Madrid seems to be a hotspot right now. Recently, I’ve received various messages from friends who are going to visit the city, (of course they choose to visit when I no longer live there), but hey, they’re going, and that’s what counts! I’m obviously a big advocate of visiting the Spanish capital, but I also have to admit that every time I read one of these messages, I miss my beloved city a little bit more. That’s just my Madrid envy kicking in.
Pushing my jealous thoughts aside though, I decided to create a guide for my friends (and anyone else who finds it useful) on where to stay when visiting Madrid. There are a lot of great areas around the city to choose from, but for purposes of limited time, wanting to be close to the sights, AND still getting an authentic madrileño experience, I’m going to suggest three of my favorite barrios.
Where to Stay in Madrid:
Malasaña is my absolute favorite neighborhood in all of Madrid, although I may be a bit biased, as it’s where I used to live! Still, I lucked out with this area. It’s artsy, alternative, and full of vintage cafes, fun bars, tasty restaurants and unique boutiques. It’s close to all Madrid’s sites and attractions, but far enough that you don’t feel like you’re staying smack in the middle of the city’s touristy center.
Malasaña’s cute cobblestone streets are a dream to wander around, to secondhand shop and really take in the local madrileño culture.
Fun Fact: The Malasaña neighborhood is known for being home to “La Movida Madrileña,” a cross-cultural revolution during the 80’s after the reign of Franco!
Located: just north of the city center and central Gran Vía, between Calles Fuencarral and San Bernardo, south of Calle Sagasta.
Closest Metro Stop: Tribunal (Line 1- light blue & Line 10- dark blue)
Places of Interest: Plaza Dos de Mayo, La Bicicleta Café, Toma Café, Café de la Luz, Calle Velarde (secondhand shopping steet), Plaza de San Ildefonso, Pez Tortilla on Calle Pez (the perfect place to try a Spanish tortilla), Lamucca de Pez, Lateral on Calle Fuencarral (a modern tapas restaurant), Calle Fuencarral (a popular shopping street), La Ardosa (A traditional Spanish bar), Libros por un Mundo mejor (the above bookstore), Restaurante Ojalá
If you continue walking east from Malasaña and across crowded shopping street Fuencarral, you’ll start to see some rainbow-colored flags proudly displayed from apartment windows. Before you know it, you’re in the heart of Chueca.
Chueca is Madrid’s famed gay-barrio, known for hosting midsummer LGBT pride events that bring in visitors from around the world. But no matter the time of year, Chueca has a festive, flirty air about it.
This colorful vibrant area is home to rooftop bars, clubs, shops and a ton of tasty restaurants with outdoor terraces. It’s full of lively, young, open-minded people and is a great place to stay if you’re looking to socialize!
Located: in the streets surrounding Plaza de Chueca
Closest Metro Stop: Chueca (Line 5- lime green)
Places of Interest: Calle Hortaleza, Mercado de San Antón (and its rooftop terrace), Plaza de Chueca, Rooftop at Room Mate Óscar Hotel, Taberna el Buo (one of my favorite places to share a Spanish Tortilla), Yakitoro (amazing Japanese Restaurant), El Tigre (a cheap spot for drinks and free tapas) La Tita Rivera (a cute restaurant with homemade “tinto de verano” and a back terrace!)
Neighborhood: La Latina
The authentic feeling La Latina neighborhood embraces colorful Spanish culture and the Spanish spirit of cuisine. This area is a madrileño weekend hotspot and on any given Sunday you’ll find most La Latina bars and restaurants spilling over with eager tapas hoppers into the streets.
Closest Metro Stop: La Latina (Line 5- lime green)
Places of Interest: “Sobrino de Botín” (the oldest restaurant in the world), Calle Cava Baja (Madrid’s famous tapas crawling street), Mercado de la Cebada, El Viajero (a 3 level bar & restaurant with an awesome vibe), Plaza de San Andres, El Rastro Market (Madrid’s famed fleamarket that happens on Sundays). Tapas spots- Almendro 13 (try their “huevos rotos”), Casa Lucio, La Buha, Taberna Almeria.
Accommodation Options in Madrid
This may sound harsh, BUT if I’m being totally honest, staying in a hotel in Madrid isn’t only a waste of money, but a waste of experience. When it comes down to it, a hotel is a hotel, no matter where you go. Sure, they differ in features and somewhat in character, but the more bells and whistles you opt-in for, the more money you’re sure to be dishing out.
Hotels in Madrid are pricey, the rooms themselves are very small, and staying in one will probably limit your experience (ie. you won’t have a kitchen for cooking or a common area for entertaining). To really get a feel for Madrileño culture, I’d suggest one of the following two options:
A Hostel: the social travel experience.
If you’re a young traveler, looking for a budget option, and a social environment for going out and making friends, definitely stay in one of Madrid’s many hostels. The majority of hostels I’ve stayed in around Europe are almost as nice, if not nicer than some hotels I’ve stayed in. You can even get a private room with private bathroom if sharing personal space is simply not your thing.
Two of my favorite hostels in Madrid:
Mad4You is located in the heart of Malasaña in a traditional southern-style courtyard building. It’s a great place to stay during the dead of Madrid’s hot summers with air conditioning, a spacious terrace, and bar ready to serve ice cold beer after a day of exploring.
Book Mad4You Hostel.
Where: Costanilla de San Vicente 4 in the Malasaña neighborhood
The Hat Hostel
The Hat is a boutique hostel located in an old mansion and known for having one of the best rooftop terraces in all of Madrid. It’s a lively spot, bringing in more than just hostel guests, but also those who come to experience the bar and view. It’s just a short walk from most of the city’s central attractions and employs a staff of friendly like-minded travelers eager to help you plan your trip.
Book The Hat Hostel.
Where: Calle Imperial, 9, south of the center near La Latina.
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Airbnb: the true madrileño local experience.
I’m ALL about Airbnb. If you’re traveling with a group, or would simply like to get a feel for what it’d be like to really live in Madrid, in your very own little Spanish apartment, look no further.
Going with this accommodation option, you’ll really get a feel for life in this colorful city. After many unforgettable Airbnb experiences all over the world, I rarely go with anything else.
Following my last trip to Madrid, I had a hard time choosing just ONE- there are so many adorable, affordable and centrally located options around the city. But, after lots of perusing, I finally found my perfect apartment- just a few blocks from my favorite plaza, and never wanted to leave.
There many Airbnb options at all different sizes, styles and price points in the neighborhoods I mentioned above. Simply use the map I provided for reference when searching to find your own perfect place!
If you’re visiting Madrid sometime soon, don’t forget to check out my other guides such as “My Madrid Bucket List,” “Madrid Must-Do’s,” “Where and What to Eat in Madrid,” A DIY Madrid Center Sights Walking Tour” and more!
Which neighborhood would you stay in, and which accommodation option would you choose? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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