Some people say that Madrid really is just a pueblo (a village), and it's true if you take the city neighborhood by neighborhood. All of Madrid's barrios are wonderful in their own right, but I'm partial to Lavapiés, where I now live. I'm starting the series of Madrid walking tours in this colorful neighborhood just south of Sol (the very center of the city).
Lavapiés was home to the city's Jews until their expulsion in 1492; in the centuries that followed, Spanish workers from outside Madrid made their home in the neighborhood. In the 20th century, an increasingly older Spanish population populated the area, and little by little buildings were abandoned and left in states of serious disrepair. Sometime during the 1980s and 90s, young people caught on to the cheap rents (and squats) and started moving into the historical, but run-down, buildings. In the last decade of the 20th century and what's been of the 21st, the barrio has seen a huge influx of international immigrants as well as younger progressive-minded people, who all create the dynamic mix you'll find on its streets today.