The bustling, capital city of Madrid is a must-see on any trip to Spain. Located at the country’s centre, Madrid is full of winding roads, world-class museums, grand boulevards, hidden taverns, and enough culture to draw you in and keep you hooked. Madrid truly has it all: gorgeous European architecture, delicious food, rich history, and a great nightlife scene to explore once you’ve watched the sunset over Templo de Debod or Parque de las Siete Tetas. To find out more about the city’s many fantastic neighbourhoods, and get insider tips on where to find the best eats in all of them, keep on reading.
Anchored by the lively Puerta del Sol, this neighbourhood is the beating heart of Madrid. At the very centre of the city, and in fact, marking Kilometre 0, the starting point of all major radial roads in Spain, you can’t get more downtown than this in Madrid. Where Calle Alcalá intersects the Plaza, you’ll find the famous Oso y Madroño (bear and the strawberry tree), known by many as the symbol of Madrid. Although Sol can be touristy, it’s a must-see for any trip to Madrid and if you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some hidden gems.
Gran Vía, the heart of Madrid and one of the city’s most famous streets (Photo courtesy of Lucas Mialani)
Where to eat?
El Sobrino de Botín is the oldest restaurant in the world and has the aged-to-perfection family recipes to prove it. Be sure to try the house speciality – roast suckling pig – and don’t forget to call ahead to reserve your table! Just around the corner is Chocolatería San Ginés, the best place to go for another Spanish speciality – churros and chocolate! Well-known for being a great late-night snack, we’re certain this will hit the spot no matter what time it is.
Churros con chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés
2. La Latina
La Latina, located only a short walk from Sol, is another fun and lively neighbourhood to explore while you’re in Madrid. Best known for beer, tapas and terraces – make your way up Cava Alta and Cava Baja to try some for yourself. If you’re visiting in the summer, grab a table on the street at the golden hour and bask in the glory of living like a Madrileño. La Latina is also home to the El Rastro flea market every Sunday – go early and get lost in this market of otherworldly proportions.
Where to eat?
For the best tortilla española in the city, be sure to head to Juana La Loca. Named after the ‘crazy’ Queen of Spain from way back in the 16th century, you won’t want to miss checking this spot out!
With a higher concentration of immigrants than any other neighbourhood in the city, Lavapiés is beautifully diverse. This colourful barrio offers plenty to explore, including several neighbourhood associations and cultural centres. The most famous of these is La Tabacalera, and this old tobacco factory-turned cultural space is well worth a visit.
Where to eat?
If you’re ready for a slight break from Spanish cuisine, check out one of Lavapiés’ many ethnic restaurants. We always find ourselves craving Indian food when we’re travelling, and recommend Moharaj for a good biryani or dahl to satisfy your taste buds.
Malasaña is undoubtedly hipster central in Madrid. Centrally located, this trendy barrio is filled to the brim with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, boutiques and vintage stores. Come wander around Malasaña to enjoy the creativity and energy that runs through its colourful streets. Malasaña has its fair share of culture as well – start your day at one of the neighbourhood’s museums before grabbing a coffee, bite to eat, or getting your shop on.
Malasaña is full of picture-perfect streets like this one (Photo courtesy of Lucas Mialani)
Where to eat?
We couldn’t write up a Madrid food tour without including at least one market. While in Malasaña, be sure to head to Mercado de San Ildefonso on Calle Fuencarral. Take your time checking out the many different food stalls on offer, and then bring your food up to the terrace with you to enjoy a great view at the same time! If you’d prefer a sit-down meal, head to Ojalá for delicious food and drinks that will transport you to a tropical island. The sandy beach on the bottom floor of the restaurant is unique and charming at the same time!
Madrid is one of Spain’s most open and accepting cities, and the neighbourhood of Chueca is famous as being Madrid’s gay district. In the 1970s Chueca was linked to prostitution and drugs, but it has since been reinvigorated by the gay community with the opening of various restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. If you’re travelling to Madrid in the summer, be sure to head over to Chueca to witness Europe’s second-largest Pride Parade.
Where to eat?
For a snack truly representative of Chueca’s fun and flirty spirit, head to La Pollería. This provocative bakery specializes in one thing: waffles in the shape of phalluses! No, we’re not kidding. This is truly one of a kind, and we don’t think there’s anywhere better to experience it. Look out for their bright pink exterior to be sure not to miss this spot while walking down the street. If that just doesn’t sound like your thing, another spot you’ll want to check out is the infamous El Tigre Sidrería, home to Madrid’s cheapest tapas – they’re actually completely free, as long as you order a drink!
Royal Palace of Madrid (Photo courtesy of Lucas Mialani)
Hopefully you enjoyed this tour of some of Madrid’s neighbourhoods, and found some spots to bookmark for your next trip.
Madrid makes for a great pre-or post-trip visit when doing a Delectable Destinations Andalucía Culinary Tour – we hope to see you there soon!
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