by Katie Goldstein
If you’ve ever gone searching for a truly Madrid part of Madrid—with a bit of history, a decent serving of grit, and lots of character—look no further than the heart of Malasaña. There you’ll find the storied Plaza del Dos de Mayo, which, from its tumultuous beginnings two centuries ago to its infamous recent history, has been home to plenty of unrest. During a drug-ridden period in the 80s, my madrileña Spanish teacher says she wouldn’t have dared cross the square alone.
But these days it is one of the most enjoyably authentic places to go in the city. In summer, terrazas fill the plaza with metal tables and chairs, and chances are that you will have to wait for a seat. To offset all those dobles you’ll be pouring into your gut, grab something to eat at one of the two pizzerias opposite each other on the square, the inventive Maravillas or the more traditional Sandos.
The gem of the plaza is Pepe Botella, a cozy café with low lighting and seats covered in red velvet. Not only does Pepe serve great drinks all day (and night) long, it has a free WiFi connection. Since they don’t serve food, the staff doesn’t mind if you bring your own. I recommend the pine nut tarts (2.10 euros) from the bakery cater-corner on the plaza.
See map below for the places mentioned above: