Where to live in Madrid? Best Neighborhoods in Madrid
Madrid’s center is defined by Puerta del Sol, an enormous public square positioned on what used to be a city gate. Having at least 10 streets leading there, this square and therefore the neighborhood is impossible to miss. Most of the streets are pedestrian with Calle Arenal leading to the Opera House and the Royal Palace. Take a walk between Calle Preciados and Calle Arenal and you’ll reach the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, a former 16th-century royal palace, home to unique artwork. Head to Plaza Mayor, a lovely, picturesque square, offering an ideal photoshoot background and if you feel hungry choose among the many tapas restaurants all around. For a foodie experience to remember, a stop by Sobrino de Botín, the world’s oldest restaurant, is a must! Sol is undoubtedly the smartest choice for all first comers! Whether you’re here to study or work you’ll benefit from both great metro connections and proximity to tourist attractions.
Madrid De Los Austrias
Southwest of Sol you’ll come across “Austrian Madrid”. This area might be small but is of big significance, as it used to be under Habsburg dynasty’s occupation, from the early 16th century. Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid’s main squares, is the highlight of the neighborhood which ends around the Opera district. In walking distance from Plaza Mayor you’ll find the Royal Palace and if you take a look around you’ll notice many traditional restaurants serving local tapas and beer! Overall, Madrid de los Austrias is way calmer than Sol but still belongs right in the heart of the city, offering a more traditional atmosphere.
Southeast of Sol you’ll find Las Letras. The name itself, translated as the literature quarter, suggests that this neighborhood is all about culture. Las Letras is a chic, edgy – modern district where you will find yourself walking in the steps of Spain’s greatest writers, such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Quevedo. Locals made sure that you feel the history this area holds by displaying famous quotes by the writers on the pavements of the -mostly pedestrian- streets. Las Letras is runned by a bohemian vibe, visible in the way the nightlife is formed; traditional spanish bars, flamenco performances, live jazz stages. If your heart beats for art, head to Madrid’s Art Triangle nearby. The Triangle consists of the Prado Museum, paying tribute to pre-20th century works and being widely known for holding one of the finest art collections in the world, the Reina Sofía Museum of contemporary art featuring artworks by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a private collection with international impressionistic and baroque works by Monet and Rembrandt.
Named after the Spanish composer Federico Chueca, this neighborhood transformed from one of the most infamous parts of Madrid, during the 70’s, into probably the hippest and most popular neighborhood among locals and tourists, today. La Chueca is a very colorful area, partly due to its vibrant architecture, but also because it is LGBTQ+ friendly, and known as the gay district of the Spanish capital. As you can imagine, the people of fun and open-minded Chueca go big on the Gay Pride organising all kinds of festive activities and turning the whole place loco! Located in the heart of the neighborhood, Plaza de Chueca is where you’ll find the trendiest shops, cafes and bars, in addition to the bustling nightlife. For the passionate foodies, a tapas selection can be found at Mercado de San Antón, which serves fancy dishes and features a rooftop cocktail bar, perfect for the end of the night sparkles!
La Latina, positioned just south of Madrid de los Austrias, is mainly famous for two things; the low prices and the countless tapas bars. This lively local neighborhood, one of the oldest in Madrid, is the go-to destination for tapas cravings. You can find them almost everywhere in the area but Cava Baja and Cava Alta streets are the ones who have won the popular vote. Apart from carrying the title of Tapas-land, Latina offers a great amount of lovely terraces to chill with your Erasmus buddies and have a drink, while maintaining your budget. For some Sunday fun you should head to El Rastro, the city’s biggest flea market, which offers a great selection of vintage and second hand items and attracts locals as well as international students.
Positioned right next to Chueca, trendy Malasana attracts many international students and expats due to its coolness. This well located, not too touristy, neighborhood has undergone a major makeover in the last century; from being the center of ‘La Movida’ movement in the 1980s to becoming the center of Madrid’s nightlife today! Hipster coffee shops, vintage boutiques, pop tattoo studios and old school bars are what you should expect to find in this graffiti-covered district. With new restaurants opening almost every week and some of the best Sunday brunch spots in town, Malasana is definitely the place to be!
If you seek the international spirit and want to discover a rich mix of cultures while being in one place, then Lavapies is for you! This vibrant, multicultural (+80 nationalities) neighborhood, on the east of La Latina, is defined by medieval streets filled with ethnic restaurants, old Spanish taverns and unique shops. Home to Plaza Lavapies -the top pre-sunset hangout spot for young “Madrileños”- and known for the very affordable rents, Lavapies is mostly inhabited by immigrants, who managed to establish their own businesses over the years, as well as young students and newcomers. Edgy art shows and alternative happenings set the underground scene of the district at the Tabacalera and La Casa Encendida cultural centers while annual events such as San Lorenzo festival and Tapapiés attract people from all over Spain. As for foodies, the vendors of San Fernando Market, selling all types of cheese and craft beer, alongside the terrace-covered Calle Argumosa will satisfy all your cravings in one visit!
A bit further from the busy city center, east of Chueca, lies the glamorous Salamanca. This elegant neighborhood, lined by 19th-century boulevards, is where Madrid’s “high class” is located. Here you’ll find eclectic boutiques along the Golden Mile, upscale shopping, gourmet restaurants and extravagant buildings, housing foreign embassies.The chic locals meet around Platea Madrid, a fancy food market which occupies a former theater building from the 1950s. From a cultural point of view, Salamanca has a lot to offer with both the National Archaeological Museum and the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, home to artworks by Goya and Bosch, closeby. If you head south of the neighborhood you’ll come across Madrid’s main park; El Retiro! Parque del Buen Retiro is translated as ”park of a nice retreat” and during its glorious era it used to be the Royal Family’s private garden. Today it features an ethereal garden of roses as well as the spectacular Crystal Palace.
After gaining so much popularity, Chueca got splitted off and its northern part now forms a separate district, the one of Las Salesas, that goes all the way up until Salamanca. This lovely neighborhood is defined by a peaceful atmosphere, with its many budget friendly eateries, the old-school bakeries serving freshly-made bread and pastry, as well as the cute cafés and stylish boutiques that line its narrow streets. The lack of tourists in the area makes Las Salesas an ideal option for a relaxing weekend stroll, away from the crowds.