Scenic Cinema

With summer in full swing and the temperatures during the day hovering around 95 degrees, most who can will spend their time in a shady spot with a cold beverage, at the pool, or like many madrileños, simply outside of the city at the beach or in the countryside. For those of us who can’t get enough of the city life, there are still several things to make it worth our while. One seasonal treat is the rooftop theater at La Casa Encendida. The cultural center located in the ethnically diverse Lavapiés neighborhood puts on numerous art exhibits, concerts, and educational activities throughout the year, but as the thermometer rises really takes advantage of its prime real estate. The rooftop becomes home to weekend DJ sessions, concerts, and of course cinema. Every Friday at 10pm from July 2nd to August 27th movies (mostly American productions from the 80s and 90s) will be screened. 3 euros gets you in.


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Summer Music

Despite the sweltering temperatures this week, summer is still not officially here yet. But all that is soon to change, and to mark the occasion, Madrid has filled the calendar with various musical events to ring in the new season.

Starting this weekend, the festival Día de la Música brings over 30 bands to the old Madrid Matadero, or slaughterhouse (Paseo de la Chopera Metro: Legazpi).

Once the area’s center for meat processing, this enormous, industrial looking structure had been abandoned for years before being taken over by the city and turned into a cultural center. Now it lends its space to art exhibits, workshops, conferences, and of course, concerts. Its indoor and outdoor distribution allow for various acts to play at the same time (6 stages plus DJ booths), and the fun begins on Saturday the 18th with indie favorites like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Toro y Moi, and Madrid’s own Vetusta Morla. Sunday’s highlights include Lykke Li, Destroyer, Glasvegas, and Russian Red.

Besides the bands, there will be food, drinks, and a marketplace with music, crafts, and other goodies. Not to mention the beautiful weather. But the best part may be the price: 24€ for a two-day pass, 15€ for either Saturday or Sunday.

Later, on the 21st, Madrid celebrates International Music Day with a special screening of the festival’s documentary film, as well as performances by Russian Red and Supersubmarina at the historical Teatro Circo Prince (Ronda de Atocha, 35 Metro: Embajadores/Atocha).

More info:

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Tasty Tapas

Looking for something to do this weekend? Aside from the numerous and always enticing leisure and entertainment options Madrid is world famous for, this weekend offers a special treat. The Feria de la tapa is a three-day celebration of that all important spanish culinary tradition, the tapa. Typically a slice of french baguette topped with anything from cured ham and tomato to grilled vegetables to seafood – and everything in between, the spanish tapas cuisine has evolved significantly in recent years to incorporate new, different flavors and a “fusion” of various international influences.

Held at the municipal sports arena, the Palacio de los Deportes, the Feria de la tapa is free, all you have to do is pay for a cañas (small beers) between 1.20€ and 2.40€ depending on the brand, and you can roam the grounds and munch on a new delight at each stand. Restaurants from across the region gather from 12pm to 4:30pm and 8pm to midnight Friday through Sunday to offer you the widest variety of tasty tapas Madrid has to offer. Don’t miss out!

Feria de la tapa: Palacio de los Deportes, Avenida de Felipe II (Metro: Goya, O’Donnell)

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Culturally Curious

Another great thing about the springtime in Madrid are the various annual cultural events and “fairs” that open their doors and the weather warms. Two in particular are the Feria del Libro and FotoEspaña, both cheap, diverse, and great ways to get out and explore the city and its culture.

The annual book fair or Feria del Libro takes place in the iconic Retiro park, a haven for young couples out for a stroll, foreign students enjoying the sun, as well as omnipresent joggers, cyclists, and yes, rollerbladers. The park itself boasts shady garden paths, a man-made lake with corresponding monument, a sports center, and numerous hidden nooks to spend a lazy afternoon with a picnic or a good book. From May 27th to June 12th, the Feria takes over the eastern edge of the park, and booksellers from all different backgrounds set up in small stands that line the paths, hawking everything from the latest in modern photography to children’s literature to german grammar to chess strategy. A site to see if only for the variety.

Feria del Libro: Paseo del Duque de Fernán Núñez, Jardines del Retiro

Taking in a sunny afternoon at the Retiro park, home of the Feria del Libro.

PhotoEspaña is a national photography festival dedicated to bringing together the latest and best photography from both Spain and abroad. Based in Madrid, PhotoEspaña has expanded with shows in nearby Cuenca and, contradictorily enough, Lisbon. Aside from visual exhibits the festival also offers educational workshops for children and guided tours of various installations. This year’s theme, “1000 caras/0 caras/1 rostro” centers around the portrait, and the different messages that can be conveyed through the human face.

PhotoEspaña: May 31st-June 21st

Sala de exposiciones, Calle Alcalá 31 Tues-Sat: 11:00am-8:30pm, Sun: 11:am-2pm, closed Mondays

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A hidden spanish gem mixed in between the various ethnic spots of Lavapiés, Melo’s is a tiny, family-run bar/restaurant with some of the largest (and greasiest) portions of local fare. The husband-wife proprietors share the serving and cooking duties; she minds the grill while he handles the drinks and the bills.

The highlight is “La Zapatilla”, more than a foot of lacón ham (think the typical Christmas dish) smothered in fresh melted queso gallego direct from the northern regions of Spain. For less than 10 euros it alone is easily a meal for two (if not three). Other favorites include the fried empanadas, pimientos del padrón (deep fried green peppers), and the fist-sized ham croquettes. There is cold beer on tap and excellent Albariño white wine.

So bring your antacid and get there early (the place fills with locals Thursday through Saturday nights starting around 9pm), but don’t be discouraged if you are left with only a corner of the bar to lean on – one bite of the Zapatilla and it will all be worth it.

Melos: Calle Ave María 44 (Metro: Lavapiés)


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Terraza Time

Well, it’s a great time to be in Europe, and especially in Spain these days. For the sporting among us there is Roland Garros in Paris, with a strong spanish contingent headed by World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. In London tonight spanish fútbol powerhouse FC Barcelona face off with Manchester United in the final of the Champions League. Tonight there will surely be a buzz on the streets with fans packed into the bars to watch the big match, but the reality is that there has already been a certain feel to the city for a few weeks now. And it has nothing to do with soccer.

With the great weather and sunlight until 10pm, cafés and restaurants have eagerly opened up their terrazas, setting up tables outside their establishments at city squares, sidewalks, and pretty much anywhere free space is to be had. Walking down the street in the city center you can feel the energy of the people as they meet and mingle in the many squares that dot Madrid’s older neighborhoods. The city seems to come to life as the terrazas are packed from 12pm well past midnight, almost constantly surrounded by street musicians and playing children, and wrapped in a cool spring breeze. One of my favorite things to do in Madrid (and a time-honored spanish custom) is to sit out at one of these sun-soaked spots for a drink or meal and enjoy the atmosphere. The sights, sounds, and definitely smells that surround you are sure to have a relaxing and tranquil effect as you pass the hours taking in the scene.

Here are a few of my favorite spots…

Plaza 2 de Mayo (Metro: Tribunal) The center of one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods, this central square was once the site of the spanish people’s revolt against Napoleon. Surrounding the arch commemorating the event are places to find everything from moroccan food to pizza to ice cream and cocktails. Come by after 10pm for a drink before starting your night out.

Plaza Olavide (Metro: Bilbao/Quevedo) A short walk north of 2 de Mayo, Olavide is a bit more tranquil and family-frendly than its revolutionary cousin. Street music permeates the atmosphere and neighborhood families frequent the cafés that line the circular plaza, as children use the area around the fountain as a make-shift soccer pitch.

Calle Ave María (Metro: Lavapiés) This street, located in one of Madrid’s most populated immigrant neighborhoods, is a broad (and delicious) reflexion of the area’s heritage and population. Arabic tea houses, Kebab joints, and several Indian and Thai restaurants line the steep climb from the Plaza de Lavapiés, along with more traditional spanish establishments mixed in, making for a truly diverse cultural and culinary experience.

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Madrid desde arriba

A view of the Madrid skyline from atop the Circulo de Bellas Artes

The Circulo de Bellas Artes is Madrid’s cultural center, with dozens of concerts, exhibits, and interactive workshops throughout the year.  The rooftop observatory offers 360 degree views of the city as well as some impressive artwork.  Some of this month’s highlights include youth art workshops, an exhibition of Spanish photography, and a celebration of Bob Dylan on his 70th birthday, complete with a tribute concert by some of Spain’s more noted musicians.

Programs change frequently so be sure to stay updated on what’s coming out next.

Hour vary depending on the exhibit, but most run Tues-Sat: 11-2, 5-9 and Sun: 11-2.

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