by Yolanda, MAKE UP

Pedro Almodóvar’s Madrid: top 10 film locations to visit


The city of Madrid is no less essential to the films of Pedro Almodóvar than kinky sex, crimes of passion and gasp-inducing plot twists. Though born out in Castilla-La Mancha – Don Quixote country – Almodóvar made his punkish early movies here in the capital, where the death of General Franco gave rise to a buckwild creative scene.

Later, soberer melodramas like the recent Julieta (2016) have shown his adoptive hometown in a more nostalgic, melancholy light. Now one of the most widely admired auteurs in world cinema, the director has become a Spanish brand, says Sacha Azcona, while his Madrid stands as the centre of the 「Almodóvarian universe」.

Azcona is the author of a new travel guide, El Madrid de Almodóvar, that maps out walking routes around locations used in the director’s films. 「But I wanted to go a step further,」 he says. 「Once you see where a scene was shot, where do you go next?」

So, Azconaalso flags up surrounding landmarks, adds notes on local history, and recommends spots to eat and drink nearby. For now, the book is only available in Spanish, though he hopes an English translation will follow soon. In the meantime, we used his guide to visit 10 vital locations in Almodóvar’s Madrid.

Cuartel de Conde-Duque

Carmen Maura – first among the muses known in Spain as 「Almodóvar’s women」 – plays a transexual actress who stops in the street on a hot summer night and demands of a sanitation worker: 「Hose me down! Don』t be shy!」 That scene from Law Of Desire (1987) was shot against the grand portico of Conde-Duque Cultural Centre, a hub of galleries and performance spaces in the former barracks of the Royal Guard. Azcona particularly recommends the autumn jazz festival (2018 dates to be confirmed).
• Calle Conde Duque 11,

Plaza de Chueca

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) – Almodóvar’s first domestic megahit – captured the grubbiness of the Chueca district in that era. A young Antonio Banderas – playing the lovesick kidnapper of a former porn star – struts across the main square wearing a goofy false moustache, and robs pills from a local drug dealer. There is no such shady behaviour these days – the plaza has been thoroughly scrubbed up to form the core of Madrid’s hyper-stylish gay quarter. One dusty holdover from the past is Taberna de Ángel Sierra (C/Gravina 11), the 100-year-old bodega where Almodóvar regulars Marisa Paredes and Kiti Mánver chat over a beer in his mid-period movie The Flower of My Secret (1995). Azcona also notes that the nearby Panta Rhei (C/Hernán Cortés 7) is 「by far Madrid’s best art and design bookstore」.

Restaurante Viridiana

Named after the 1961 film by one of Almodóvar’s idols, Luis Buñuel, this Madrid institution has been his favourite place to eat for more than 40 years. Owner Abraham García is as famous in this city as the director himself, and Almodóvar gave him a cameo in The Flower Of My Secret as a waiter caught up in a student protest. García’s cooking tends toward classic Castilian offal dishes, but Azcona always goes for the creamy rice with boar shoulder, and the orange blossom flan. Azcona also flags up the Galician-style home cooking of Taberna Maceiras (C/Huertas 66, a few blocks away, where, for a fraction of Garcia’s prices (shared platters of rice €7pp), you can load up on brothy rice, tetilla cheese croquettes and clams in sweet white albariño wine.
• Calle de Juan de Mena 14,

Museo Chicote bar

This 1930s-vintage art deco lounge is famous for its past patrons – Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren and Madrid bar-hopper Ernest Hemingway (who inspired the papa doble, a house cocktail of rum and grapefruit). Almodóvar fans will also know the bar from Broken Embraces (2009), and the scene where Blanca Portillo gulps down a large gin before revealing dark secrets to blind film-maker Lluís Homar and their love child Tamar Novas.
• Cocktails €10–€14, Calle Gran Vía 12,

Tablao Villa Rosa

Almodóvar shot a key scene from High Heels (1991) in this century-old wine bar: Panamanian pop idol Miguel Bosé plays a Madrid judge-turned-drag queen named Lethal, belting out the torch song Un año de amor. Today you』ll see flamenco on the stage, while sharing paella, garlic prawns and salted green peppers. It’s an elegant tablao with Andalucian flourishes all over the tiles, windows and woodwork.
• Show and drink €35, show and set menu €65, Plaza de Santa Ana 15,

Circulo de Bellas Artes

Almodóvar’s masterpiece All About My Mother (1999) was mostly filmed in Barcelona, but hinges on a tragedy shot around this emblematic Madrid building – the arts centre where Cecilia Roth’s teenage son is run over and killed after a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. The interior has elegant rooms for plays, screenings and exhibitions but Azcona sends visitors straight up to the Azotea rooftop bar for sunset drinks and a 「360 degree view of Madrid.」
• Calle Alcalá 42,

Hall of Realms

In the early scenes of Live Flesh (1997), poor Penelope Cruz goes into labour on the chaotic night of 1970’s Francoist crackdown, and gives birth on a bus right outside the Salón de Reinos, or Hall of Realms. An ostentatious 17th-century banquet venue built for King Philip IV, it has lately been annexed to the neighbouring Prado Museum. Norman Foster is now restoring the salon to glory as part of that world-renowned art gallery, due to reopen next year.

Teatro Lara

Almodovar’s second movie, Labyrinth of Passion (1982), was a loopy love story about a nymphomaniac pop star (Cecilia Roth) and the gay son of a Middle Eastern emperor (Imanol Arias). Filming in the Malasaña district at the height of La Movida – the localised eruption of sex, drugs and art that followed decades of Franconian repression – he shot a scene inside this velvety 19th-century performance space. Described by Azcona as 「a chocolate box」, the venue now hosts intimate indie gigs and fringe theatre shows.
• Calle Corredera Baja of San Pablo 15,

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery

Even the lightest Almodóvar comedies tend to sneak in a murder or suicide. The vitality of his films has something to do with mortality. No fewer than three of them – High Heels, Kika and Live Flesh – pay a visit to Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, the sprawling necropolis on the outskirts of Madrid, where more than five million corpses outnumber the living population of the city. It’s free to enter, and you can see why the director is so drawn to the gloomy beauty of the place.

Bar Cock

Also seen in Broken Embraces, this splendidly named pub-club is where Tamar Novas works as a DJ in that movie. Just around the corner from its sister bar, Chicote, it’s a stately panelled drawing room that gets pretty rowdy after midnight, when even the sharp, classy veteran bartenders can be seen dancing to OMD. Azcona says he prefers to drink at Toni2 (C/del Almte 9)after hours, a wonderful nearby piano bar where trendies and oldies crowd around for pre-dawn singalongs.
• Calle Reina 16, on Facebook

Where to stay

Hotel Indigo Madrid (doubles from €165) is very Almodóvar in its colour schemes, with super-bright decor, murals and photography. It’s on the Gran Via close to the bars mentioned, and to Almodóvar’s former stomping ground of Malasana and Chueca.

The very funky Axel Hotel (doubles from €89) is a gay-friendly, hyper-colourful four-star with neon signage in the rooms and a rooftop pool and bar. It’s easy to imagine one of Almodóvar’s characters staying or drinking here.

Arthouse cinema and avenue of stars

Cine Dore (Filmoteca Espana) is a classic art nouveau arthouse cinema that often shows Almodovar movies in rep. It features in a few of his movies too – notably Talk To Her. Almodóvar actor Javier Cámera used to work here as an usher.

Madrid has its own Hollywood-style 「avenue of stars」, along Calle de Martín de los Heros, between the Renoir arthouse cinema and the Ocho Y Media film bookshop and cafe. Almodóvar and most of his regular players have stars on the street.

Getting there

Many airlines fly from the UK. Among them are Ryanair (Birmingham, Newcastle, Stansted, Manchester, Glasgow); easyJet (Bristol, Luton, Gatwick, Liverpool, Edinburgh); and Norwegian (Gatwick).

Spain holidays Europe holidays Top 10s City breaks Pedro Almodóvar features


  • Yolanda
  • 2018-03-12 14:45:19
  • 11



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