Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Madrid and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Mi Calle (My Street) (1960)
“Authentically evokes Madrid in the 1920s.”—Carlos Aguilar, author, The Spanish Cinema Guide. Focusing on the personalities living on one street, director Edgar Neville illustrates the social and political upheavals of pre-war Spain on a local, bittersweet level.

La Flor De Mi Secreto (The Flower of My Secret) (1995)
A Pedro Almodóvar comedy about the unhappy love life of a successful romance novelist; features a colorful cast of eccentrics and beautiful scenes of Madrid; other Almodóvar films set in Madrid include High Heels (1991), Kika (1993), and Live Flesh (1997).

El Día De La Bestía (Day of the Beast) (1995)
A comedic horror film, which follows a fallen priest and a good-hearted but violent heavy metal fan as they wreak gory havoc all over Madrid in an attempt to save the world from the Antichrist.

Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (1997)
Remade as Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise and set in New York, the original version by director Alejandro Amenábar stars Eduardo Noriega as the man without a face in this psychological thriller; features a spectacular scene of Gran Vía emptied of traffic.

Books

“Luces de Bohemia,” by Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1920)
Evocative play by one of Spain’s most influential dramatists. Bohemian Lights unfolds on the streets of a pre-Civil War Madrid rife with grotesque characters, social inequality, political unrest, and hypocrisy; available in English in Valle-Inclán Plays: One (1990).

La Colmena, by Camilo José Cela (1951)
Early novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author; evokes the harsh reality of post-war Madrid through the lives of more than 100 characters who pass through a neighborhood café; published in English as The Hive.

The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War, by Ernest Hemingway (1969)
Inspired by the author’s time as a correspondent in war-torn Madrid. The novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) evokes the guerrilla warfare that took place in the mountains just outside of Madrid, while The Sun Also Rises (1926) finds the Lost Generation ending their Spanish odyssey in a pre-war Madrid of good times, fine eating, and heavy drinking.

Captain Alatriste, by Arturo Perez Reverte (1996)
The adventures of a dashing swordsman-for-hire in 17th-century Madrid; fans often follow Alatriste’s tracks through modern-day Madrid de los Austrias; made into a 2006 feature film.

Music

Compilations:

Alaska y Sus Canciones de la Movida, by Alaska
Alaska was a star of the movida madrileña, the alternative socio-cultural movement of art, music, nightlife, and decadence that exploded in the years after Franco’s death. Inspired by punk, New Wave, and electronic pop, these classic songs capture that heady era.

Devil Came to Me, by Dover
Backing catchy pop melodies and English lyrics with thunderous, grunge-inspired guitars, this album propelled the Madrid-based group to European fame.

Entre Dos Aguas, by Paco de Lucía
One of the most revered albums by the Spanish guitar maestro; when it was released in 1973, the title song marked the beginning of “new flamenco” by bringing the guitar to the forefront and adding congas, bass, and other instruments.

Grandes Éxitos, by José Mercé
One of the most popular cantaor (flamenco singers) working today; singing since a child, this Madrid-based artist brings a passion to his performances that enthralls both flamenco purists and mainstream fans.

Siempre en Madrid/Always in Madrid, by various artists
Produced by the Madrid Tourism Office; a series of original songs blending traditional Madrid melodies with jazz and flamenco.

La Verbena de la Paloma, by Tómas Bretón
One of the greatest zarzuelas of all time; zarzuela is a traditional form of Madrid operetta, which originated in the 17th century.

Classic Songs:

From an 18th-century orchestral classic to an 80s pop anthem, these Spanish songs were inspired by Madrid:

1. “La Puerta de Alcalá” (The Gate of Alcalá), Ana Belén y Victor Manuel
2. “Retirada Nocturna de Madrid” (“Procession of the Military Night Watch in Madrid”), Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini
3. “Te Dejo Madrid” (“I Leave You Madrid”), Shakira
4. “Ultima Mirada” (“The Last Look”), Juan Sin Miedo
5. “Vuelvo a Madrid” (“Return to Madrid”), Ismael Serrano
6. “Yo Me Bajo en Atocha” (“I Get Off in Atocha”) and “Pongamos Que Hablo de Madrid” (“Let’s Say I’m Talking about Madrid”), Joaquín Sabina

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