After living in Madrid from August 2016 to June 2017, the city still felt like home – and I was lucky enough to move back in 2019. When friends and family head to Madrid for vacation, I usually get hit up for some recs. I often share this breakdown of my favorite Madrid neighborhoods, so I figure it’s high time to post about it. (For my Madrid restaurant guide, head here.)
1. Salamanca. My first apartment in Madrid was in Salamanca on Calle Velazquez, right above Retiro Park. It was a dream. I moved back to the area in 2020 and couldn’t be happier. Salamanca has a reputation for being an elegant neighborhood for more affluent people – think the Upper East Side of NYC – but it’s still very cool and hip. I just love its tree-lined lanes and cute shops. It’s also relatively chill at night in comparison to some other areas, like Chueca and Malasaña (see below), which makes it a good place to live in terms of a little peace and quiet at night. However, there are tons of restaurants, bars, and clubs scattered around. For good shopping, head to Calle Serrano, well-known for its many luxury shops – Serrano also has my favorite Zara in the city.
2. Justicia. Justicia is west of Salamanca across Paseo de Recoletos (which becomes Paseo de la Castellana to the north and Paseo del Prado to the south). This trendy area is definitely one of my favorite Madrid neighborhoods – I’d happily live there. While walking around, you’ll find chic boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Streets of interest include the quaint Calle Orellana, with its chocolate shop and art gallery, and Calle Argensola, lined with bars and taverns. On the intersection of Hortaleza and Orellana you’ll find Plaza Santa Barbara, where people love crushing beers at all hours.
3. Chueca.This popular, lively area is directly south of Justicia, although sometimes the boundaries are kind of blurred. Chueca is known as the LGBTQ-pride neighborhood, so you’ll likely see quite a few pride flags throughout the streets. Calle del Barquillo is good for a stroll: walk down the street and go to Plaza del Rey for a beer or vermouth. Be sure to just roam around the area and see what you stumble upon!
4. Malasaña. Malasaña is another popular neighborhood for young people, similar in its vibe to Chueca. In the Plaza Dos de Mayo, you’ll find people chilling, drinking beers, and playing the guitar. Cool streets include Calle del Espiritu Santo and Calle Fuencarral, which is the big shopping street that runs right through the neighborhood. There are also restaurants all around the area.
5. Chamberí. Chamberí has become especially “guay” among Madrid neighborhoods in recent years due to the trendy Calle Ponzano, which is popular for bar-hopping and copas on a weekend night. I lived right next to Ponzano for a year, which was fun! Chamberí is also home to the Sorolla Museum, one of my favorite museums in Madrid.
7. Retiro Park. This is the beloved “Central Park” of Madrid. Stop by the Palacio de Cristal and the rose garden, known as La Rosaleda, which is stunning in late May when the roses are in full bloom (see the main photo for this post above). Retiro is great for a picnic, or just grab a drink at Florida Retiro, a restobar inside the park. You can also rent a little boat and go out on the estanque, or the pond. Exit the park via the northwest corner to see the grand Puerta de Alcalá, then head down Calle de Alcalá toward the iconic Plaza de Cibeles and continue toward Gran Vía, which is a beautiful street despite the fact that it can get quite busy.
8. Ibiza. No, this isn’t the party-loving island you’ve probably heard all about. This neighborhood to the east of Parque de El Retiro is always buzzing with local life. Stroll down Menendez Pelayo, the street that runs directly along Retiro, for a beer overlooking the park. For typical Spanish picoteo with a funky twist, like anchovies and this adorable ensaladilla rusa served in a Matryoshka doll, head to Hermanos Vinagre (there is also one in Chueca). If the menu is not exactly to your liking, turn the corner to Pirulo for plates of Spanish cheese, jamón, croquetas, fried calamari, and other faves.
9. Puerta del Sol & Plaza Mayor. This area can undoubtedly be touristy, but these are key spots in any first-time visit to Madrid. I’d say drop by quickly and then grab a drink on the rooftop of the The Hat, a cool hostel in the area.
10. Barrio de las Letras & Huertas. I lived in Barrio de las Letras, or the “literary quarter,” for a month and really enjoyed it. This fun boho area, full of bars and cafes, gets its name from the fact that many of Spain’s greatest writers have called it home. The popular Calle Huertas is always buzzing with life.
11. Palacio Real & Opera. This area is on the west side of the city, near the Royal Palace and the Almudena cathedral. A nice walk is to head down Calle Mayor from the Plaza Mayor, which takes you right to the cathedral.
12. Lavapiés. Lavapiés is sort of an alternative neighborhood, home to the popular outdoor Sunday flea market El Rastro. Also home to many immigrant communities, Lavapiés is known for its delicious ethnic restaurants. The Indian restaurants are especially good!
I hope this breakdown of Madrid neighborhoods will help you plan your next trip! What’s your favorite neighborhood in Madrid? What am I missing? Comment below!