Looking for a hotel or an apartment in Madrid? The city has different areas which each have their own atmosphere and identity. With these different options, it’s not always easy to choose where to stay depending on your budget but also on your expectations. Here’s my guide to help you understand the different districts of Madrid!
Madrid Center / Plaza Mazor
The central district is the oldest area in Madrid. It is also called “Austrias” in reference to the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were called “los austrias” (“the Austrians”) by the people and built a large part of the buildings visible today in the district.
It includes Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace but also the Almudena Cathedral and Palacio de Santa Cruz.
This area is therefore perfect to visit those places, since you will find yourself in historic Madrid. You will have access to a wide variety of restaurants and you can also reach other areas via the Opera and Sol metro stations. Right next to Plaza Mayor, you can also go to the San Miguel Market, a great place to stop and taste some typical Spanish dishes. The only disadvantage of the Austrias district is that it is very touristy, so there are always a lot of people on the streets, restaurants and hotels. My advice: remember to book your accommodation in advance to get the best price possible.
This area will be suitable especially for medium to high budgets due to its central location in the city. Many hotels are there for 100-150 € per night, but you’ll also find discount hostels, and 4 and 5 star hotels for a luxury trip to Madrid.
The area between Puerta del Sol and Gran Via is probably the busiest in Madrid. There you can visit historic places, shop, or go out to one of the area’s many bars and restaurants. First in the Puerta del Sol square are the equestrian statue of Charles III and that of the Bear and the strawberry tree, symbol of the city of Madrid. You’ll also see there the clock of Casa de Correos, and a plaque on the ground symbolizing the kilómetro cero, departure from all the roads of Spain.
At Gran Via, you will find cinemas like the Cine Capitol and also several theaters. You’ll be able to see many shows, musicals, operas and plays each evening.
The area is also a good place to discover the tablaos, which are bars and restaurants where you can watch a flamenco show. Among them, the Torres Bermejas is particularly famous, as well as the Cafe de Chinitas.
In terms of budget, the area will suit medium to high budgets (around 100 € per night) and includes many hotels.
The Salamanca district is located north of the Retiro Park. It’s the most opulent part of Madrid, and a fairly quiet area that consists mainly of beautiful apartment buildings with very elegant architecture.
You can enjoy luxury shopping in Serrano Street, that includes many Spanish and international brands.
You’ll also find there the archeology museum and the national library of Spain. From this district, you will quickly reach the Retiro Park, the Prado Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, as well as the central district and Gran Via.
Salamanca is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for high-end accommodation in a quiet area. Prices are high, with many hotels over € 150 per night that propose luxurious amenities.
Directly west of Salamanca is Chueca, the gay district of Madrid. The atmosphere is radically different, with a very vibrant nightlife. One of Chueca’s most renowned clubs, Black & White is one of the city’s most famous gay bars. You can choose between many clubs to dance until the end of the night, or go to a live entertainment bar like the legendary Libertad 8.
As you walk the streets of Chueca, you will discover many small trendy shops and also many restaurants and cafes. This area is also home to the San Anton Market where you can enjoy a wide variety of delicious tapas accompanied by a cocktail.
In Chueca, you’ll find low to medium prices, which make it a great place to stay if you want to enjoy Madrid’s nightlife without breaking the bank.
La Latina is a district with a traditional atmosphere with its medieval streets and its famous Sunday flea market, El Rastro. The area has many bars and pubs with a warm and authentic atmosphere that make it a good place to go out at night.
In terms of monuments, you’ll find the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande and the Church of San Andres. You can also spend an evening at the La Latina theater, which offers various shows throughout the year.
Housing prices are average to high but can vary widely depending on their location in the neighborhood.
It is a very good choice for a stay in a typical area, close to the tourist center of Madrid.
A popular and cosmopolitan district, Lavapiés is located south of the city center. It has been neglected for a long time, and had a bad reputation until recently. But don’t worry! The neighborhood has evolved a lot to become a cosmopolitan place with a very rich cultural program. Today you will find a large number of excellent restaurants from around the world, as well as some of the best tapas in Madrid. In Lavapies, a tapas and music tasting festival takes place every year in October: the Tapapiés festival. If you are in Madrid in October, this is a great opportunity to taste lots of tapas!
Lavapies is an interesting area if you are looking for inexpensive accommodation. You won’t be right next to the major places of interest in the city center, but you can easily reach them by public transport.
Located just east of Chueca, the Malasaña district offers a young and hipster vibe. The area is full of cafes, themed bars and restaurants, each with their own unique character. For shopping, you can go to one of the thrift stores and vintage stores in the neighborhood, or to one of the small boutiques that offer designer clothes. In the evening, a festive atmosphere takes over its streets with the many bars and nightclubs in the neighborhood.
You’ll find accommodation for small budgets in Malasaña. The area is a good choice for visiting Madrid without spending too much thanks to its proximity to the center.
Finally, the Retiro district is the one that borders the famous Retiro park. It’s a quiet and elegant place, with mostly residential buildings.
From there, you can easily go for a stroll in the Retiro Park and discover the Palace of Cristal. It’s a great place to walk or jog on sunny days. At the northwest exit of the park is also the imposing Alcala Gate, which once marked the entrance to the city.
In terms of budget, the district offers accommodation at medium to high prices depending on their proximity to the Retiro park. It is ideal if you are looking for a quiet place to stay without going too far from the center of Madrid.