapas in Malasaña are generous with the portion sizes, and even more famous for their yayo—a potent gin and vermouth cocktail that makes the perfect accompaniment to a dish of salty olives.
There probably won’t be room to sit, but that’s okay. Claim your spot at the bar and soak up the rowdy and eclectic atmosphere at this most timeless of Malasaña restaurants.
6. Ochenta Grados
Let’s switch gears a little bit. If locally sourced, healthy and modern food is your thing, Ochenta Grados is easily your best bet when it comes to Malasaña restaurants.
The name comes from one of their principal philosophies when it comes to cooking: never rising above 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit), so that each product keeps its natural properties and flavors as much as possible. The result is unbelievably fresh, delicious food that’s good for you and the environment.
Dig into their contemporary creations in a beautifully decorated modern space that’s perfect for sharing a long meal and even longer conversation with good friends.
7. La Colmada
When it comes to cheap, simple and high-quality tapas, there’s no place better than an ultramarinos shop. What’s an ultramarinos shop? We’re glad you asked!
They’re a kind of old-fashioned grocery store, small in size but not in selection, and often have a small bar onsite. Today, La Colmada has brought this classic type of locale into the 21st century, making it completely unlike many other restaurants in Malasaña.
Housed in what was once an old cafe, the bright blue interior and youthful clientele represent a new generation of this classic form of bar-meets-shop. Get your products to go, or stick around and enjoy some of the best modern-meets-traditional tapas in Malasaña in good company.
8. Casa Julio
Ask any madrileño who makes the best croquetas in the city, and we’re willing to bet the vast majority of them will tell you Casa Julio.
Now, croquettes are an integral part of any Spanish food experience, and the crispy-creamy bites of heaven can be found at most bars throughout Spain. However, Casa Julio takes the humble croqueta to a whole new level. Behind the bright red interior lies a wonderland of more different varieties of croquettes than you ever thought possible.
Classic jamón? Of course! Spinach? Sure! Raisins and gorgonzola? Why not?! There’s a croqueta for everyone at this go-to spot for tapas in Malasaña.
Malasaña lies in the triangle-shaped area formed by Gran Vía & Calle de la Princesa, Calle Fuencarral, and Calle de Carranza. It is north of the historic center and just west of Chueca.
Malasaña is one of the safest areas in central Madrid. Here, you’ll find people from all walks of life out and about at all hours of the day—from young students to families to Spanish grandparents. Use common sense, however, and take the same precautions you would in any urban area, such as keeping an eye on your belongings at all times.
Seven metro stations provide easy access to Malasaña: Argüelles, San Bernardo, Bilbao, Tribunal, Ventura Rodriguez, Noviciado, and Plaza de España. The Gran Vía, Callao, and Chueca stations are also nearby.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on November 18, 2018 and was updated with new text and photos on June 3, 2021.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Madrid? Just add your email address in the form below!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.