Malasaña has all the hallmarks of areas dubbed trendy - dirty streets, plenty of graffiti (some great, some dire) and with a disturbing number of prostitutes. The area is well known as Madrid's hipster hive, rammed full of colourful cocktail bars and more burger joints than there are cows in Spain. But the style and number of great stores is remarkable. Here are a few:
A narrow shop stacked with delights, from handmade cards and patterned paper to clever DIY kits to make books and kitchenwares. The artwork of Lady Desidia, who pops up all over town, features heavily, most remarkably in her incredible light boxes, which showcase the carefully drawn Manga-style women of her pieces. A must visit.
Despite describing itself as a 'concept store', this little shop decked out in neon string is unpretentious and fun to browse. Dominated by clothing, there's plenty of clever designs and Anna quickly snares a tortoiseshell necklace and a handmade leather purse and returns later for a hand painted plate. It hosts great tunes too, with Emiliana Torrini's catchy Jungle Drum getting me dancing.
Specialising in clothes and bizarrely, jewellery featuring Playmobil characters, this light, airy store sucks away time as you browse its wares. Lady Desidia's light boxes make another appearance, as well as jars with lights within them shining through images of trees and plenty of other great ideas to inspire. Anna snaffles some earrings with lightening bolts on.
Away from Malasaña, this tiny record store and book shop is a must visit. It features an excellent selection of new vinyl from US alt country to a small but incisive collection of African compilations (an Afrobeat Airwaves LP could not be left in the shop). The store is a bit of a nerd's supermarket - everything from fanzines, lomography cameras, comics, and items with pictures of lomography cameras on complement the music. But it's well presented and does not feel like the standard issue quirky gift store evident elsewhere in Madrid and in London.
But Madrid is well worth a visit for its independent stores alone, and that's before you get to its world famous galleries, great bars, the buzzy San Miguel food market and grand opera house, in which Antony & the Johnsons put on a mesmerising performance while we were in town. Have I missed any? Feel free to comment below.