Guide to Lavapies

Lavapies Neighborhood Guide


There is always something happening in the historic neighborhood of Lavapies. This central Madrid neighborhood is the most multicultural and diverse in the city. Colorful murals decorate the pastel pink, yellow, and orange buildings. The streets cut through steep hills causing dramatic one-of-a-kind views. Lavapies is the place to go for international cuisine. The fragrant smells of Indian, Ethiopian, and Senegalese dishes waft through the streets and welcome you in for a bite. 


Viva Spanish Langauge School is lucky to be located right on the border of two great Madrid neighborhoods, Las Letras and Lavapies. We are the only Spanish language school in Lavapies and love it here! Our intercambios and immersive after-class activities are often held at bars around our lively neighborhood.  We love the bohemian vibe here and incorporate it into our teaching philosophy. 

Here’s a quick guide to some of the activities and places we love to visit when we leave our school. Set out and explore the neighborhood with us! 

Unique Shopping 


Indoor markets are experiencing a renaissance in Spain. El Mercado de San Fernando in Lavapies is a bustling market with the usual stands overflowing with fresh produce, meat, and fish. Built in 1944, it has been an essential local shopping spot for decades. It also houses restaurants, tapas, bakeries, bars, bookshops, vintage clothing stands, and more. Pull up a chair, grab a beer, and taste something new.


El Rastro is a street market that has been a part of Lavapies since 1740. One thousand vendors sell everything you can think of, including vintage clothes, antiques, artwork, artisan goods, and souvenirs. Come here every Sunday from the morning until 3 pm. Afterward, rest your feet at one of the local bars. Enjoy a refreshing vermouth or cup of Rioja while you watch the crowds trickle by. 


Closed during the onset of COVID-19, El Rastro finally reopened in mid-November. Only half of the stands are allowed but it is still a great way to spend your Sunday.

A Love For the Arts

Lavepies has some of the most interesting cultural centers in the city. La Tabacalera is a prime example of what makes Lavapies so special. Built in the late 18th century, the Tabacalera was a tobacco factory for centuries. When it shut down in the late 20th century, this massive building was converted into an art gallery and social center. 


Walk around its perimeters to see amazing artwork painted on its walls. Head inside to view rotating art installations, photography, dance performances, and more. The best thing? It’s completely free!


The Neo-Moorish style of La Casa Encendida causes it to stand out on the block. This monumental building is home to a cultural center that enriches the lives of those who visit. Come for art, education, movies, and other exhibitions. In the summer, its spacious roof is the place to go for drinks and open-air film showings. 

Historic Cinema


With it’s opulently decorated facade, Cine Doré is one of Madrid’s original cinemas. Once the place to go to see silent films with a live orchestra, all of Spain’s most famous film stars were seen at its premieres. Now an emblematic symbol of Madrid, the cinema has even been featured in Almodóvar films.

Madrid Cine Dore
Cine Doré in Lavapies, Madrid

Today, the cinema shows both classic and new movies. It’s patterned tiled ceilings and red velvet curtains give every showing a dramatic air. The most artistic Spanish films premiere on its screens during the annual film festivals held here. 

Buy a ticket and head inside Cafe Dore. With its luxurious interior and intricate details, you will feel like a star yourself. 

Cozy Cafes in Lavapies

Studying your Spanish verbs at home can quickly become boring. Trade your apartment for a comfy chair and a good cup of coffee at one of Lavapies’ many cafes.

Plántate Café is an intimate spot full of plants, tasty baked goods, and small brunch plates. Stop here for a flat white and stay for the atmosphere. Their baristas can be counted on for choosing a good playlist. 

Cafelito has some of the kindest baristas and an extensive drink menu. Stick with the usual cafe con leche or try something a little more extravagant, like their cafetoño. A specialty drink, it’s sweetened with orujo, honey, and nutmeg. Check out their brunch menus and various homemade desserts. You deserve the treat!


These are just some of the ways we spend our time in the multicultural heart of Madrid, Lavapies. Do you have a favorite place to spend your afternoons? Let us know!

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