According to Wiki, Madrid can be divided into two main zones of real interest to visitors: the old traditional Center, with the Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía at its heart and the surrounding 17th-century Austrias, Chueca, Malasaña, La Latina, and Lavapiés districts.
However, that might sound a bit generic, and if you are new in the city then I suppose you are not that interested in pure geographical knowledge…you need a local to tell you which are the cool neighborhoods that should be definitely explored! I am here to help you out! Let us now dive into Madrid's different neighborhoods and see what each one of them has to offer.
Madrid possesses one of the most beautiful historical centers in Europe. The downtown area basically spreads from Plaza del Sol to the Royal Palace, which is undoubtedly worth a visit. In between those areas, you may find Plaza Mayor, Madrid's most aristocratic square, the Opera house and Theater, as well as the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid’s most alluring food market.
This barrio represents the fusion of people and cultures that Madrid has experimented within recent years. Indian restaurants stand alongside typical Madrid taverns, and immigrants make up the social fiber that holds Lavapiés together. Nowadays Lavapies is a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood full of bars, terraces, cultural centers, urban squares decorated with edgy but extremely impressive graffitis, and always filled with groups of all ages drinking and enjoying its international vibe! Bonus: The San Fernando Mercado definitely offers the "local vibe" you are looking for along with exquisite tapas, and of course, beers & wine.
If you are a fan of the 70's-80's counterculture and lifestyle, I am pretty sure that you are going to enjoy a stroll in Malasaña. Malasaña was one of the primary locations where many of the underground revolutionary events took place and where actually the Movida Madrilena slowly started! Popular for its nightlife, the neighborhood of Malasaña boasts an alternative vibe in bars, restaurants, as well as in the people’s clothing style and attitude. The lively Plaza del Dos de Mayo is undoubtedly the heart of the Malasaña neighborhood.
One of the most well-known neighborhoods in Madrid is without any doubt the barrio de La Latina! Famous for its nightlife, its tap beers, and its traditional “Spanish-style” restaurants (tapas), la Latina is a place totally worth visiting while traveling in Madrid. La Latina is one of the oldest and most traditional areas in the Spanish capital, fact that can be actually seen by the city’s walls ( ex. Puerta de Toledo) that spring up out of nowhere in the middle of the streets!
La Latina Bonus: If you’re a fan of the flea markets and a vintage culture lover then you should definitely pay a visit to Madrid’s El Rastro Sunday Market! El Rastro is the biggest and of course the most impressive flea market in Madrid; it is even said to be the biggest one in Spain! It takes place every Sunday morning from 9 am to 2 pm and it attracts thousands of visitors every week. A great variety of things can be found in El Rastro; from clothing to furniture, fabrics, and even electrical appliances!
The Chueca neighborhood is known as the gay neighborhood of Madrid and is, in fact, the epicenter of Europe's biggest Pride Festival. Its cosmopolitan atmosphere, artisanal small boutiques, modern cafes and bars, all located on paved decorated cobblestoned streets, give the visitor a unique and friendly vibe that one cannot find easily around the city. While there, you should not miss out on visiting the Mercado de San Anton, a modern food market. Grab a glass of fine Spanish wine or beer - whatever you feel like - and stroll through the Mercado in order to try some local delicacies. If you are one of those people eating “with their eyes”, I am telling you, you will leave this place with a full stomach.
You wanna go out, you wanna do some sightseeing, you wanna relax and meet people on the street…You also wanna go clubbing…and grab something to eat... Madrid's downtown neighborhoods got everything, from food and relaxation to arts and cultural events that will stay memorable! Enjoy!
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