Party’s Waning; It’s Time to Shop

THE Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid was once synonymous with hedonism. A few blocks north of Gran Vía, its mustard- and rose-colored buildings were home to many of the city's wildest clubs and bars, where sexual freedom and recreational drugs flourished in the early post-Franco years.

But now those same partygoers have returned, not to relive their youth, but to dine at upscale restaurants, shop for designer dresses and even buy baby outfits. “The neighborhood is changing — first it was bars, then restaurants, now stores,” said Eva Fuentes, 33, who recently opened Älva (Calle Divino Pastor, 23; 33-91-523-23-99) a children's shop that carries colorful Scandinavian designs. “It has the atmosphere of a little village. When I opened my shop, every neighbor came to welcome me.”

Among the first new arrivals was Wanda (Calle Manuela Malasaña, 23; 34-91-593-17-35), a cozy boutique that is the sole distributor for up-and-coming designers like Micco, a Madrid label that makes one-of-a-kind pieces like a navy-blue trapeze dresses (244 euros, or $351 at $1.44 to the euro). Wanda also carries men's wear, including a green military-style jacket from Boxfresh, a small British label, on sale for 89 euros.

Two doors over, Paula Natali, 33, opened Delishoes (Calle Manuela Malasaña, 21; 34-91-591-68-88), which specializes in shoes from her native Italy and her adopted Spain, including a pair of delicate, strappy sandals from the Madrid label S.ALBA, recently on sale for 85 euros.

Young Spanish designers can also be found at Biscuit (Calle Divino Pastor, 15; 34-91-591-62-75;, a cute boutique with lilac walls. Brands include Muka, which makes a blousey women's T-shirt (37 euros) and a silk-crepe wrap dress for 144 euros, as well as men's graphic design T-shirts from 20 euros.

Not all the designers are new. TheThe (Calle Velarde, 1, Local 3; 34-91-445-38-50) carries vintage duds and hats, mostly from the 1970s and '80s. Recent finds included a Pop Art minidress (23 euros) and 1950s-style fedoras (starting at 15 euros). And at Antigua Casa Crespo (Calle Divino Pastor, 29; 34-91-521-56-54), the Grabayo family have been sewing their own cotton and silk espadrilles since 1863. (Princess Letizia of Asturias, the wife of the heir apparent to the Spanish throne, wears a pair.) Sandals start at 6.50 euros; wedge-heeled styles with striped nautical cotton are 27 euros.

Despite all the stylish new boutiques, the narrow streets of Malasaña are still home to some of the best bars in town. The former heart of La Movida Madrileña — the cultural movement that marked Spain's transition to democracy — hasn't completely lost its nightlife edge.

The rock 'n' roll set heads to La Vaca Austera (Calle de la Palma, 20;, where Madrileños of all ages dance to early punk and tongue-in-cheek 1960s pop. Those seeking a mellower vibe flock to Pepe Botella (Calle de San Andrés, 12; 34-91-522-43-09), a bistrolike pub near the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, where the action keeps going to the wee hours.

“In two years, what a difference!” said Javier Villar, 35, one of the owners of Wanda. “It's a resurgence. It's like a little SoHo now.”

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