With El Rastro flea market, the tapas, the festival of La Paloma, Las Vistillas Gardens and much more, this fun-loving area of Madrid is a must for to
Info and history
Art and culture
Food and drink
Leisure and nightlife
Sitting right in the heart of Madrid and lacking clear-cut boundaries, La Latina is bordered by other attractive areas which you can also take a look at: Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid), Sol-Gran Vía, Lavapiés and Madrid Río Park.
The narrow and winding streets of this irregularly laid-out area, mostly dating back to the Middle Ages, usually lead onto a square. Most of them lay outside the Medieval walled village and provided accommodation to a great many merchants who sold their goods at the market. This commercial tradition still echoes in several street and square names, such as Plaza de la Cebada (Barley Square), where the farmers’ market used to be held, Plaza de los Carros (Carriage Square), Plaza de la Paja (Straw Square), or even El Rastro (owing its name to the blood trail of the old slaughterhouse), the city’s best-known flea market.
The neighbourhood was named after writer and humanist Beatriz Galindo, one of the most relevant personalities of the fifteenth century, who was often referred to as ‘La Latina’ because she was remarkably skilled in Latin. Actually, she was the tutor of Queen Isabella the Catholic and her children. Along with her husband, she established a hospital on Calle Toledo, next to Plaza de la Cebada, which came to be known as ‘Hospital de La Latina’.
Here are some of the top tourist and cultural attractions you shouldn’t miss when visiting La Latina.
Built in the eighteenth century, this basilica boasts one of Europe’s largest domes, which, at 58 metres high and 33 metres in diameter, crowns the rotunda. Its museum houses an important collection of paintings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Museum of San Isidro provides an account of Madrid’s archaeological resources and the material, social and spiritual heritage of the various civilisations that have lived here. Plus, there’s the collection of works of art and objects linked to the worship of Saint Isidore the Farmer. The museum’s collection encompasses all cultural periods from the Palaeolithic Age to the present day.
Dating back to the days following the Peninsular War, Puerta de Toledo gate wasn’t the first one with this name to have existed in Madrid: other two used to stand in the same area. Designed by Antonio López Aguado, it was finished in 1827.
When visiting Madrid, you must definitely stroll down El Rastro flea market, the main feature of this commercial area and one of the city’s top attractions.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, El Rastro (Spanish word for ‘trail’) owes its name to the trail left by the cattle hides dragged from the nearby slaughterhouse along Ribera de Curtidores to the tanneries that used to line up this steep street.
The narrow squares and alleyways of this roughly triangular area, lying within the limits of Calle de Toledo, Calle de Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, stretch from Plaza de Cascorro to Ribera de Curtidores. Tourists and locals usually venture down streets like San Cayetano, Fray Ceferino González, Carlos Arniches and Mira el Río, or squares such as General Vara de Rey and Campillo del Mundo Nuevo, hunting for bargains.
On Sundays and bank holidays, the area is packed with stalls where you can browse through a broad range of products, from new or second-hand clothes, fashion jewellery and trinkets to pieces of furniture and antiques, second-hand records and more. And, if feeling a bit peckish after a bustling morning at El Rastro, treat yourself to a tasty snack at one of the traditional taverns scattered all over La Latina.
La Latina’s dining scene means one thing above all: tapas. This centrally located neighbourhood is a magnet to locals and tourists alike, who happily come here to have their fix of bite-size Spanish food. The area is home to modern bars and traditional taverns, where you can sip your favourite drink (national and imported ales, wines from Spain’s diverse designations of origin or refreshing sangria) while savouring a couple of absolutely delicious tapas. There’s something for everyone; you can choose from a wealth of different recipes of mouth-watering croquettes or go for Madrid’s ubiquitous classics: deep-fried squid, grilled pig’s ear, patatas bravas (cubes of potato in spicy tomato sauce) or boquerones (anchovies) in vinegar, alongside more innovative snacks.
A great deal of hotspots for dining out are to be found in this area, especially on Sundays and holidays, when El Rastro is open. The Cava Alta and Cava Baja streets, which used to be home to inns and guest houses, are now part of a tourist-packed area where you can sample possibly some of Madrid’s best huevos rotos (fried eggs with potato and chorizo sausage).
You can also enjoy the privileged views from the terraces of Las Vistillas. Foodies will have a great time in the squarish area bounded by Carros, Puerta de Moros, Humilladero and San Andrés squares, as well as in Plaza de la Paja or the handsome Calle del Nuncio, where locals meet for tapas.
La Latina never sleeps. In this pulsing nightlife spot of Madrid, taverns, bars, pubs and nightclubs fill up with revellers partying late into the night.
No trip to Madrid would be complete without a taste of the city’s most traditional festivals – verbenas. La Latina’s calendar is packed with celebrations in August. The feasts of Saint Cajetan and Our Lady of the Dove are on 7 and 15 August, respectively, and the verbena of Saint Lawrence, in nearby Lavapiés, takes place on 10 August. Have fun listening to open-air concerts and taking part in raffles and games of skill, as streets decked out with garlands and lanterns set the scene for city dwellers to promenade proudly dressed in folk costumes. Take to the streets donning a chulapo hat or a Manila shawl, and move to the rhythm of Madrid’s typical dance, the chotis.