Pasaje de Matheu: That small Paris

There are streets in Madrid like the Pasaje de Matheu that even though they offer Spanish food but have a very Parisian essence.

Very close to Puerta del Sol, less than one minute away, there is a street called Pasaje de Matheu. Right now if you pass by you will see restaurants with terraces with awnings that protect their clients in the hot summer days of Madrid.

Pasaje de Matheu (Madrid)
Plaque of Pasaje de Matheu (Madrid)

Plaque of Pasaje de Matheu (Madrid)But before looking like that, in this same place we had a convent, named Nuestra Señora de la Victoria that was pull down in 1843 and whose land was bought by the wealthy Madrid bussinesman Manuel Matheu to create a gallery in here.

The Matheu Gallery, though not big but rather small, was a modern commercial gallery with statues dedicated to the gods of Commerce and Elegance. In short, that passage was covered by a metal and glass roof comprising two blocks, one on each side and with three storeys in each one and all of them dedicated to trade and sale (unfortunately also demolished later).

In Madrid there is hardly any trace of the small galleries that once existed in the capital, and those that are still standing are semi-abandoned. But anyone thinking about the famous galleries of the 19th century Paris so admired and copied in the rest of European capitals, will imagine how it used to be.

Pasaje de Matheu was the first place in Madrid to house two cafes with outdoor terrace in 1870.

The owners of those two cafes that housed the passage were French with totally different political positions. One had fled France after the Commune of Paris was massacred and seeking refuge in Madrid finally he opened his “Café de Francia” in the Matheu passage. Just opposite, another french with a monarchical and conservative tendency opened his “Café Paris”. After all, a small France in a tiny space.

Finally a century later this idea of having restaurants, bars or cafes with tables out of the establishment became trend and settled in the city and this set the evolution of Pasaje de Matheu to make it look such as you can see it nowadays.

Pasaje de Matheu street (Madrid)It is funny to remembered that in this street full of paellas and sangría places we once had a street covered, with shops and cafes next to it that reminded to the 19th Century Paris.

Plaque of Pasaje de Matheu (Madrid)
Pasaje de Matheu street (Madrid)

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