15 Curiosities of Lavapiés, the most multicultural neighborhood in Madrid

The Lavapiés neighborhood has become a place that never ceases to amaze us every time we walk through its streets. It is a neighborhood full of contrasts where more than 100 different nationalities coexist. An ideal place to travel thousands of kilometers in just a few meters between local and local. We can eat in a Hindu or in a traditional bar, take some handmade canes, cider, tea or mojitos without leaving the same street.

But all that we already imagined, we go with the different and curious Lavapiés neighborhood, we will talk about what caught our attention one day that we came up with a solidary tour of the neighborhood of Madrid. What we learned!

15 curiosities of the Lavapiés district

1. The only atheist church in Madrid and the world?

The Patólica Church or the Paticano is an atheistic church that Leo Bassi created and every Sunday at 1:00 pm he gives the mass as a priest to adore the yellow rubber duck. The duck is a god who tries to represent imperfection and Leo Bassi presents it through humor, hence it was founded on December 28, 2012.

It is a very small place, where only 20-30 people will enter, whose dogma is that there is no dogma. It is worth visiting the Lavapiés Paticano because it is very curious, the place may be a bit dreary and is full of “junk”, there are ducks everywhere and phrases that do not leave indifferent.

2. Origin of the name of the Lavapiés neighborhood

It does not take much thinking to discover the origin of the name of the neighborhood, although have you ever wondered? In any case, it is not so simple since several hypotheses are considered in this regard.

The first and best known, is what represents the plaque of the Plaza de Lavapiés where we can see the illustration of a fountain. This source would be the place where the residents of Lavapiés neighborhood washed their feet, hence its name.

Another theory they told us is related to the terrain where Lavapiés is located. The neighborhood is full of hills and say that years ago when it was not yet urbanized, two streams passed through its streets that culminated in a final one. Every time it rained the streets filled with water and people got wet or “washed” their feet accidentally.

With which of the two hypotheses would you stay? We liked the second option more;).

3. An urban oasis in Lavapiés

We have baptized “This is a Plaza” as the urban oasis of Lavapiés or Madrid. It is a self-managed garden by the residents of Lavapiés, a place where you can get away with just entering. Every Sunday they give bicycle repair workshops, several times a week they take care of the plants and the urban garden they have, even the children when they stop playing with some toys take them there to exchange them. They are social initiatives that manage to unite more people who live in the neighborhood, we loved the idea.

In addition, its walls are adorned as it could not be otherwise, with majestic graffiti. The one that most caught our attention was the coat of Madrid retouched, as they say: a picture is worth a thousand words …

This is a Plaza is on Doctor Fourquet Street, it’s worth a visit, but let’s keep it as one of the best kept secrets, sshhh!

4. A hospital converted into a Market

The Mercado de San Fernando in the street of Embajadores, formerly a hospital. The curious thing is not only that it has become a market, but that the first years in the hospital only attended to Catalan patients, after the complaints of the Madrilenians, they began to attend also to the citizens of the capital.

Until 1944 it was not established as a market, therefore it did not go from hospital to market, it had more phases were even about to close but entered groups of Lavapiés and Malasaña (as the patio wonders and tobacco) and managed to give a new image to the market with ecological products and craft stalls among others.

Today, is a market with great atmosphere on weekends and another curious fact is that there is a store “La Casquería” where they sell books to the weight as if it were a butcher shop, imagine, € 10 per kilo of books very curious!

5. Corralas that joined neighbors

The corralas are buildings that were built between the 16th and 19th centuries due to space problems in Madrid. They are characterized by being small apartments linked by a common balcony that overlook an interior courtyard. This structure made the relationship between the neighbors closer.

The best known corrala of Madrid is that of the Plaza de la Corrala (with an open patio to Mesón de Paredes street) that is currently being restored. It was built in 1839 by the architect Mariategui, the town hall tried to throw it down but the neighbors got it not to do it. And in 1977 it was declared a National Monument.

There are around 400 corralas distributed throughout Madrid.


6. Orchard of edible plants in the Casa Encendida

In the famous Cultural Center of the Casa Encendida where more than 24,000 activities and 10,000 workshops have already been given, we can find an urban garden of edible plants. You have to climb up to your terrace to see the orchard, where there is also another garden with a strawberry tree, cypress, juniper, … And in summer it is luxury, it is also not as expensive as other terraces in Madrid to have a drink.

7. Urban Art to give and give

Next to the Tabacalera building, Miguel Servet Street is one of those streets that I like to show when friends come to visit us in Madrid. It is a street full of cool graffiti, an example of the urban art of Lavapiés. Every two years the festival “Muros” (born in 2014) is celebrated and the graffiti is changing. The first year the theme was free, but in 2016 the panels were focused on nature.

We already talked about the Urban Art of Lavapiés and other curiosities of the Embajadores area when we did the tour of Rare Tourism in Madrid.

8. The house of the bathrooms in Embajadores

Next to the Ambassadors roundabout, we find the Casa de los Baños, a place where people go to shower. Each one takes his towel, shampoo, … and has hot water for as long as he is willing to pay. It is open to everyone, at first charged 15 cents for 20 minutes of hot water, after reforming it increased the price to 50 cents.

It is not the only bathhouse in Madrid, in Bravo Murillo there is another one.

9. Misa rociera in Lavapiés

You do not have to go to Huelva to see a rociera mass. Every last Saturday of the month at 8:00 a Mass is celebrated in the Parish of San Millán and San Cayetano located in the street of Embajadores de Lavapiés.

10. Artists neighborhood

The writer Gloria Fuertes, the architects Pedro Ribera and Churriguera, the author Tirso de Molina, the bandolero Luis Candelas, the singers Ana Belén and the Cigala, are some of the known characters who have lived several years of their lives in the Lavapiés district .

11. Origin of El Rastro, the Lavapiés market

Going down the slope of the Ribera de Curtidores Street, if you look at the right side, there is the Messengers of Peace building. They told us that in the past this was the area where slaughterhouses were established, along with the tanneries and tanners of skins, the building was a slaughterhouse for animals and how they left a trail of blood, hence the name El Rastro.

If we think about the origin of the name of El Rastro and the image that we have right now of visiting the most famous market of Lavapiés, they create a strange contrast.

12. The entrance gate of the Retiro was in Lavapiés

That’s right, the entrance gate to the Retiro Garden from the Puerta de Alcalá, called Puerta de la Independencia, was the main entrance to the Casino de la Reina located in Lavapiés.

The City Council of Madrid gave the Palace to Queen Isabel de Braganza and years later it became the National Archaeological Museum, and in this area was also the headquarters of the cigar maker of Lavapiés and the Cervantes Institute. Nowadays, it is a social center where free courses are given to people who are registered in their district. The only original element left in the palace is the stair railing.

13. Lavapiés is the theater district

The Lavapiés district also stands out for having 14 theaters, of different styles and those that are lately more fashionable, the microtheater rooms. Among them: the Valle Inclán Theater, the Pavón Theater, the Circo Price Theater, La Puerta Estrecha, La Tortuga, La Escalera de Jacob, …

14. Legend of the street of the Head in Lavapiés

Like many of the streets of Madrid, Calle de la Cabeza hides a dark history behind it. The plaque that indicates the name of the street already shows us some clue with the illustration of a tray with a severed head.

Legend has it that a priest lived with his Portuguese servant, who out of envy decided to kill the priest and escape with the booty. After a while, the servant returned to Madrid converted into a gentleman and bought a ram’s head for dinner, but the bag began to bleed. A neighbor who passed by saw him and told him he would show him what was inside. The quiet servant opened the bag to show him the head of the ram and to his surprise, it was the priest’s head that appeared. The man called the police and after his arrest he was sentenced to death. After dying, the head turned into a ram again.

15. Statue tribute to the author of the chotis madrileño, a Mexican

This curiosity is more related to the culture of Madrid, but its protagonist has a statue in the Sombrerete street in the Lavapiés neighborhood. Agustín Lara, Mexican musician, was the one who composed the famous chotis “Madrid” that he dedicated to his wife (curiously) before knowing the city.



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