Madrid is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. The capital of Spain offers so many activities and sights to see that discovering it at first can be confusing. But don’t worry, TouriSpain is here to help. Madrid is a huge, yet very friendly city. And the best way to fall in love with it is discovering its main neighborhoods, one by one. Each of them has its very own identity and offers many reasons to like the city. Get familiar with them in order to enjoy Madrid to the fullest!
Sol – Gran Vía
Let’s start with the busiest part of Madrid: the area between Sol and Gran Vía.
Puerta del Sol, better known as “Sol”, is the center point of Madrid and the exact center of all Spain, as the Kilometer Zero you will find there will remind you. Greatest meeting point of the city, you can find many cultural and recreational options around. Locals and tourists gather there around its iconic statues: the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, and King Charles III of Spain.
Near Sol, taking the busy streets of the area, you will find Gran Vía – which is considered as the little Broadway of Madrid. Don’t miss its most famous building: the Metrópolis, Telefónica’s, and the Carrión with its emblematic Schweppes neon sign.
Picture: Gran Vía
Want to feel the atmosphere of the old Madrid, wander in tiny streets and drink beers on a terrace like locals? You should definitely take a walk in La Latina. Discover its many squares which will project you to the medieval times of the city, where the merchants would sell their goods like on the Plaza de la Cebada (barley square), Plaza de la Paja (straw square) or Plaza de los Carros (carriages square).
Don’t miss El Rastro on Sunday mornings, a traditional market place which is now a flea market. Discover its treasures before having a drink in a bar of the area around noon.
The main points of interest of the neighborhood are San Francisco el Grande Basilica, San Andres Church, San Isidro House Museum of origins, La Latina Theater.
Lavapiés is the most multicultural neighborhood of Madrid, with 82 different nationality represented. Considered for many year as a marginal area of the city, Lavapiés is now known for the variety of its cultural and recreational offer. You will find there the opportunity to eat Indian, Lebanese or Senegalese within the same block!
Cultural note: the neighborhood was named after a fountain, formerly located on the square now known as Plaza de Lavapiés, where locals used to wash their feet.
Las Letras – Huertas
Located between Sol – Gran Vía and the Paseo del Prado, Las Letras was home of some of the greatest writers of the Spanish literature History. Amongst them: Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora, Lope de Vega. In its most emblematic street, calle de las Huertas, quotes from the most famous Spanish authors are printed on the ground.
The cultural atmosphere of the area can still be felt nowadays: you will find there many book stores and literary corners and who knows… Maybe the inspiration Cervantes had there where he wrote the second part of El Quijote!
Take the time to enjoy a coffee or a meal on the magnificent Plaza Santa Ana – heart of the neighborhood – and admire its monuments to Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Federico García Lorca.
Paseo del Arte
The Art Walk in English, is also known as the Triángulo del Arte (Triangle of Art). It refers to the 3 most famous museums of Madrid, located near one another on the Paseo del Prado.
The museums are:
- the Prado Museum
- the Reina Sofía Museum
- the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The neighborhood of El Retiro is the area surrounding the Parque del Retiro, the greatest and most famous park of Madrid city center. You can’t visit Madrid without taking a walk there! Formerly restricted to the Spanish monarchy, it is now a public park where the locals can enjoy nature and many sculptures, and monuments. The most famous ones are the Glass Palace and the Velázquez Palace, which are amongst the main touristic sights of the city.
If the weather is warm, rent a boat to see the park from the middle of its great lake. You will forget you are actually in the center of a 3 million inhabitants city!
Around the park, you will find classy cafés and restaurants offering a great view.
Picture: El Retiro lake
Salamanca is the wealthiest neighborhood of Madrid. The area is mainly residential, but worth seeing as you can find there some of the most beautiful buildings of the city. One of its peculiarities is the design of its streets, which are all parallel and perpendicular.
If you are in a mood for shopping or window shopping, Salamanca is also a great shopping district. The main shopping streets are calle Serrano and calle Ortega y Gasset.
Chueca takes its name from the Plaza de Chueca, main square of the area. It is known as Madrid’s gay neighborhood, and has many LGBT and LGBT-friendly bars and stores. Each summer, Chueca hosts the biggest Gay Pride event in the world: WordPride Madrid. The event is attended by more than a million and a half people each year and is one of the main events in Madrid.
The major sights of interest of the neighborhood are Plaza de Chueca, San Antón Market (great place to eat tapas), San Antón Church, and the Museum of Romanticism.
Picture: Palace of Cibeles during the WorldPride
Malasaña is west of Chueca and east of Argüelles. The name of the district is Universidad, but it took its surname from the Malasaña street, named in memory of the Malasaña family and Manuela Malasaña. The young girl was murdered by Napoleon’s troops after the uprising of May 2, 1808.
The neighborhood offers may options regarding bars, restaurants, stores and night clubs. The alternative atmosphere of the area led journalists to compare it to Camden Town in London or East Village in New York. Come see by yourself to make your own opinion!
North to Chueca and Malasaña, Chamberí is a traditional district of Madrid. Home of many aristocrats in the past, it is now an authentic neighborhood where you can find typical stores and restaurants. If you choose to go there, you will feel like a local.
The main sights of the district are the Sorolla museum and the Church of San Fermín de los Navarros.
Austrias refers to the Dynasty of Hasburg kings, and to the oldest part of Madrid.
It includes Plaza Mayor, the most famous square of Madrid. The Plaza is surrounded by residential buildings with 9 entrances and a statue of King Philip III in the center.
The district is also home of the Royal Palace and the Almudena catedral, which are two mandatory stops during your trip in Madrid.
Picture: Royal Palace
Moncloa – Argüelles
Maps credits: Google Maps
The area including Moncloa and Arguëlles is a residential area chosen by many students as it is close to one of the main university of the city. It offers recreational and shopping options, as well as a few spot worth seeing.
For shopping, calle Princesa is your best option: you will find many brand stores, including a great Corte Inglés.
If you want to enjoy nature, you will also love the district, which is surrounded by parks. From there, you can start exploring Casa de Campo, the main green area of Madrid. And if you don’t feel like walking, you will have the option to take a quick cable car trip.
Finally, don’t miss the Temple of Debod, a real Egyptian temple brought stone by stone and rebuilt in Madrid in 1968.
Picture: Temple of Debod
Have you decided in which area you will book a hotel room or an apartment yet? Or do you prefer to visit them all and feel the atmosphere of each of them before picking your favorite? The choice is quite hard to make but don’t worry, we love Madrid’s neighborhoods and you will soon find here detailed posts about each of them.
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