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Malasaña is an area of Madrid with a creative and countercultural scene. Centred around Plaza del Dos de Mayo, it is reminiscent of Camden Town in London, the East Village in New York City, Baixa do Porto in Oporto, however despite its similarities, Malasaña is a distinct neighbourhood.
Malasaña is to the west of Chueca and to the east of Argüelles. It is surrounded by several metro stations and is a central neighbourhood of Madrid. Residents include Esperanza Aguirre, the former Governor of the Province of Madrid, amongst other politicians and several artists.
It was the center of the movida movement in late 1970s and 1980s Madrid.
Malasaña is a vibrant neighborhood full of lively bars and clubs overflowing with young people. Its streets are currently being renovated, making it a much more attractive quarter. It's one of the classic areas for partying the night away. The area's center is the Plaza del Dos de Mayo (in commemoration of a popular uprising on May 2, 1808, brutally repressed by the French troops and which started the Spanish Independence War). This plaza hosts a large festival on the same day. Botellons (a meeting of people drinking openly on the street, often before going to bars or discos) are common in this neighbourhood. Large ones were held in Plaza de dos de Mayo before the police stopped the nightly practice after a festival turned awry in 2006. Botellon´s involving up to 200 people happen and the plaza where it occurs changes depending on how the police crack down on them.
The night life is diverse in Malasaña, though the most common themes are non-pretentious style places (alternative, funk, mainstream), mixed places (including many conspicuous LGBT, which have created a gay scene distinct from that of nearby Chueca) and colourful or bohemian cafes. Unique and rather non-conspicuous locations include one or two bars for hard rock and metal, house, nudists, BDSM, gothic, Latin, classic, 1980s, hip-hop and other non-mainstream genres. The attitude of the nightlife, as opposed to the neighbours of Chueca or nearby La Latina is relaxed, unpretentious and friendly.
Commercially, Malasaña has many fashion boutiques as well as shops for design and niche market products. They are often cutting-edge shops or feature progressive designers and products. They are often economical and rarely mainstream. There are many second-hand vintage shops, used book stores and unique gift shops. Calle Espiritu Santo represents the melange of Malasaña by having, on one full block alone, a retro shop, butchers with uncommon meats, a fancy pastry shop, two vintage shops, a small florist, vegetable shop, five bars, three bohemian cafes, a retro food shop, two ethnic restaurants, two mid range restaurants and a couple more traditional bars along with two hip-hop clothing shops.
The architecture in Malasaña is rather uniform, with most buildings ranging from 4 to 6 levels, 3 to 5 windows wide, each building painted a uniform colour, almost all windows with French balconies and rare ornamentation. Rents are high for small space and some buildings are very exclusive.
Parts of the neighbourhood closer to Gran Via are frequented by the solo aspect of night life including sex clubs, sex shops and street activity. Surprisingly, drugs are rarely sold openly on the street due to police crackdowns in the early 2000s (decade). It is common for foreign women and men to illegally sell beer openly all over the neighbourhood.
Although popularly known as barrio Malasaña, it is known by residents as Maravillas (Wonders), although its official name is Universidad (University). Malasaña is named after a 15-year old girl Manuela Malasaña who once lived on San Andrés street. She was executed by the French following the uprising in 1808. Today, there is a street named in her honour very close to the roundabout Glorieta de Bilbao.
Night life venues in the area include La Vía Láctea (The Milky Way). Other classic clubs are Penta, Nasti Club, Nueva Visión, La Vaca Austera, and El Barco. Templo de Susu is a high-end retro clothing shop. Very bohemian cafes include Pepe Botella, La Paca, La Ida and Lolina. An American book shop and bar (J & J's Books and Coffee) sits on Calle Espiritu Santo near the Noviciado metro station.
It is unclear if Malasaña will maintain its alternative and hip atmosphere or if it will become more commercial and upmarket.