La Latina

Barrio de La Latina

La Latina is the most traditional area of the capital. Along its streets and squares you can breathe in the pure essence of Madrid, making it an essential visit. Plaza de la Cebada, Calle Cava Baja, and El Rastro market are just some of its many attractions.

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid, La Latina was the epicenter of social life in the city for several centuries. Strolling through its winding streets you will stumble across gardens, hidden squares, chapels, and above all, bars. In the evening, this neighborhood becomes one of the best options for going out in Madrid.

The neighborhood is named after Doña Beatriz Galindo, humanist and private tutor to the family of the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella). She was called La Latina because she taught the queen and her daughters Latin. She was responsible for the founding of the La Latina Hospital on the site where the Teatro La Latina is located today.

La Latina is one of the most typical, one of the most traditional, and one of the busiest neighborhoods in Madrid, which is no mean feat in the Spanish capital. 

Its jumble of narrow streets and passageways dating back to the Middle Ages, its summer festivals or verbenas that move to the rhythm of chotis music, and its taverns and tapas bars make it one of the most classic meeting points for Gatos. (The official adjective for people and things from Madrid is Madrileño, but another nickname for the people is Gatos, or “Cats,” and that’s what we like to call ourselves.)

But there’s much more than terraces and tapas in La Latina, there is also a lot of cultural and historical heritage. This sometimes goes unnoticed, so now we will make a few recommendations on what to see in this neighborhood:

  1. La Plaza de la Paja
  2. The Bishop´s Chapel
  3. Garden of the Prince of Anglona
  4. Cava Alta and la Cava Baja
  5. Museo of San Isidro
  6. Basílica of San Francisco el Grande
  7. Las Vistillas Gardens
  8. El Rastro flea market and antique stores
  9. Puerta de Toledo
  10. Tapas in la Latina
  11. Fiestas de la Paloma
La Plaza de la Paja

If there is a heart of La Latina, it is Plaza de la Paja. This is one of Madrid’s most peculiar squaresthanks to its steep slopeand one of the most beautiful, charming, and lively spots in the entire city. Well, that depends on when you go: on weekday mornings, you will find empty terraces in an oasis of tranquility.

The Bishop´s Chapel

On one side of Plaza de la Paja, a very discreet door leads to La Capilla del Obispo, a 16th-century chapel that forms part of Vargas Palace. It was initially conceived as the funeral chapel for San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers and of Madrid, who worked in the service of the Vargas family in the 1100s. 

The chapel’s marble plateresque altarpiece is one of the few examples of the Gothic style in Madrid, although it is more of a transition from Gothic to Renaissance style. Even so, it is mostly unknown. 

The chapel reopened in 2010 after five years of restoration and after having been declared technically in ruins 40 years earlier. The restauration work revealed the foundations of the church of San Andrés and its cemetery, which can now be seen through a glass window in the floor of the chapel.

Garden of the Prince of Angola

While Plaza de la Paja is a quiet oasis only at certain times, the small garden you’ll find on the opposite side of the Bishop’s Chapel exists in a perpetual state of tranquility. We’re talking about Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona. A curious thing about the garden is that it’s a type of “hanging garden” that was created on a man-made embankment over a large gap between the present-day streets of Calle Segovia and Calle Príncipe.

And what is this beautiful garden doing here, with its granite fountain, its pergolas, and its gazebo? Well, this neoclassical garden with traditional Andalusian touches is one of the few things that have survived from the 18th-century houses owned by the nobles of the Court of Madrid. Yes, this was the garden in the palace of, surprise surprise, the Prince of Anglona.

Cava Alta and Cava Baja

Cava Alta and Cava Baja are definitely two of the most characteristic and well-known streets of Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood. Historically they were frequented by visitors to the town and Court, who stayed in their lodges and inns. Posada de la Villa, which was the only flour mill in Madrid before becoming the Court’s first inn, is still standing today and is now a restaurant with a traditional roasting oven. 

If you are looking for restaurants and tapas bars, you are in the right place. Yes, these two streets continue to be popular places to eat and drink, centuries later…

Museum of San Isidro

If you haven’t been to the Museum of San Isidro: The Origins of Madrid, it’s about time you visited. And if you went before 2017, when it was restored and new rooms were added, get ready to see something completely different. 

This has become one of our favorite museums in the city and the most enjoyable way to learn about the region’s 500,000 years of history. The permanent exhibition is divided into three parts: Before Madrid, Mayrit-Madrid, and San Isidro. 

In this museum you will also find the “Well of the Miracle.” According to tradition, San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, miraculously made water rise to the top of this well to save his son from drowning.

Basílica of San Francisco el Grande

Like the Bishop’s Chapel, the 18th-century church of San Francisco el Grande was hidden from the eyes of locals and visitors for many years. The last pieces of scaffolding were removed in 2006 after more than three decades of restoration work! 

We’re talking about the interior, because from the outside, its size makes it difficult to go unnoticed… In fact, according to what we read inside the church, its dome, which measures 190 feet (58 meters) high and 108 feet (33 meters) in diameter, is the third largest in Christendom. 

When you go in, once you’re done marveling at the dome, do not forget to stop at the first chapel on the left, where a painting by Goya has been preserved: The preaching of St. Bernardino de Siena before Alfonso V of Aragon.

Las Vistillas Gardens

We go now to another green space, Las Vistillas, which is among our favorite gardens and parks in Madrid. As you can tell by the name (vistillas = little vistas), here you will find some great views towards Almudena Cathedral and Casa de Campo park. Its elevated position on a hilltop helps. 

There is a time of year when you absolutely cannot miss this area, and it’s during the verbenas of Madrid, in the summer festivals of La Paloma, San Cayetano and San Lorenzo. It’s hard to find a place more authentically Madrid than Las Vistillas. You’ll have to get a Manila shawl or a Chulapo cap and try dancing the chotis.

El Rastro Flea Market and antique stores

Few things are more typical in Madrid than a Sunday morning at El Rastro, the capital’s street market par excellence. El Rastro is always El Rastro. La Ribera de Curtidores and Plaza de Cascorro are just two of the many streets and squares occupied by street vendors of all kinds: you can find anything from clothing to accessories, from jewelry to home decor, from second-hand magazines to antiques… 

Puerta de Toledo

In 1827, by order of Joseph Bonaparte, the last of the monumental gates of Madrid was erected: the Puerta de Toledo. It was not the first gate with this name to exist in Madrid. It had two predecessors located in the same area, although not exactly in the same place. It is not as famous as Madrid’s Puerta de Alcalá, but it also deserves a visit…

Tapas in La Latina

Yes, there is a lot of heritage in La Latina, but that’s not why most people come to this area of Madrid. On Sundays, this is where everyone ends up sooner or later, Gatos and tourists alike, maybe after a walk around El Rastro. In Madrid, this Sunday tradition is known as latineo

Cava Alta and Cava Baja and the area around the Plaza de la Paja are the “hottest.” The star dish of the neighborhood is huevos rotos, fried eggs served over French fries. The ones at Casa Lucioone of the best restaurants with Madrileño cuisine in the cityand Almendro 13 are legendary. 

But we also have to mention the Spanish tortilla from Juanalaloca and the bar at Posada de la Villa (before you enter the restaurant). And we can’t leave out the pringá de cocido (meat from a traditional stew) or the callos a la madrileña (tripe) at Malacatín, one of the most traditional eateries in Madrid. To name just a few of the most iconic spots.

Fiestas de la Paloma

Every August 11, with the arrival of the Fiestas de la Paloma, the narrow and winding streets of La Latina are transformed into a flower-filled scene where the hustle and bustle of the chotis—a uniquely Madrileño style of music and dance—intermingles with the tasting of the region’s most traditional foods. 

The epicenter of this great ode to joy is in the church of San Pedro el Real, popularly known as Iglesia de la Paloma. Its verbena is the largest in a trilogy of summer festivals that begins with San Cayetano (August 1 to 7) and San Lorenzo (August 8 to 11) before culminating in La Paloma. 

Chulapo and Chulapa attire, dances and concerts, pitchers of lemonade and plates of Spanish tortilla, streetlamps illuminating doorways and bouquets of flowers adorning facades… All this and much more happens in the center of Madrid for five days (August 11-15) that you will not want to miss.