A Glimpse Inside Madrid's Most Historic Shops
Capas Seseña, Madrid | © Juan Antonio Segal / Flickr
Unlike many cities around the world, Madrid has managed to retain some of its most historic shops, from haberdasheries and cape shops to shops selling fans, pastries and hats. Businesses over a century old in the city often have a golden plaque on the pavement outside, so keep an eye out while walking around for more of Madrid’s historic gems.
Casa de Diego
Casa de Diego, with its prime location right on the Puerta del Sol, has been selling beautiful hand-made fans, umbrellas, parasols and walking sticks since 1823 (before that, the shop had been on the nearby Calle del Carmen since 1800). It is where Spanish ladies and gentlemen go to buy their essential accessories – from mother-of-pearl fans to elegant umbrellas.
If you see a queue snaking out of a shop and down the street just off Plaza Mayor, chances are it will be people waiting in line to buy some espadrilles from Casa Hernanz. This wood-fronted shop has window displays of hundreds of different types of the rope-soled shoe, which it has been making since 1840. Whether you want wedges, flats, or men’s and children’s varieties, the options are endless – just prepare to wait a while if you arrive in summer (or better still, stock up in winter to beat the queues).
This wonderful hat shop has been furnishing the heads of Madrileños from its Plaza Mayor shop since 1896. There is a wide range of options for men, women and children, from the flat caps traditionally worn during the celebrations of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro, in May, to straw hats, military hats and sun hats for children.
Mercería Almacén de Pontejos
A small area around the Plaza de Pontejos, just behind the Puerta del Sol, is home to Madrid’s traditional textile neighbourhood, home to shops that have barely changed in well over a century. One such shop is Mercería Almacén de Pontejos, founded in 1913 as a one-stop shop for anything dressmakers and crafters might need, from buttons and thread to zips, wool and sewing accessories. Today, the shop is run by the fourth generation of the Ubillos family.
Possibly one of the only shops dedicated to capes in the world, Capas Seseña has been making wonderful Spanish capes since 1901. Their stylish yet traditional designs, made by hand by Spanish artisans, have graced the shoulders of the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Bruce Springsteen and Pablo Picasso, who, rumour has it, asked to be buried in a Seseña cape. Today you can pick up traditional woollen capes alongside more modern designs, such as bomber jacket-style capes and metallic jacket capes.
Just try to walk past the tantalising window displays of Casa Mira, holding stacks of turrón, a Spanish style of nougat that is especially popular at Christmastime, without pressing your nose to the window in childlike wonder. The shop, founded in 1842 by Luis Mira, is a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth. Everything is hand-made and there is an excellent range of traditional sweets and biscuits, as well as their famous turrón.
Antigua Pastelería del Pozo
Bakery, Spanish, $$$
In a little alley just off the Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s oldest bakery, the Antigua Pastelería del Pozo. Founded in 1830, the bakery retains original features like its marble counter and vintage till. It is famous for its pastries, from flaky empanadas to sticky, sweet napolitanas (Spanish croissant-like pastries).