By Alba Gonzalez, a bubbly Madrileña in love with her city
Edited by Matthew Wears
Choosing where to stay in Madrid can feel like a difficult task since there’s so many choices. The city is made up of twenty one districts, each with its own unique qualities and character, so deciding what neighbourhood to stay in Madrid really depends on what sort of trip you want have. From the elegant and sophisticated Salamanca, to the more backpacker friendly districts such as Malasaña, there’s a district to suit everyone. Many are closer to certain sights and attractions so having a good idea before you go of what you want see is a useful way of determining what the best place to stay in Madrid is for you. Hopefully the following list can help you to decide which is the best area to stay in Madrid, Spain.
For anyone who wants to experience all of the energy and excitement that the Spanish capital is so famous for, the best neighbourhood to stay in Madrid would have Malasaña. This historic district has become the hipster part of the city, with a huge array of nightclubs, cool cafes and vintage shops. This is the beating heart of the famous movement ‘La Movida Madrileña’, a countercultural rebellion against the Franco era that welcomed in a more modern and accepting Spain. This open minded attitude is still what makes this district so special, and today it attracts artists of all kinds from the worlds of street art, music and film. The best bars to check out include the over-the-top and quirky Tupper Ware and the iconic Movida era El Pentagrama which dates all the way back to 1976. There is a real range of accommodation options here, from cheap hostels to more expensive boutique private hotels.
Located in Downtown, Chueca is the city’s gay neighbourhood. Like Malasaña, this is a lively and energetic district and definitely the best area in Madrid for nightlife. It was once seen as a run-down area of the city, but as the gay scene made it their home, local businesses have flooded in and it has become popular with independent boutique retailers. The main shopping attraction is the Calle de Fuencarral, a street lined with fashion retailers selling both high-end items all the way to the more avant-garde. This is also the location of the world famous Madrid Gay Pride celebrations, where every year between June and July the streets come alive with music, parades and partying. Chueca’s hotels will usually be similar to the district itself, with many being gay friendly and stylishly decorated.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the most luxurious side of the city then the best place to stay in Madrid has to be Salamanca. With some of the most expensive streets in the entire city, the neighbourhood is characterised by elegant balconied buildings and the beautiful Retiro Park. The district is well known for its upscale shopping and the highlight is without doubt the ‘Golden Mile’. This is where many of the high-end designer fashion brands such as Chanel and Luis Vuiton have their stores, as well as unique Madrid based brands. Eating out offers a similarly grand experience as the district contains three Michelan star restaurants; Zalacaín, Ramon Freixa Madrid and Kabuki Wellington. Still, the area remains fairly quiet and could be a good option for someone wanting to find the best area to stay in Madrid with family, especially younger ones.
Multicultural and diverse Lavapiés is one of the best kept secrets in the whole city. It is the best area to stay in Madrid as a tourist who wants to see a completely different side of the Spanish capital; a more honest and humble side. Within these narrow and often steep Medieval streets, there are more immigrants than any other neighbourhood in Madrid. The neighbourhood has the most neighbourhood associations of anywhere else in the city, and self-managed public gardens and exhibitions are a regular occurrence. If you are searching for where to stay in Madrid city centre, this could be a great option as accommodation is cheap and it’s very close to many of the sights, the nearest being the iconic Reina Sofía Art Museum. There’s also a huge selection of restaurants from around the world and the tapas, particularly at El Econòmico, is some of the best in the city.
Built on some of the oldest ground in the entire city, La Latina is a neighbourhood rich in Spanish traditions. Narrow Medieval streets connect spacious plazas filled with restaurants and bars, the most popular being Plaza de La Cebada. This is the area where you will find the very best tapas and beers, but at weekends you’ll be fighting for a space, so I’d recommend visiting during the week. It is also home to the much celebrated Casa Lucio, a traditional Spanish restaurant that is said to have the best eggs, potatoes and olive oil in the entire city - which is more complicated than it might sound! The restaurant has become one of the most celebrated in the entire city. One of Madrid’s most iconic events takes place in La Latina every Sunday and bank holiday; the El Rastro flea market. It takes place along the street La Ribera de Curtidores and is a sprawling collection of second-hand items and independent retailers.
Without doubt the best area to stay in Madrid for sightseeing would have to be the Central district. This is the area that contains many of the iconic Madrid sights such as the Royal Palace, the Almudena cathedral and Plaza Mayor, all of which are within walking distance from each other. This makes it the perfect place to base yourself if you only have a couple of days in the city. Spend a day taking in all of the sights, then as the sun goes down head for one of the many bars such as Café Central, a world-famous jazz bar that’s always popular with locals. If you’re wondering where to stay in Madrid with family then the centre offers great access as well as the best selection of accommodation, although prices will be higher because of this. Central Madrid is a busy and energetic place, so if you’re looking to stay somewhere a little quieter, perhaps try another district.
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