The barrio of Lavapiés lies south of the city centre. Once the Jewish and Moorish neighbourhood the name lavapiés being translated as Foot-Wash where people would come and have their feet washed ritually.
A great place to visit while in Madrid offering an enjoyable stroll in a non-touristy neighbourhood of Madrids Alternative barrio. In the morning you can stop for coffee and breakfast in one of the many cafés around the area. Just walk along Calle Argumosa (the main drag in Lavapiés) and you will find a table on the terrace to enjoy the Morning sun and something to eat. Keep walking, follow your nose and eventually youll find something to suit your taste. Small side streets offer a variety of cafes for morning coffee not all are open before 12 pm. A lot of the cafés and bars are more suited for night time fun. Calle Argumosa has the advantage of being situated so that you can choose a sunny side of the street or a shaded side of the street.
Today Lavapiés offers a labyrinth of streets to explore which are full of cafés and restaurants of many different types and themes. If you want Indian food Lavapiés is the right barrio. Calle Ave Maria offers a good selection of Indian restaurants as well as Spanish restaurants.
Walking up the hill, away from Plaza Lavapiés on Calle Ave Maria you have a choice of simple bars for drinking or restaurants also offering terraces or spacious seating inside. friendly welcomes and comfortability is offered in Taberna Viva Chapata where you can drink and eat Bocadillos (sandwiches). Next door is the famous and older Nuevo Café Barbiera which is spacious and very popular with the locals.
In summer dont imagine everywhere has air-conditioning. If they do, they will advertise it to get customers inside. There is often a place to find that offers the shade of trees on the terrace and when seated and a cold drink in hand, the heat isnt so bad its Spain.
If you really want a night out where you can explore a few bars and find out whats happening on the music scene and in the lovcal art-world, then Lavapiés is the right area. Visit any of the bars round and about and you will have the feeling that you are off the beaten track of tourist haunts. Left wing may be out of fashion but the area buzzes with the feeling of creativity, alternatives and artists; writers,poets,painters and self-defined artists like to hang out in Lavapiés at night.
You will also notice that most of the bars are covered in information posters and flyers. Info about local bands, shows and theatre events are all over the walls. Calle Argumosa is a favourite for buskers playing guitar and singing most of them are regulars and can play a pretty entertaining tune.
Point; in days gone by, people from Other Areas of Madrid would warn people that Lavapiés is dangerous at night. Muggers,robbers and blaggards galore. Not really true anymore; the police doing an excellent job of combating street crime in Madrid, the streets are safe to walk for the self aware tourist who doesnt advertise her or himself. Staying away from short-cuts through the back streets late at night is sensible in any city and all will be well.
The locals in Lavapiés are a friendly working class folk and welcome people of all nationalities and backgrounds.