The Festival of La Paloma is perhaps the most important of the three large festivals in La Latina/Lavapies (the others are San Cayetano and San Lorenzo). During La Paloma, the entire La Latina neighborhood fills up with visitors, carnival games, and impromptu grills serving sausages, ribs, traditional fried lamb intestines, grilled corn, and all sorts of finger food and sandwiches. Plenty of drinks, too!
You can grab yourself a "mini" of beer (a large half liter beer to-go) and peruse the carnival games, try knocking over some bottles or shooting the air guns, and enjoy the spirit of neighborly fun that comes over the area. The festivities continue way into the night but shift more towards the Las Vistillas area and feature live music and plenty of celebratory inebriation among a more twenty-something crowd.
All in all, it's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I'd suggest going around sunset to have a walk around and grab something to eat, then get yourself a "mini" and check out the music. It's one of the most fun events in Madrid!
MadrEAT is a monthly food festival held in the AZCA park near Madrid's Nuevos Ministerios financial area. Some of Madrid's rising foodie upstarts as well as some long-established classics pack their ingredients and flat-tops into restored vintage food trucks and head down to ASCA to serve tasty morsels from 11-6 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays (check out their website for this month's dates).
At MadrEAT, you can find everything from gourmet burgers to calamari sandwiches to ceviche or cupcakes. Here's what I'd suggest: start by grabbing a "mini" of locally-brewed La Virgen beer and take a stroll around the trucks to see what whets your appetite. There are dozens of vendors set up so don't scarf down the first thing to see. I'd suggest trying Kitchen 154, a friendly crew obsessed with spicy who serve up an eclectic mix of beef tacos, Middle Eastern garbanzo stew and, my personal favorite, juicy dumplings which explode in your mouth.
Make sure to get there before the 2pm rush to get a comfy seat in the sun (or shade, if you go in summer).
The "fiestas del barrio" are a summertime tradition throughout Spain, and Madrid is no exception. While this neighborhood party isn't as well known as those the La Latina and Lavapíes neighborhoods, it's a fairly good time and a taste of the real Spain.
The festivities are set up in the Plaza Remonta during the first weekend in July. They have al kinds of carnival attractions for kids (bumper cars, cotton candy, rides, mini-rollercoasters, etc.), tent restaurants serving grilled meats like ribs, an array of sausages, burgers, hot dogs, Madrileño specialties like fried intestines, and perennial favorites like fried calamari, french fries, and other snacks. These bars also sell beer, wine, soft drinks, tinto de verano, and kalimotxo, a surprisingly delicious combo of coca cola and boxed wine.
They festival usually has some musical numbers, but don't get your hopes up, the bar is usually pretty low. The year I went, they had two well-known Spanish groups from the 90s, though. The whole crowd went nuts while I didn't know a word. All in all, it's a fun place to go for a night or two if there's nothing else happening. If you're in Madrid during the first weekend in June, I'd recommend it 100%.
The Fiesta de San Lorenzo is the major summer festival in the downtown neighborhood of Lavapiés. The celebration happens in August and is an interesting spin on the other traditional summer festivals in Madrid like San Isidro, San Cayetano, and La Paloma. While those celebrations adhere to Madrileño traditions, the San Lorenzo festival reflects the young, alternative, and multicultural nature of Lavapiés. You're just as likely to find Brazilian caiprinhas as sangria, and the tables stretching down Argumosa Street are filled with elderly people, normal families, young hipsters, Africans, and a variety of immigrants all chowing down and having a grand old time.
The festival is also less child-friendly than some of the others, and more geared for a twenty-something crowd. There aren't as many game booths and carnival rides as the other festivals, but there is more live music, bars, and young atmospheres. At the end of the street, young revelers gather until the wee hours of the morning enjoying the free concerts and gathering in groups to drink and chat in the street. You can expect the streets to be full until at least 4am. San Lorenzo is a Madrid classic and one of my favorite parties (in both the traditional and debaucherous sense) in Madrid. If you're looking to discover the authentic cultural festivals of Madrid, I'd recommend San Isidro or La Paloma...San Lorenzo is for the true party animals!