Enter Madrid’s red light district

Just north of Gran Via, you’ll find all the leather, sex toys adult novelty items, prostitutes and hook-up bars you’ll need – whether you’re in Madrid for a few hours or several months. For wholesome distraction, however, look elsewhere. The narrow streets and tight alleys can frustrate navigation and make a sketchy space feel even more confined. A mere two blocks from my hotel, I found an “erotic boutique,” “Bears Bar” (which is not a celebration of Yogi or Winnie) and several posters advertising all manner of gratification.

So, why would you hit this neighborhood?

Aside from the obvious anonymous lust-fueled jaunts into a neighborhood designed to satisfy with minimal effort, the bars may be worth the trip. There is an evident party scene in this corner of Madrid, and it’s not limited to the Bears’ niche. After 9 PM, the restaurants and bars along Calle des Infantes [verify street name], especially, attract a young, energetic crowd. Stop by El Tigre for tapas (and be prepared to eat standing), and then crawl from one dive bar to the next … there are plenty to occupy your evening. Finally, in a drunken stupor (or, “stooper,” as a commenter on one of my previous stories put it), decide whether to hunt or pay for an evening’s companionship.

A word of caution: I’ve read that this part of town can be dangerous for accompanies women after dark. While I’ve made light of some of the risks in this neighborhood, please be smart. Both prostitution and drugs, I understand, are common just north of Gran Via. There is a cool bar scene up there, but you probably don’t want to check it out alone.

Bragging about Gran Via on its centennial

Around August last year, I was living in Valencia and went to Madrid for the weekend. As I was aimlessly walking down Gran Via — the main commercial street in Madrid’s city center — I distinctly remember thinking “I could live here”. A few months later I moved and it was one of the best decisions I made.

Being someone who lately has been repelling anything big and mercantile, it’s funny I had that thought on Gran Via, of all other places in the city.

There’s this inanely rare charm that street eludes.
It’s high-street-big-city-for-tourists bustling, but it also radiates something that pins it down as being traditionally Spanish.

Often referred to as the ‘Spanish Broadway’, perhaps it’s early 20th century buildings, no skyscrapers, and nonchalant nature dampens it’s commercial side, making it an unexpected representation of Madrid as Spain’s traditional capital.

I can’t put my finger on what exactly allures me about this street, but it’s the reason I moved here.

On the 100th anniversary of Gran Via’s conception, the newspapers splattered the history and development of the street over the last century.

Haven’t seen it in the international press, but for those interested who don’t speak Spanish, you can check out this “Madrid in Black and White” gallery of the Gran Via that takes you through its historical significance.

[Via El Mundo]