Madrid Area Map
Madrid is segmented into distritos (districts) and further subdivided into barrios (administrative wards), but these are the must-visit unofficial neighborhoods that travelers should visit. Keep in mind that the neighborhoods are best traveled by foot – to fully absorb the local flavor – but Madrid's vast metro system provides relief should you grow fatigued.
Accessible via Sol, Sevilla and Opera metro stops.
Madrid's city center, Puerta del Sol (or Gateway to the Sun) is very tourist-centric. The area is brimming with open-air cafes, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment venues. Here you won't have any problem finding some of Spain's greatest staples: tapas, sangria and flamenco. For some magnificent architecture and a dose of Spanish history, check out the nearby Palacio Real, and for a night out at the opera, book tickets to a performance at the Teatro Real.
La Latina and Lavapiés
Accessible via La Latina, Puerto De Toledo and Lavapiés metro stops.
Located southwest of Sol, La Latina is home to the world-famous Sunday flea market, El Rastro. Less than a mile east of La Latina is Lavapiés, one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city. If you grow tired of Spanish fare or the nightclubs in Sol, it's best to head to Lavapiés. The neighborhood features a collection of cool bars on Calle Argumosa as well as great global cuisine, including Indian and Moroccan food.
Accessible via Anton Martin metro stop.
Just a 10-minute walk from Puerta del Sol, Huertas holds an assemblage of theaters and nightlife options, especially in Plaza Santa Ana and along the streets, Calle del Príncipe and Calle de Echegaray. The area is also home to some serious Spanish history. Stroll along Calle de Cervantes and stop at house number two: the house where Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote," lived and later died. Head west on the street and you'll run into the Lope de Vega museum, which details the life of another legendary Spanish writer. Literary buffs will also appreciate Calle de las Huertas, which features quotes inscribed in the streets from famous Spanish authors.
Accessible via the Gran Via, Callao and Santo Domingo metro stops.
Sandwiched between Sol to the south and Malasaña to the north, Gran Vía, nicknamed "El Broadway Madrileño," models itself after New York City's Broadway and is Madrid's commercial hub. One of the city's main shopping thoroughfares, the street is home to a plethora of department stores, as well as entertainment venues, including Callao Cinemas, where many of the country's movie premieres are held. It is also the main street that connects visitors to Sol, Malasaña and Chueca.
Malasaña and Chueca
Accessible via Tribunal and Chueca metro stops.
Malasaña and Chueca sit to the north of Gran Vía and are split by Calle de Fuencarral. These neighborhoods are almost sleepy during the day, but at night they transform into a nightlife hub. The home of gay Madrid, Chueca, buzzes with gay-friendly bars and nightclubs. Malasaña is known for its cool bars, restaurants and cafes. TupperWare club and Lolina Vintage Cafe in particular are local favorites for their kitschy decor, while Ojala restaurant has an entire floor modeled after a beach, equipped with sand and cushioned floor seating. The area is also known for its chic second-hand clothing stores, so make sure to stop there after hitting up El Rastro.
Argüelles and Moncloa
Accessible via the Arguelles, Moncloa, Ventura Rodriguez
Argüelles and Moncloa shelter a mixed group of Madrid's families in the residential district, as well as university students who attend the nearby Complutense University of Madrid. Moncloa can be nondescript during the day, but at night, the students come out and at clubs like Chapandaz. The area is also chock full of kebab restaurants, a local late-night favorite among residents. Arguelles is home to one of the city's main shopping streets: Calle Princesa. After a round of shopping, walk down any of the streets west of Princesa and sit down for a cortado at one of the street-side cafes situated along Parque Oeste. For a bit of history, walk along Paseo del Pintor Rosales and up into the park at the intersection of Calle Ferraz to Temple of Debod: a reassembled Egyptian temple. The area surrounding Temple of Debod is also considered one of the best lookout places in all of Madrid, especially at sunset.
Accessible via Colon, Serrano and Velazquez
Some of Madrid's wealthiest live in Salamanca, as it is one of the most expensive places to rent in the city. Upscale shops abound, including the El Corte Inglés department store, and a compilation of A-list designers including Louis Vuitton and Gucci line the shopping hub of Calle de Serrano. Don't make a trip here unless you are looking to drop some major dough.
Accessible via Retiro, Atocha and Banco de España
After Sol, the neighborhood of Retiro comes in a close second to housing some of the biggest attractions the city has to offer. Along with the expansive Parque Retiro, the area is also home to what locals call the golden triangle of art. The famous Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia museum are all less than a mile apart from each other, forming a triangle with the nearby Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanic Garden).