The big, bustling central Spanish capital of Madrid is bursting at the seams with Spanish culture, historic architecture and a vibrant nightlife. This is a multicultural European capital which is well known for its cultural heritage with numerous great artists and literary influences being produced in its streets.
A city also well known for its culinary delights, take a stroll along one of Madrid’s many beautifully manicured boulevards or along the medieval lanes, eat in the oldest restaurant in the world, get tempted to try a whole load of tapas dishes in the many eateries and then wash it down with a beer in the city’s fun bars and raucous night clubs – it’s all ready and waiting for you to enjoy.
Map of Madrid
1. Letras · 2. Lavapies · 3. La Latina · 4. Austrias · 5. Salamanca · 6. Malasana · 7. Chueca · 8. Chamberi
The city is made up of numerous local neighbourhoods called Barrios, each of which are varied and welcoming, and offer a slightly different side to Madrid. There are a range of accommodation to suit everyone’s budget and needs, so we’ve rounded up the top areas to help decide where to stay in Madrid for your next trip.
Known for its literary history, Barrio de Las Letras is home to Madrid’s first theaters which began in the district’s courtyards over four hundred years ago and still thrive in the area today. The creative influence remains strong here and many laid back bars and eateries serving up delicious tapas are nestled alongside interesting independent shops, meaning a fun and lively atmosphere for first time visitors to the city to soak up. The neighborhood remains traditional and many of Madrid’s main tourist attractions around Puerta del Sol can be reached on foot.
If you are visiting Madrid you will more than likely end up exploring this area at some point, so why not stay there? Hotels in the district are packed full of the style and history of the creatives who once frequented the same buildings. Stay among traditional architecture in one of the many excellent mid-range hotel options – although the rooms are often more compact because of the old buildings, the hotel rooms are often well designed and contemporary and you can also take in the city skyline with stunning views from one of the many roof terraces.
If you want to know what it’s like to live among the young, cool kids of Madrid you should stay in Lavapies. A vibrant bohemian district which encompasses steep ancient streets that are packed full of cool local culture, art exhibitions and shows take place around every corner in the quarter’s numerous creative spaces. The bustling San Fernando Market offers visitors a great chance to soak up the Spanish atmosphere whilst shopping for delicious local cheese and beers.
The medieval architecture along the quarter’s winding streets and the diverse cosmopolitan immigrant inhabitants gives Lavapies a typically European feel and means that there are a plethora of cafes and restaurants serving food from all over the world. Lavapies has great transport links, being close to Atocha main station, and offers a selection of budget hotels.
The place to stay in Madrid if you want to devour delicious plates of tapas and wash it all down with cold beer on tap, La Latina’s lively terraces are the typical Madrid hangout for those wanting to kick back and relax at the weekend. The quarter is set on the foundations of a medieval Islamic fort and as such its winding streets make for a maze of narrow lanes which can be a treat for travelers wanting to discover hidden cantinas tucked away down back streets.
The area also has landmarks of its own; don’t miss having a look at the beautiful churches such as the Moorish Church of San Pedro el Real and the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande. Staying in La Latina is a good idea if you like to be among the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city – it’s got fantastic metro links and selection of cute boutique, budget and mid-range accommodation choices.
Grand plazas, historic architecture and old restaurants make up the majestic district of Austrias. This is where the Plaza Mayor can be found with its grandiose balconies and entrances, and also the decadent Royal Palace of Madrid which is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. This attractive district is a fantastic choice for a base in the Spanish capital, not only for its picturesque architecture but also for its delicious dining scene, which includes El Botin: the oldest restaurant in the world.
Austrias boasts excellent metro and local train connections, meaning travel around the whole of the city is simple and, even though there are many tourists in the district, the hotels here offer a slice of luxury so that you can sit back and relax in comfort after a busy day exploring the city.
Close to the Retiro Park, the neighborhood of Salamanca is an exclusive hangout for Madrid’s elite. This is district to stay if you are in Madrid for designer shopping; the streets between Calle Goya and Calle José Ortega y Gasset is where you will find global luxury brands alongside top Spanish designers. Salamanca is a piece of classic sophistication and it comes with a price tag – hotels in the area offer high end accommodation for those wanting to stay among the city’s chic crowd, although some more reasonably priced hotels are available.
Salamanca is also home to Madrid’s archaeology museum and national library, as well as a big tourist attraction to the area: Real Madrid’s impressive Bernabéu football stadium. The laid-back luxury vibe attracts regular travelers to the barrio as well as the district’s great transport links and easy access to the airport.
Residential Malasana is a busy student district full of streets lined with trendy cafes, eateries, retro vintage shops and bakeries. This is a trendy neighborhood and is a great place to grab a coffee, sit and watch local life in Madrid. At the weekend the area around the historic Plaza del Dos de Mayo becomes a meeting point for friends getting together to enjoy the weekend market and drink in the buzzing bars that line the square. As evening comes, nightclubs come alive and young people of the area dance to live bands and DJs.
Staying in Malasana means you will be among the action of young Madrid; accommodation in the area is often decorated in a fashionable and quirky style and, with easy metro and bus links, it is simple to travel around the city.
The lively Chueca restaurant scene is a big draw for visitors to the neighborhood. Close to vibrant Malasana, Chueca is packed full of great places to eat and fantastic cafes. At night Chueca comes alive with Madrid’s gay nightlife scene, with music and dancing continuing until the early hours. A place where the fun is always happening, Chueca is abuzz with the gay scene of Madrid with many shops and businesses located here serving the LGBT community. The liberal scene is all encompassing and is open as a place where everybody who stays there is welcome. The older community who have lived in the district all of their lives now live harmoniously alongside the spectrum of sexual freedom that now exists among Chueca streets.
This barrio is a fun place to stay during a trip to Madrid, especially if you stay in one of the chic, design-led hotels. Choosing to stay close to the central Plaza de Chueca means you will be close to the metro and to many of the great eateries in the district.
Enjoy the authentic life in Madrid, wander the streets and eat in the tapas bars, enjoy sipping a beer alongside the locals and browse in the old shops. The area has a down-to-earth feel with much of the accommodation affordable although the area bordering Salamanca is more upmarket. The area is connected by the metro and the bus and is close to the center of the city, which is in walking distance.
The Plaza de Chamberí is a popular meeting point in the barrio where you can take in the vibrant mix of local life. The district has a mix of everything that Madrid has to offer, with its traditional shops and newer modern facilities it’s a fantastic choice for staying in Madrid.