Our Favourite Madrid Streets: A Guide to Calle Cava Baja, La Latina
Calle Cava Baja, a buzzing thoroughfare in the La Latina district at the very heart of Spain’s emblematic capital…
La Cava Baja is one of the most lively and beautiful streets in all of Madrid. It boasts an innately cheerful atmosphere. This charming street is where many of the best traditional and popular tapas bars and restaurants are located, a veritable one-stop shop, ideal for enjoying some of the best local flavours and excellent wines.
The La Latina area, just down from Plaza Mayor, is located right in the heart of Madrid only a few minutes from Palacio, Sol and Lavapiés. It has its own metro station and several bus stops with excellent connections to the rest of the city. Cava Baja is flanked by a series of intensely colourful buildings which represent quintessentially Madrileño architecture and is also home to several popular street markets.
– Rod Jamieson, Director of Sales & Operations, Madrid & Barcelona
Local legend has it that this corner of the city is where the Moorish people took refuge when the Citadel was taken over by the Christians in 1085. That would explain the warren of atmospheric taverns scattered throughout this area – the ideal hiding place to spend a few hours in good company!
Today Calle Cava Baja is lined on both sides with fantastic bars and restaurants (both contemporary and of the traditional taverna variety), coffee lounges and a friendly local pharmacy. The street is one way for cars, meaning it is ever popular with pedestrians, which makes for a lively atmosphere.
Eat + Drink
Calle Cava Baja is synonymous with great tapas – its siren song travels beyond the reaches of Madrid, with people making a pilgrimage from far and wide to indulge in a Cava Baja “tapas crawl” ‘till late. It is exceedingly rare to come across quite so many fantastic restaurants condensed into such a compact, walkable area. The choice of great eateries can be overwhelming, with many people opting to pop in to a range of establishments for an icy cold caña (a small beer) and one or two tapas or pinchos in each (though it can be tempting to stay and work through every item on the menu).
Here are some of our tried and tested favourites, to steer you in the right direction (although in this part of town, you really can’t go wrong). Choose one or try them all!
Casa Lucas, No. 30
This homely wine bar is perhaps more intimate than its rambunctious neighbours, with a tip top and ever-rotating wine list and homemade tapas. It gets packed later on, so head here early to put your name down for a much-coveted table. Friendly service, low lighting and lovely acoustics – foodie heaven! The Madrid is a firm favourite (scrambled eggs with onion and morcilla, sprinkled with pine nuts and a zingy tomato sauce), as is their classic, lighter-than-air tortilla.
Txakolina offers a real taste of the Basque Country, serving a variety of extremely popular pinchos (or pintxos); tasty morsels whereby a variety of (often intricate) toppings are skewered neatly atop a slice of baguette.
Their ubiquitous calabacin relleno de meluza has established something of a cult following (salt baked cod, enrobed in paper thin ribbons of courgette). The goats cheese and honey pinchos are delicious, with the viscous honey taking the sharp edge off the creamy goats cheese.
You may need to elbow your way to the bar, which is frequently 4-deep, though the friendly staff manage the crowds with ease and a personal touch (and ring an enormous cow bell when your order is ready).
Tempranillo, No. 38
Equal parts low-key local taverna and chic wine bar. Showcasing a formidable wall to wall selection of (exclusively Spanish) wines, Tempranillo is another culinary gem! They serve beautifully executed classic tapas with a few mouthwatering pinchos of their own (think sweet roasted apples drizzled over creamy foie). Again, seating space is limited so hedge your bets if you would like a perch and head along nice and early.
La Camarilla, No. 21
This cosy bistro-style establishment is lovely for a black-as-midnight cortado first thing in the morning (usually served alongside a delicious slice of pan con tomato drizzled with flavoursome olive oil and sprinkled with huge sea salt flakes). It gets mighty lively in the evening, with fantastic music and a cracking selection of wines from throughout the land.
Taberna Matritum, No. 17 (on neighbouring Calle Cava Alta)
This rustic tavern is set back from the hustle and bustle of the main street itself, and feels more polished than many of its lively neighbours. The house sommelier is absolutely fantastic (it isn’t easy to choose from over 400 different wines!) and the food is inevitably wonderful. Try the gratin of scallops served with a viscous and tasty cream of Cava. Their five-cheese patatas bravas sharing plate is legendary too!
Still hungry? Some other top options include tiny La Concha (No. 7) and Casa Lucio (at No. 35) – both serving traditional Madrileño fare (the latter is a known celeb-hangout and has even served royalty. Booking is recommended).
Angelika Cinema Lounge, No. 24
For something a bit different, pop into Angelika, thus named after the legendary Angelika Film Theatre in New York. This friendly café / bar space was conceived for film buffs and movie lovers to congregate over coffee and cake (or something stronger). Iconic films are projected throughout and all of the staff are professional actors (there is even an old-school dvd rental service!) Regular events include Champions League Football Nights, educational talks from industry professionals, talent nights and heated debates galore. A unique gem!
See + Do
Treasure hunters, rejoice! The Rastro Market (which means “the trail”) takes place every Sunday and on Public Holidays spread throughout Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo (close to La Latina station). Selling all manner of weird and wonderful gems from paintings to ancient collectable books, vintage clothes and unique antiques, El Rastro is Madrid’s oldest and most iconic open-air flea market (and a real institution for locals). Established long before the dozens of quirky hipster markets sweeping throughout the capital, the cacophony of sights and sounds are an unmissable element of life in La Latina. Meander through the narrow, angular passageways between stalls and observe all of the colourful characters and vendors before collapsing with a coffee and a newspaper at La Camarilla.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Madrid in mid-August, don’t miss the incredible festivities in celebration of the “Virgen de la Paloma”, when Chulos and Chulapas (men and women in bright traditional costume) flood the streets of La Latina for a wild 10-day long party. This incredible local fiesta begins on the 15th August and is truly one of the most striking events to witness. An ancient painting of La Paloma is paraded through the streets by a band of local firemen, while the Chulapos shout out witty compliments (to the virgin, not the firemen). Don’t miss the incredible traditional dancing, free concerts and above all amazing barrio atmosphere.
Can’t get enough of this quirky, vibrant inner-city barrio? Lucas Fox have a number of fabulous properties for sale within minutes of Calle Cava Baja, simply ideal for living in true Madrileno style (and for daily tapas crawls..)
Fantastic designer 3-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city, minutes away from the Plaza Mayor and the San Miguel Market
Apartment, 3 Bedrooms, 3 Bathrooms
Size 150m² (1,614ft²)
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Apartment, 4 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms
Size 270m² (2,906ft²)
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