Where to Stay in Madrid

SDMadrid › Best Areas
Updated: July 16, 2024
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Hotels in Madrid

• 5-star: Four Seasons
• 4-star: Westin Palace
• 3-star: Room Mate Alicia
• For couples: URSO
• For families: SmartRental
• Near train station: NH Atocha
• Near Prado museum: Mercure

View of Madrid city skyline and iconic Schweppes sign at sunset

We captured this view down Madrid’s Gran Via from the excellent 4-star Riu Plaza España hotel in the Malasaña neighborhood.

Best Madrid hotels for couples, families, and first-time visitors.
1. URSO • 2. SmartRental • 3. Four Seasons • 4. Room Mate Alicia • 5. Westin Palace • 6. Mercure • 7. NH Atocha

The Best Areas to Stay in Madrid

While Spain’s sprawling capital can’t quite match cities like Barcelona, Granada, and Sevilla for historic charm and character, it offers plenty to see, not least the sensational art displayed in the world-class Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums (including Picasso’s Guernica). It also boasts the most dynamic café, restaurant, and bar scene in the country, with madrileños notorious for eating and partying late into the night. The city’s historic neighborhoods are fascinating to explore, usually without the crowds you’d get in Barcelona, for example. There’s also a vast range of accommodation, from plush five-stars to some of the best family-friendly, boutique, and budget-friendly hotels and hostels in the country.

Madrid Neighborhoods

Madrid’s city center comprises several diverse neighborhoods, most of them compact and walkable. There is no single “best” neighborhood to stay in; where you choose to stay largely will depend on your budget and interests. Most of central Madrid’s attractions are within walking distance from one another, and even if you stay in one part of town, you can easily reach most places of interest in other neighborhoods on foot; attractions further afield can easily be reached via a short metro ride.

One family's feet posed for a photo on the KM 0 marker at Madrid's Puerta del Sol

KM 0 in the Centro neighborhood of Madrid. Located on the sidewalk in Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun), a public square and the center of the beginning radial network of Spanish roads.

Centro is the geographical and historical heart of Madrid. A maze of medieval streets surrounds Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s grand main square, lined with gorgeous, centuries-old architecture. The Royal Palace marks the west border of Centro, while to the north, the main shopping thoroughfare of Gran Vía separates Centro from the barrios of Malasaña and Chueca. Varied dining options around Plaza Mayor (and nearby Puerta del Sol plaza) range from fast food joints and tiny tapas bars to gourmet food markets and some of Madrid’s oldest and most distinguished restaurants. Accommodation is a mix of boutique hotels, excellent budget inns and hostels, and 5-star establishments. This neighborhood is very walkable, but difficult to drive in.

Gran Via in Madrid.

The Gran Via metro station in Centro.

Equally walkable La Latina, just south of Centro, is known for its attractive architecture, Madrid’s largest flea market (Sundays), and its excellent tapas bars, many of them clustered along Calle de Cava Baja. The attractions in Centro and Retiro are a 10 to 15-minute walk from La Latina, which is a popular barrio for kicking off an evening tapas bar crawl. Besides several midrange hotels, accommodation here consists largely of budget options.

Lavapiés borders La Latina to the east; it shares the El Rastro flea market with its neighbor and is located just a few minutes’ walk from Retiro park and Madrid’s main art museums. An edgy, up-and-coming neighborhood, Lavapiés has traditionally welcomed immigrants, and is famous for its ethnically diverse eateries and cluster of hip bars. There are few accommodations here – mostly midrange and budget options.

Bordering Lavapiés to the north is Huertas, another compact neighborhood that Madrileños flock to in the evenings. Huertas is one of the city’s bohemian enclaves, and apart from a diverse collection of bars to suit any taste and budget, it offers some of Madrid’s best al fresco dining and drinking around the attractive Plaza Santa Ana. Many of Spain’s most famous writers once lived in this barrio, which is still home to numerous independent shops and art galleries. Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Retiro are all within a few minutes’ walk, and lodgings here range from 5-star hotels to budget digs.

Retiro – with its grand park, three heavyweight art museums (Prado, Museo Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza). and some of Madrid’s grandest hotels – lies immediately to the east of Huertas and Lavapiés. Unlike its neighbors, Retiro is very much a working-day neighborhood, bustling in the daytime and very quiet by night. The lakes, botanical gardens, and numerous walking trails of Madrid’s grandest park are perpetually popular with locals and visitors alike – busiest on weekends.

Photograph of the Prado Museum in Madrid on a sunny day, taken from a distance.

The Prado Museum in Retiro

Immediately north of Retiro is Salamanca, Madrid’s most exclusive residential neighborhood. This is another daytime barrio, popular with shoppers in search of the latest fashions, though there is also a worthwhile cluster of upscale restaurants and bars in the streets closest to Retiro park. Accommodation here includes many 4 and 5-star hotels. Salamanca is not as walkable as Madrid’s more central neighborhoods, but the attractions of Centro and Retiro are just a couple of stops away on the metro.

Chueca, one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods and the epicenter of LGBTQ+ nightlife in the city, is found sandwiched between the southern half of Salamanca to the east and Malasaña to the west. Its main sights are the History Museum of Madrid and Museum of Romanticism. By day, the trendy restaurants lining its narrow and highly walkable streets fill with diners; by night, its bars and clubs are hopping until dawn.

Malasaña, Chueca’s western neighbor, has a grittier, grungier vibe and is equally renowned for its nightlife scene. There are plenty of venues to choose from here, from sophisticated cocktail and wine bars to craft beer joints and pulsing nightclubs; some of of Malasaña’s live music venues harken back to the 1980s, when this barrio was the heart of Madrid’s counterculture movement. During the day, there are independent boutiques to explore and a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, many of them off or around the main Plaza de Dos de Mayo and the mostly pedestrianized Calle Fuencarral. Malasaña and Chueca are both within easy walking distance from Centro’s attractions, with boutique and budget hotels making up the bulk of accommodation within the two neighborhoods.

West of Malasaña is Argüelles, a residential area, fringed by one of Madrid’s largest parks. Argüelles and Moncloa, directly to the north, are very popular with students, due to the huge campuses here and abundance of local bars. A short metro ride from either connects them to Madrid’s central neighborhoods.

While it’s relatively easy to explore Madrid’s historic center on foot, it’s a big city and you’ll want to use its excellent public transport system to go further afield. The system comprises metro (subway), light rail, and buses, with integrated single tickets for metro and buses just €1.50–2, and 10 trip tickets from €12.20. In addition, the Madrid Tourist Travel Pass (TTP) gives unlimited usage for 1 to 7 days (Zone A €8.40–35.40), and also includes the light rail. It can be useful to have a car when exploring the region around the city, but there’s really no need to use one in Madrid itself – streets are narrow, often congested, and parking can be tough to find, especially in the city center.

The Best Places to Stay in Madrid

People sit under an umbrella at a rooftop bar in Madrid.

With its great central location and charming rooftop brasserie, we think the Four Seasons is the best luxury hotel in Madrid.

Best place to stay in Madrid for family.

Our suite at the SmartRental Collection Centric II in Madrid.

Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for…

  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Sightseeing: Centro, Retiro
    Since most of Madrid’s main attractions are centrally located and within easy walking distance of one another, it makes sense to stay either in Centro or in Retiro, depending on whether you’re more interested in being close to the Royal Palace (Centro) or the ‘Golden Triangle’ of art museums (Retiro). But you needn’t limit yourself just to these two neighborhoods; you can easily reach the attractions of either on foot from La Latina, Chueca, and other central barrios.
  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Nightlife: Huertas, Malasaña, Chueca
    There isn’t a single best area in Madrid for nightlife; instead, several neighborhoods compete to lure in the city’s night owl clientele. Huertas is the best place to start for first-time visitors. Plaza Santa Ana and Calle Huertas offer the best choice of bars, while Kapital on Callede Atocha is one of the city’s most popular clubs. Check out “Mi madre era una groupie” for dancing, Salmón Gurú for cocktails, and Viva Madrid for a classic old-school vibe. We also like the Caracortada, Lovo, and La Santoría cocktail bars, plus the Mexican influenced Calle 365 Callejón Secreto. Head to iconic Café Central for live jazz, or Cardamomo for flamenco.

    Hipster Malasaña and Chueca are known for live music and LGBTQ-friendly clubs, respectively (Plaza de Chueca is the best place to start in the latter), and there are plenty of bars and clubs in both neighborhoods that stay open until sunrise. Chueca’s 1930s-themed Museo Chicote is justly popular, as is Libertad 8 and club Teatro Barceló. We also like the cocktails and popcorn at Twist & Shout Bar. In Malasaña you can’t go wrong at old school bars like La Vía Láctea, Madrid me Mata, or El Penta, spiritual home of the “Movida Madrileña” movement. For dancing, check out Café La Palma, Maravillas Club, Sala Morocco, Maderfaker, and the memorably named “El Perro de la Parte de Atrás del Coche”. The neighborhood’s historic cafés are also open late: Manuela and Café Ajenjo are both classics.

    Elsewhere in the city center, La Latina is known for its tapas bars (especially on Calle de Cava Baja), studenty night clubs and flamenco “tablao” venues like Corral de la Morería, while Lavapíes features a multicultural scene and a small LGBTQ presence (especially “bares de ambiente”, aka lesbian-friendly bars).

Busy entrance to a popular food market in Madrid

The Mercado de San Miguel in Centro

  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Food and Restaurants: Huertas and Chueca
    There’s excellent dining to be had all over the city. To generalize, you’ll find Michelin-starred restaurants and other fine dining establishments in Salamanca and points north (notably Restaurante DiverXO), fusion restaurants in Centro and Malasaña, great Indian and Bangladeshi food along Lavapiés’ ‘Curry Mile’, and traditional tapas bars dotted all over the city center – with particular concentration in La Latina and Huertas. We like and Chueca and Huertas best. In Chueca alone there’s Comparte Bistró for Andalusian-influenced dining, El Cisne Azul for seasonal menus, Kuoco 360 for fabulous fusion, Casa Salvador with its bullfighting memorabilia, and high-end Angelita Madrid. On the edge of Centro and Huertas, Lhardy has been around since 1839 and is best known for Madrileñian stew. Elsewhere in Huertas, Chuka Ramen Bar serves the best noodles in the city, Gofio specializes in the cuisine of the Canary Islands, and La Sanabresa is a cult, no-frills Spanish favorite. La Venencia is the most atmospheric spot for tapas.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood in Madrid: Centro
    While Salamanca has its share of intimate restaurants, and Retiro has the beautiful park and the botanical gardens, when it comes to romancing your beloved, it’s hard to top the nostalgic charm of Centro’s cobbled streets and tiny medieval plazas.
  • A couple strolls, holding hands, under an archway in Plaza Mayor, Madrid

    Plaza Mayor in Centro

  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Families: Centro, Retiro, Argüelles
    Centro is good for families because its streets are very walkable and there are numerous spectacles to entertain the kids, like the captivating street performers in Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. Families like Retiro because of its proximity to the park’s playgrounds, lakes (with rowing boats and pedalos), and abundance of space to run around. Argüelles is less popular with visitors, but it does have the advantage of being a quiet residential area next to a huge park, with an Egyptian temple for kids to explore.
  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Shopping: Centro, Salamanca
    The Gran Vía and the streets between it and the Puerta del Sol remain Madrid’s premier shopping zones, for locals as much as visitors, with department stores such as El Corte Inglés and chains such as Zara. For designer fashion, Salamanca is the place to go, especially Calle de Serrano. You’ll find more alternative designers and indie shops scattered throughout Malasaña and Chueca. Don’t forget also the city’s biggest market, El Rastro, the vast flea market held on Sundays in La Latina.
  • Best Neighborhoods in Madrid to Stay for First Timers: Centro, Retiro
    If it’s your first time in Madrid, odds are you’re here to check out its main attractions. Centro is ideal for visiting the Royal Palace and for exploring the medieval streets around Plaza Mayor, while Retiro is perfect for visiting the three world-class art museums and Madrid’s most impressive park. Centro and Retiro are a 20-minute walk (or short metro ride) apart, so it’s easy to stay in either neighborhood and catch all the main sights. That said, there is some advantage to staying in Centro over Retiro: its proximity to Madrid’s nightlife, both north and south of the center, and a wealth of accommodation to suit any budget.
Photograph of the Royal Palace in Madrid on a sunny day, shot from a distance.

The Royal Palace

  • Best Neighborhood in Madrid for a Local Vibe: Malasaña
    It’s hard to get more ‘local’ in Madrid than Malasaña. While it is certainly more gentrified now than it was 10 to 20 years ago, a grungy, arty vibe remains here from the 1980s, when Malasaña was synonymous with sex, drugs, and rock music. And though independent boutiques and small art galleries have replaced many of the seedier bars, you’ll still find tattoo parlors and plenty of graffiti left over from Malasaña’s rockin’ heyday.
  • Best Neighborhood in Madrid without a Car: Centro
    Much of Madrid’s most beautiful architecture is in Centro, and its tiny, charming medieval streets are an absolute joy to wander. That said, Madrid’s city center in its entirety, from La Latina to Retiro, is great to explore on foot.
  • Safest and Unsafe Areas of Madrid
    Madrid’s safest neighborhoods are its more upmarket ones, such as Salamanca and Retiro. Centro, La Latina, Lavapiés, Huertas, Malasaña, Chueca, Argüelles, and Moncloa are generally safe to walk around any time of day, though normal precautions apply. In La Latina, Lavapiés, Huertas, Malasaña, and Chueca, things get very lively on weekends.

    Parts of Malasaña, Centro, La Latina, Lavapiés, and Huertas can be a bit sketchy at night; it’s best to stick to popular and well-lit streets with plenty of foot traffic and avoid poorly lit, deserted ones. Opportunistic pickpockets operate at the El Rastro flea market in La Latina and across the city center.

The 9 Best Neighborhoods in Madrid for Tourists

1. Centro

Large ornate buildings lining the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, with many pedestrians walking past.
A map showing the Centro neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Puerta del Sol square is Madrid’s city center and Km Zero – the central point of the Iberian Peninsula. Always busy with foot traffic, Sol is an important transport hub and a crossroads where people meet up before heading to the numerous shops, restaurants, and bars in the surrounding streets. Just south of Sol is Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main historic square and the focal point of medieval Madrid. There are numerous small squares, markets, and tiny streets to explore in this neighborhood. Standouts include the posh San Miguel Market, the Moorish-style Torre de Los Lujanes, and ornate Casa de Cisneros in Plaza de la Villa, the opulent Basílica de San Miguel, a grand 17th-century baroque church, and historic taverns such as Botín, which has a claim to be the oldest restaurant in the world. Don’t miss also the art filled Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, one of Madrid’s lesser visited gems.

Cafe tables along a sidewalk lined with colorful Spanish buildings.

Mesón de la Tortilla tapas restaurant is one of many eateries along a charming street in Centro between Plaza Mayor and the San Miguel Market.

To the west, Centro is bordered by the mid-18th century Royal Palace (last used by Alfonso XIII in 1931), Teatro Real (opera house) and the massive Neoclassical Cathedral of the Armed Forces (all part of so-called Austrias or “Habsburg Madrid”), while its northern limit is Gran Vía, Madrid’s main shopping street lined with high fashion boutiques. Centro is a very walkable neighborhood that stays up late: many restaurants and bars are located in the streets close to the Plazas Mayor and Sol.

Centro boasts a vast range of accommodation, from luxury to excellent budget hotels and some of the best hostels in the city. It’s the best place to stay over all for first-timers.

Elegant lobby atrium with glass ceiling

The elegant interior of Palacio de los Duques hotel in the Centro district.

2. Huertas

Pedestrians walk past a busy shop corner in Madrid's Huertas neighborhood.
A map showing the Huertas neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Sitting between Centro (specifically, Puerta del Sol) and Retiro, Huertas is the place to go to kick off your night. Calle Huertas, in particular, is lined with bars that range from hip to dive, while Calle Leon is good for independent shops, old-school delis, and drinking holes of every stripe. Plaza Santa Ana is ringed with bars and cafes with outdoor seating, perfect for whiling away afternoons and evenings (Cervecería Alemana is an old haunt of Ernest Hemingway). Calle Huertas leads you directly to the Paseo del Prado and its museums, while the few streets just north of Calle Huertas (known as Barrio de Las Letras) are Madrid’s former literary quarter – writers such as Cervantes and Lope de Vega once lived there. This part of Huertas is less raucous and more arty, with several former writers’ residences turned into museums. Cervantes is buried in the Convento de las Trinitarias, while the Casa de Lope de Vega is small but enlightening museum dedicated to the 17th-century playwright (guided tours only).

Rooftop hotel swimming pool, with sun loungers on a sunny day.

We love the small but refreshing rooftop pool at the Hotel Urban, just down the street from the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum and a 10-minute walk to the Prado.

3. Malasaña

People eat at outdoor tables sidewalks lined with colorful buildings
A map showing the Malasana neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

This hip, grungy neighborhood lives for the night. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Malasaña was known for its experimental La Movida Madrileña movement of rock music, sexual freedom, and illegal substance use. The tiny streets are still marked with remnants of graffiti and dotted with tattoo parlors, but vintage shops, hip bars, trendy cafés, and restaurants have replaced much of the earlier seediness and grime. Where Malasaña is short on sights (with the exception of several small art galleries, the beautiful church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, and the main square, Plaza de Dos de Mayo, which commemorates the rebellion against Napoleon’s occupation of the city), it’s huge on nightlife. There are numerous bars and restaurants along Calle Espiritu Santo, Libertad, and Malasaña’s mostly pedestrianized thoroughfare, Fuencarral. The neighborhood is a 10-minute walk north of Centro.

Malasaña is the place to look for cheap hotels and cheaper rates in general – prices are usually lower than in Centro, even at the top level.

Stately white hotel on a busy corner in Madrid.

Hotel Atlántico has a perfect central location right on Gran Via and next to the Callao Metro Station.

4. Chueca

Ornate pink exterior of a museum in Madrid
A map showing the Chueca neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

A short walk both from Malasaña and Centro’s Gran Vía, Chueca in the northeast sector of the city center is lively around the clock. Many of the city’s main attractions are within easy walking distance, but in Chueca itself you’ll find the art-filled Museum of Romanticism, housed in the former 18th-century palace of the Marquis of Matallana, the excellent History Museum of Madrid, and the whimsical Longoria Palace, one of the city’s few Art Nouveau buildings.

Corner view of an ornate Art-nouveau mansion in Madrid

Palacio Longoria

By day, Chueca is also one of the best places in Madrid to dine out, with numerous hip restaurants and cafes lining its narrow streets. You’ll find the three-story gourmet food market, Mercado San Antón, along Calle Agusto Figueroa. Fashion shopping is excellent, too: the same street is known for its numerous shoe boutiques. By night, Chueca comes alive with bars that stay open until dawn. Madrid’s main LGBTQ neighborhood, Chueca is where you’ll find most of the city’s gay-friendly clubs and bars. And no night crawl is complete without a visit to the local institutions of Museo Chicote (where Hemingway and Sinatra used to drink), and Taberna de Ángel Sierra on Plaza de Chueca, an old-school vermouth bar.

Chueca is another great area to look for bargains, with a huge stock of cheap accommodation. Standards can be poor at the budget end – exceptions are listed below.

Hotel wall made out of white suitcases, with the word "YOU" lit in a glowing sign.

Quirky design details at Only YOU boutique hotel, set in a restored 19th-century Chueca palace.

5. Retiro

Glass conservatory building with a pond and fountain in front
A map showing the Retiro neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Bordered by the Paseo del Prado to the west and Av deLa Paz to the east, the neighborhood of Retiro encompasses the vast Parque de Buen Retiro and the affluent residential streets immediately east of the city center. The park itself is a joy to explore, home to the wonderfully picturesque Palacio de Cristal and the ornately tiled Palacio de Velázquez (both housing contemporary art exhibits from the Museo Reina Sofia, and a large boating lake.

A tour guide instructs a group about a painting hanging in the Prado Museum

The Prado Museum

Apart from the park, Retiro is also famous as a home to the ‘Golden Triangle’ – the city’s three most important art museums. World-class Museo del Prado (home to the likes of Las Meninas by Velázquez and The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch) is directly on the Paseo del Prado, while the private collection of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is across the street in the old Villahermosa Palace. The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, at the south end of Paseo del Prado (with Jean Nouvel’s elegant modern extension), is Madrid’s biggest and best repository of contemporary art, housing work by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris, but most famously Picasso’s Guernica. Don’t miss the stalls opposite the museum in the Cuesta de Moyano Book Market, along pedestrianized Calle de Claudio Moyano on the southern end of the Real Jardín Botánico. Other attractions include the National Museum of Anthropology, Naval Museum, National Museum of Decorative Arts, and the eye-catching CaixaForum, a venue for art exhibitions with a vertical garden facade.

Estación de Atocha, Madrid’s main train station for southern and eastern Spain, lies at the southern end of Retiro, meaning easy transfers for those traveling by train.

Bar with moody portrait paintings hung floor to ceiling.

The atmospheric Pictura cocktail bar at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid.

6. Salamanca

Large museum building with doric columns lining the front
A map showing the Salamanca neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Just north of Retiro, this grid of wide, leafy streets and avenues is Madrid’s most upscale residential neighborhood. The two main avenues here are Calle de Serrano and Calle de Velázquez. If shopping is your passion, don’t miss the boutiques along the Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) on and around Calle de Serrano and Calle de Claudio Coello. Ones to look out for include Sita Murt (chic knitwear), Nac Madrid (high-end footwear), and Isoleé (luxury mini-department store). Other attractions include the National Archaeological Museum (which displays the “Lady of Elche”, a rare Celtiberian bust from the 4th century BC), and Madrid’s iconic bull ring – Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas. To the north there’s wonderful (and less crowded) art collections in the Museo Sorolla and Museo Lázaro Galdiano, with the family-friendly National Museum of Natural Sciences holding a compelling collection of dinosaur bones, fossils, and giant whale skeletons. Salamanca is quite spread out, so riding the metro is a good way to get around here. This barrio is liveliest during the day, though there are a few excellent bars and restaurants near the Retiro for evenings out.

Salamanca is home to some of the best luxury hotels in the city and is an expensive place to stay in general.

Beautifully manicured garden courtyard with palm trees at a Madrid hotel on a sunny day

The beautiful and luxurious Santo Mauro hotel in Salamanca.

7. La Latina

Narrow street lined with shops and overhung with colorful scarves, with many pedestrians walking on the sidewalks
A map showing the La Latina neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Just a few minutes’ walk south of Centro, La Latina’s main draws are its beautiful architecture – some of the city’s oldest – and vibrant nightlife. The neighborhood is known especially for its grand churches: the huge Basilica of San Francisco el Grande with its giant dome (bigger than St. Paul’s in London) and paintings by Zurbarán and Goya; the beautiful Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle; the church of Saint Isidore; and St Peter the Old, with its distinctive Moorish-style bell tower. Other highlights include the Museo de San Isidro, which charts the early history of Madrid, and Las Vistillas Garden, a popular spot to view sunset. The tiny streets of La Latina are a pleasure to explore on foot, and on Sundays the city’s largest flea market, El Rastro, takes up entire blocks, with crowds of pedestrians wandering from stall to stall to the accompaniment of street musicians. Most evenings, the tapas bars lining the streets are abuzz with life until late, with the biggest concentration located along Calle de la Cava Baja.

This part of town is less touristy than Centro, and there are not many hotels – we’ve listed a few good budget options below.

Yellow stucco exterior of a historic hotel in Madrid, with a shaded seating area in front.

The boutique hotel Posada del León de Oro in La Latina is an excellent choice for travelers on a budget.

8. Lavapiés

A man walks down a narrow street that is overhung with colorful letters
A map showing the Lavapies neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Sandwiched between La Latina and Huertas, and just a few minutes’ walk from both Centro and the art museums of Retiro, Lavapiés is a buzzy, hip neighborhood on the south side of the city center that’s still a little rough around the edges. This ethnically diverse corner of the city is renowned for its diverse cuisine and trendy nightlife. Calle Lavapiés is locally known as “Curry Row” due to the proliferation of excellent Indian restaurants, and Calle Argumosa is particularly good for hipster bars and al fresco drinking. On Sundays, the El Rastro flea market spills over into Lavapiés from La Latina.

Bright and airy hotel entryway with arched passageway

The chic and comfortable Casa du Soleil is a great value boutique hotel in Lavapiés

9. Argüelles & Moncloa (aka “Princesa”)

People at an overlook to view a sunset in Madrid
A map showing the Arguelles & Moncloa neighborhood in Madrid, Spain.

Just north of the royal palace and Plaza de España in central Madrid, leafy Argüelles consists of large parks and residential streets. The largest park, Parque del Oeste, is where you’ll find the Templo de Debod – a reconstructed 4th-century BC Egyptian temple and a favorite spot for sunset-watching. Down by the narrow River Mazanares, the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida is the resting place of Goya and is decorated with some of his most beautiful frescoes – nearby Casa Mingo is famed for its roast chicken, cider and Spanish classics. The Teleférico de Madrid cable car runs west across the river from near here to the expansive Parque Casa de Campo, home to Madrid’s Zoo Aquarium, theme parks, historic monuments, and hiking trails.

Reconstruction of an Egyptian temple in Madrid

Debod Temple at Parque del Oeste

North of Parque del Oeste, Argüelles and the Calle de la Princesa flow seamlessly into Moncloa, home to Madrid’s main university, the monumental Arco de Moncloa (built by Franco in 1956 to his commemorate his victory in the Spanish Civil War), and the Faro de Moncloa – a lighthouse-like observation tower with excellent views of the surrounding city. The Museum of the Americas holds fascinating collections of pre-Columbian American art, while the Museo del Traje traces the history of fashion. Further north is the Moncloa Palace, official residence of Spain’s prime minister since 1977. This part of town has a large student population, and a few lively bars, with the nightlife of Malasaña and Chueca a short walk east. The main street, Calle de la Princesa, is lined with high street boutiques and department stores. Madrid’s main attractions are a longish walk or short metro ride away; Moncloa, Argüelles and Plaza de España are the area’s main metro stops.

There are not many hotels beyond the busy Plaza España; it’s far less touristy up here, being dominated by the huge campuses of Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

More Madrid Neighborhoods

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail above, but soccer fans should also make a pilgrimage to the the wealthy Chamartín neighborhood north of the city center to see Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home of one of Europe’s most famous teams, Real Madrid (easily reached by metro). You can tour the stadium and visit the on-site museum, match tickets are available online. The best hotels nearby include Canopy Castellana, H10 Tribeca, and AC Hotel Aitana. Fierce rivals Atlético Madrid play at the Metropolitano Stadium in the Rosas neighborhood, northeast of the city center (also with its own metro stop and small museum) – few games match the intensity of the “Derbi Madrileño” when the two teams meet.

There’s not much point in staying near Madrid-Barajas Airport unless you have avery early flight (getting to the airport on public transport can take a while depending on where you stay). If you do need to stay here, HelloSky Air Rooms is the most convenient (if somewhat mediocre) option for Terminal 4, located inside the terminal. For terminals 1, 2, and 3, the hotels are all outside the airport and fairly basic: the Sercotel, Meliá, and ibis are solid chain options.

Madrid Travel Tips

  • Madrid–Barajas Airport is about 8 miles (13 km) northeast of the city center. As the largest airport in Spain, it’s well connected to cities all over the world, including 9 in North America. Metro Line 8 links terminal 1-4 with Nuevos Ministerios station, where you’ll have to change for the city center. Fast regional trains also link Terminal 4 with the city center; a free shuttle bus connects Terminal 4 with Terminals 1–3. Taxis charge a flat €30 into the city, which is not bad if you have a lot of luggage or just want to save time.
  • Uber is available in Madrid, but as there are relatively few drivers, it’s usually easier and cheaper to hail/order a local taxi. Uber has faced numerous challenges operating in Spain, not least extremely hostile resistance from local taxi unions.
  • Almost everyone you are likely to deal with in cosmopolitan Madrid will be able to speak (or at least understand some) English, except for a few taxi drivers and owners of small cafés/shops. Try to learn some Spanish anyway, before you go.
  • As with many European cities, there are several tourist passes offered for Madrid – as always, these are good value only if you intend to do a lot of sightseeing in a short amount of time. When choosing between the Madrid Digital Card or one of the various museum passes on offer, coming up with an itinerary and comparing savings pass-by-pass is tedious but effective.
  • Bike rental is available through bikeshare schemes like BiciMAD, which offers e-bikes with 1, 3 or 5-day passes, and several traditional bike rental shops like Don Cicleto. However, Madrid is not a good place for tourists to ride bikes – there are plenty of slopes to negotiate and narrow streets in the old center shared with pedestrians and vehicles. Bike lanes are not common. The Anillo Verde bike trail encircles the city, but this is quite a way out.
  • Free wi-fi is available at Madrid–Barajas Airport, and at cafés and museums throughout the city itself, as well as at the Plaza Mayor Tourist Information Centre, Plaza de Santo Domingo, shopping malls, and on city buses and regional trains.

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