Welcome to my "Cava de San Miguel/Cuchilleros" description page, for photos & videos of this site click --> HERE.
Madrid's "cavas" (Cava Alta, Cava Baja and Cava de San Miguel) were originally moats or ditches along the medieval city walls, moats used for defense and also as an escape route for people inside the city when things got too tough inside the walls during a battle. All three "cavas" were filled in and streets built during the 16th century, with the streets retaining the names of the moats. Cava San Miguel was first called Cava del Arcangel because of San Miguel church located near upper part of street; also called Cava de Puerta Cerrada because of the gate in the city walls originally located at the south end of the street.
The houses on the east side of the street are a retaining wall for the Plaza Mayor (this is where the etrances to many apartments that look over the Plaza are located, including that of my apartment and multimadrid HQ), much wider at the bottom to fulfill this function, as can be seen from near Cuchilleros arch. Some of the "Mesones" in these houses are cave-like bars going back under the square in a labyrinth of rooms, usually filled with people eating, drinking and singing loudly. If you're lucky, you may see the "tuna" musical group in their medieval costumes, playing guitars, lutes and tamborines for a tip (they usually prefer a drink or a tapa and can be seen during the fair weather months roaming the Cava de San Miguel, calle de Cuchilleros and other streets around the Plaza Mayor playing from "Cueva to Cueva") .
Many apartments on the Cava also look onto the Plaza Mayor, though due to the slope of the ground, what is third floor on the Cava might be more or less ground floor on the Plaza; few buildings have elevators though some have benches to rest partway up the stairs. For the truly lazy, some of the houses on the Cava can be accessed from the stores on the west side of the square, thus avoiding climbing several stories, that is, if the storekeeper lets you!
Things not to miss along these two streets: San Miguel market at the top of Cava San Miguel, the last of Madrid's iron-and-glass markets (others fell to urban "renewal" in the sixties and seventies, compare the ugly Cebada market with quaint San Miguel market). One can not miss the "Mercado de San Miguel" (San Miguel Market). The market is open Monday-Friday form 9am(ish) to 2pm(ish) and on Saturdays from 9am(ish) to 2pm(ish). The hours are "ishy" because the market is made up of many individually owned stands (fruit, meats, poultry, seafood, etc...) and each stand owner opens when he or she feels like it although they usually stick to the general opening hours. It is well worthwhile to take a stroll through the Mercado, there are many food stands and a few even specialize in Spanish gourmet cuisine (olive oil, Capers, saffron at a reasonable price, he, he, he, etc...). Most of the apartment buildings, some with elaborately decorated fašades, others with simple brick. Check out the date over the side door of the famous Botin restaurant - 275 years old and still hanging in there!