Colonia de la Prensa: South Madrid's oasis of calm
Colonias were designed as mini neighbourhoods of low-rise homes dotted around Madrid. Madrid’s colonias offer all the peace of village life coupled with the convenience of city living. Residents of these peaceful havens are set away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, but close enough to enjoy all the benefits the capital has to offer. Perhaps one of the city's most popular Colonias is Colonia de la Prensa, a long-standing residential area in the Carabanchel neighbourhood.
Built in the early 20th century, it was initially conceived as a complex of holiday villas for a group of journalists and writers known as Los Cincuenta. It was designed in 1905 by the architect Felipe Mario López Blanco, construction began in 1913 and the inauguration was graced by the presence of King Alfonso XIII.
It originally featured 65 villas with private gardens, some of which are still in situ. They are now interspersed with more modern low-rise housing and even some blocks of flats, which replaced the original hotels when urban speculation peaked in the 80s.
It is now widely considered one of the best examples of modernist residential architecture in Madrid. The main access to the Colonia is flanked by two historical towers in the modernist style; back in the day, these towers housed the doorman service, access control, telephone booth and a tram stop. The entry is still adorned by a ceramic plaque featuring the name of the Colonia.
Madrid's very own SoHo
Carabanchel, where the Colonia is located, has changed beyond recognition in the last few years. Once a working-class area in south Madrid, it is now the thriving hub of a creative, bohemian movement that has attracted over 130 artists at more than 40 studios, craft workshops and creative spaces.
Just a few years back, this was an industrial area, home to printing houses, dental cooperatives, textile manufacturers and factories making "isocarros", small three-wheeled vans that you don't see any more. Now, it is buzzing with young creatives who have migrated to Madrid's periphery to practice their art. So cool is Carabanchel, in fact, that it has come to be known as Madrid's version of SoHo.
It comes as no surprise then that Carabanchel has been listed by Time Out magazine as the world's third coolest neighbourhood in 2023. It was propelled to the magazine's top three by the praises of the people living there, who are keen to point out all the interesting, authentic, vibrant spots Carabanchel has to offer.
Despite its transformation, Carabanchel has remained true to its roots thanks to traditional, long-standing haunts like Casa Enriqueta, known for its crispy fried intestines, Patane and its home-brewed craft beers and La Grifería, with its exclusive selection of wines. That's not all though - the rooftop at El Observatorio Musical offers both panoramic views and musical serenades and the whole neighbourhood comes to life for the San Isidro festival.
Unique in Spain, this primarily brick-built villa is strikingly embellished with a blend of Arabic and modernist decorative motifs. It benefits from a superb location, occupying a rare double plot of over 1,000 m2 in Madrid’s most historic residential enclave.