Sure, Madrid has the Plaza Major, Retiro Park, and the Royal Palace, but don’t overlook the local gems — chic boutiques, artisanal eateries, charming bookstores — to be discovered in the city’s many barrios. Here, our favorite finds in Chueca, Malasaña, and Justicia.
Libros para un Mundo Mejor
This charming bookstore looks like it came straight out of a fairytale. Hand-painted flowers frame the doorways of its inviting yellow exterior; inside, you'll find walls lined with leather-bound tomes and tables topped with stationery, trinkets, and trendy t-shirts. Don't miss the reading nook tucked in the back of the store (just make sure to duck under the low ceiling and exposed wood beams).
The neighborhood of Justicia has a distinct Parisian vibe thanks to its many designer boutiques and quaint cafés like Mama Framboise. The French pastry shop makes the best macaroons in town, but we're also partial to the just-baked cookies that line the shelves alongside homemade tarts and flaky croissants (the raspberry version is a particular favorite). Snag a seat beside locals reading the newspaper and people-watch over an espresso and pain au chocolat.
This bright, spacious concept store in Chueca will draw you in by its design alone – all blond wood, and clean, neutral tones. Here, you'll find chic threads, furniture, housewares, along with a gallery showcasing work by up-and-coming local artists and a café serving coffee and tea. We love the ceramic dishes and linen towels — perfect gifts to take home.
Pretty young things flock to retro-glam Del Diego in Chueca for its creative cocktails and swanky scene. Sidle up to the bar and watch the expert mixologists craft innovative concoctions like the Caruso (gin, vermouth, and spearmint) or the Diego (vodka, Advocaat, apricot brandy, and lime). Salud!
Justicia is choc-a-block with slick boutiques. Our latest obsession? Condado XIQ, an airy, minimalist space specializing in eco-chic threads made by local designers. Browse through light-weight neutral outfits and cocktail dresses for the perfect day-to-night combo. The price tags might seem steep, but trust us, it's worth the splurge.
Every city needs a hipster café, and this is Madrid's. The funky local hangout in Malasaña is a dual open workspace and gallery that has an urban vibe and a cyclist theme (think brick walls, graffiti art, and bicycles hanging from the ceiling). Come here for the artisanal coffee (or cerveza, if that's more your taste), which pairs perfectly with any of the menu's light bites. We love the Coppi sandwich, made with beef pastrami, sun-dried tomato, truffle oil, mustard, lettuce, and tuna.
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Mercado San Antón
While Mercado de San Miguel may be the most well-known food hall in the city, we’d argue that this local spot has the better goods. Forgo San Miguel’s crowds in favor of early morning cappuccinos on the third-floor rooftop of Mercado San Antón. Looking to stay a while? After shopping your way past vendors selling slabs of meat at the carnicería (butcher shop) or sea urchins and oysters at the pescadería (fish counter), head to the second floor for a tapas tasting or back to the third for a full hearty meal at La Cocina de San Antón.
Ask any fashionable Madrileña where she got her cool kicks, and she’ll probably point you to Ioli. Behind the shop's robin-egg-blue façade in hip Malasaña is a shoebox-sized wonderland, where every inch of wall space is stacked high with gloves, purses, hats, and vintage-inspired shoes of all shapes and heel heights. Can't find what you're looking for? The Argentine owner and former theater costume designer, Cynthia Ioli, is best known for her customized, handmade styles tailored to each customer.
Lolo Polos Artesanos
This artisanal popsicle store in Malasaña is almost too cute to be real. A cotton candy pink exterior draws you into a whimsical space with even more color, from the walls covered in playful yellow, peach, and lime green stripes to the glass counter showcasing rows upon rows of pastel-hued ice pops in a variety of fruity flavors. We can't stop dreaming of the sweet kiwi.
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Malasaña is home to many stylish eateries, and Maricastaña is no exception. Done up in reclaimed wood, whitewashed brick, and cast-iron accents, it's a vision of country chic — with a seasonal menu to match. Indulge in the decadent Sunday brunch, which includes freshly squeezed orange juice or café con leche (Spanish white coffee); warm bread with tomato olive oil, butter, and jam; eggs benedict with lacón; pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and banana; brie cheese with grapes and prosciutto; and Greek yogurt with muesli. The best part? The entire feast puts you back just 20 euros.