10 Best Things to Do in Madrid's Malasaña and Chueca Barrios

Square of Malasaña (Madrid)

Dominic Dähncke / Getty Images

To truly experience the culture of Madrid during your trip to Spain, head to the inner-city barrios of Malasaña and Chueca to enjoy the city's famed nightlife, great shopping destinations, and plenty of great restaurants and attractions that go beyond the usual tourist destinations. Located between Parque del Oeste and Parque del Retiro in central Madrid, these two neighborhoods have become known as favorite haunts for Madrileños. From sharing tapas with friends to visiting quirky museums, there are plenty of things to do in Madrid's Malasaña and Chueca barrios.

Here are the top 10.

01 of 10

Visit the Wax Museum of Madrid

Wax historical figures sitting around cafe table in museum exhibit

Tamorlan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Pl. de Colón, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 913 19 93 30

Malasaña and Chueca are packed with museums, one of the most interesting being the Museo de Cera, otherwise known as the Wax Museum of Madrid. Inside, you'll find the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Barack Obama, Taylor Swift, and more immortalized as wax figures. The museum has more than 450 life-size replicas, including Hollywood royalty, politicians, and historical figures like the Catholic Monarchs. Some of the figures even sport clothes from their likeness' own closets.

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02 of 10

Dance to Jazz, Funk, and Blues at El Junco

Two musicians playing jazz instruments in blue stage lighting

Jon Feingersh Photography Inc / Getty Images

Plaza de Sta. Bárbara, 10, 28004 Madrid, Spain

Lovers of music and nightlife will love the continuous flow of jazz, funk, and blues coming from El Junco's stage. This is one of the trendiest places to enjoy live music in Madrid, especially on its signature thematic clubbing nights. Come on any given night and you might walk in on an acoustic concert or an upbeat DJ set. You just never know what you're going to get at El Junco, but you can always bank on discovering talented local artists in a lively atmosphere.

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03 of 10

Get Coffee on Calle del Espiritu Santo

Lolina Vintage Cafe

Courtesy of Lolina Vintage Cafe

C. del Espíritu Santo, Madrid, Spain

Calle del Espiritu Santo runs from east to west in the Malasaña barrio from Calle Corrida Alta de San Pablo to Calle San Bernardo. This popular street is known for its hipster cafes, book shops, and other trendy local dives and hangouts. Take the Madrid Metro to the Noviciado or Tribunal stations to explore all that this famous street has to offer.

One of the best places for coffee on Espiritu Santo is Lolina Vintage Cafe, whose decor features vibrant neon lights, colorful seating and tables, and eccentric art on the walls. Alternatively, stop by J & J Books and Coffee, a secondhand English bookstore that also features a popular cafe.

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04 of 10

Enjoy Breakfast With History at Café Comercial

Café Comercial

Courtesy of Café Comercial

Gta. de Bilbao, 7, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 910 88 25 25

Café Comercial once served as the home of the anti-Franco army during the Spanish Civil War. Founded in March 1887, this now-famous café is located at the Glorieta de Bilboa star-shaped roundabout in northern Malasaña and is easily accessible from the Bilbao Madrid Metro stop.

It's best to visit this historic coffeeshop and restaurant when it's busiest—during breakfast and merienda, a traditional afternoon snack time for kids and young adults alike across Spain. However, famous for its hot chocolate and churros as well as a type of fried bread known as picatostes, Café Comercial is a great destination for a light snack and cup of coffee at any time of day. While you dine, watch passersby on the streets in front of the building from the large windows in the café's ground floor. On the second floor, guests can also play chess at the Club de Ajedrez Café Comercial, a chess club open to all that typically has boards available all day.

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05 of 10

Get Free Tapas at El Tigre

El Tigre in Madrid

Damian Corrigan / TripSavvy

C. de las Infantas, 23, 28004 Madrid, Spain

El Tigre offers one of the best bargains for tapas in Madrid: When you order a round of drinks at the bar, you'll get three free plates of food to go with it. Located on Calle de las Infantas in Chueca—parallel to Gran Via—you can get to El Tigre via the metro at Gran Via or Chueva stations.

After seeing the chaos that goes on in El Tigre, many suspect the place to be unhygienic, but the plates move so quickly and the restaurant is cleaned so frequently that you don't need to worry about your food getting contaminated. In fact, it's one of the most trusted tapas bars in the city for cleanliness and good service—especially if you're kind to your bartenders and servers.

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06 of 10

Go Back to the '80s at La Vía Láctea

La Vía Láctea

gaelx from Madrid / A Coruña / WikiMedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 

C. de Velarde, 18, 28004 Madrid, Spain

Opened in an old coal cellar on Calle Velarde in 1979, La Vía Láctea was one of the first underground bars in the city, which became a central hub of the Movida Madrileña, Madrid's 1980s youth revival movement. Never quite losing that luster, this upbeat lounge remained hip throughout its existence and features retro decor, a pool table, and dancing most nights of the week.

Calle Velarde, where La Vía Láctea is located, is a popular street for young alternative types on a night out in Madrid. Nearby is Nueva Vision, a retro-punk bar and the official Ramones Fan Club of Spain. Take the Madrid Metro to Tribunal station and then walk a short distance to find this popular street and all the Malasaña nightlife you could hope for.

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07 of 10

Explore the Cuartel del Conde-Duque

Madrid - Centro Cultural Conde Duque

Fred Romero / WikiMedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 

Cuartel del Conde-Duque, 28015, 28015 Madrid, Spain

The Cuartel del Conde-Duque—or Headquarters of the Arch-Duke—is an exhibition center and former military barracks that are both located a little north of Plaza España on Conde Duque Street. The main attraction of the Conde-Duque Madrid is the Contemporary Art Museum of the city, which features the works of new and emerging artists from Spain and the rest of the world.

However, there are also plenty of other institutions of note at Conde-Duque, including Madrid's city archive, an artisan printing press, and complete libraries of history, music, and newspapers. While the museum is closed on Mondays, most of these other attractions at Conde-Duque are open during that time.

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08 of 10

Discover Art at the Museo del Romanticismo

Museo del romanticismo

Alejandro / WikiMedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

C. de San Mateo, 13, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 914 48 10 45

The Museum of Romanticism (Museo del Romanticismo) is dedicated to the art and history of Madrid in the Romantic period of the 19th century. Home to a small collection of paintings, porcelain, books, photos, and other artifacts from the 19th century, this intriguing museum offers a look into the upper-class lifestyle of Madrid in the 1800s. Located at Calle de San Mateo, the Museum of Romanticism is relatively cheap to explore and is open Tuesdays through Sundays throughout the year with shorter hours from November through April.

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09 of 10

Relive the Past at the Museo de Historia

Museo de Historia de Madrid

Alex Segre / Getty Images

Calle de Fuencarral, 78, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 917 01 18 63

Located on Calle de Fuencarral, the Museum of History (Museo de Historia) was originally constructed by Pedro de Ribera in 1721 as the Municipal Museum. Walk through the beautifully restored baroque entrance and relive the history of Madrid through a collection dominated by paintings and memorabilia from the storied past of the city. Noteworthy pieces in the Museo de Historia include Goya's "Allegory of the City of Madrid" and an expansive scale model of Madrid as it appeared in 1830 in the basement of the facility.

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10 of 10

Have a Drink at the Museo Chicote

Bar Museo Chicote

Courtesy of Bar Museo Chicote

C/ Gran Vía, 12, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 915 32 67 37

Considered to be a Madrid landmark for the famous celebrities that once frequented this historic bar, Museo Chicote is a cocktail bar known for its 1930s-era interior and its founder's invention of more than 100 cocktails. Continually in operation since 1931, this unique and classy bar has severed patrons ranging from Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner to Frank Sinatra and Gracey Kelly.

Open seven days a week year-round, Museo Chicote also hosts a variety of special events and experiences throughout the year. Be sure to check the event calendar on its website before you go to see if you're in for a special treat to go with your luxury cocktail.

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10 Best Things to Do in Madrid's Malasaña and Chueca Barrios