Glamor meets good times in Madrid: downshift from power-lunching in Salamanca to Bohemian tapas bars in Malasaña. Hop museums from Museo del Prado to Thyssen-Bornemisza to Reina Sofia, and then end the day with drinks and live jazz along Calle de Huertas. Shop 1930s art deco Gran Vía and upscale Calle Serrano until you're left with just enough for bargain ethnic eats in Lavapiés and Plaza España.
Getting Around Madrid
The best way to get around Madrid is by using the Metro and walking. From the Barajas airport, you can take the Metro from Terminal 2 or Terminal 4. Trains leave every 5 minutes between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. Line 8 will take you to the center of Madrid and takes only 12 minutes. (
Nearby Airports
  • Madrid–Barajas Airport-MAD
Airport Taxis
  • 25 Euro
Things to Do and See in Madrid
ArgüellesSerranoMalasañaChamberíChuecaPaseo del PradoRetiroLavapiésLa LatinaHuertasGran VíaOperaSol
With its proximity to the University, Moncloa caters to students with some great bars and nightlife, most of which are located in basements. Along Calle Princesa from Moncloa to Plaza Espa—a are shops, restaurants and cinemas—a welcome alternative to touristy Gran Vía. For a park that's less crowded than the famous Retiro, head to bigger, lesser-known Parque de Oeste, near the Egyptian Debod Temple. Moncloa and surrounding Argüelles offer everything you can find in the other Madrid barrios, minus the crowds.
Designer shops and upscale bars line this neighborhood along Calle Serrano, with big names like Prada and Gucci to chic little boutiques from lesser-known designers just a few side streets away. Wide boulevards and shady streets make this area a popular urban runway, populated by businesspeople at elegant outdoor terrace bars. On the upper end of Serrano Street is a hidden gem that's one of Madrid's most underrated galleries: the Lazaro Galdiano museum, a must for art aficionados.
The beating heart of bohemian Madrid, Malasaña is the creative center of the Spanish capitol. Inspiration comes in liquid form here, with at least one bar for every seven people. Nights are crowded with people headed to lively, unpretentious bars and clubs specializing in world music, alternative culture and Madrid's "La Movida" (countercultural) lifestyle. People spill out onto the narrow streets and open plazas after the bars close
North of the popular party district of Malasaña, Chamberí is worth visiting for its 19th and 20th century architecture, with neo-classical and high modernist design influences. The neighborhood also boasts the charming and under-visited Sorolla Museum, the Andalucian house and gallery belonging to Spain's greatest impressionist painter. At relaxed bars with outdoor terraces, you can sample authentic Spanish cuisine away from the manic touristic chaos of downtown. Enjoy a leisurely stroll here during hot summers under the shade of tall buildings or leafy trees, and cool down at local fountains.
Famous for its lively gay nightlife, Chueca is the place to party. By day, this small area nestled between Gran Vía and Malasaña is where you'll find cool boutiques and a gourmet market in the recently opened Mercado de San Antonio. At night pretty much anything goes, with the majority of the action around Plaza de Chueca—but go into any of the side streets and you'll find bars and clubs to suit all tastes. The neighborhood offers bargain take away and tapas-El Tigre on Calle de Infantas offers free tapas with your beer.
The Paseo del Prado is known as the "Golden Triangle" as the home of Madrid's three most famous museums: Museo del Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia. Inside you'll find wall-to-wall masterpieces, and outside a pleasant green area with wide, tree-lined boulevards and a park-covered island with benches and fountains. Although this is a touristy area, it's less crowded than Sol and offers nice restaurants and bars in the plaza just opposite the Prado Museum. The side streets behind the museum are mostly residential, but include some architecturally intriguing townhouses.
Madrid's green lung, Retiro Park offers sweet relief from city hubbub. Retiro Park can become crowded on weekends, though you can still find quieter, secluded areas away from signature landmarks such as the Estanque and the Crystal Palace. The residential Retiro area borders chic Salamanca and has plenty of elegant traditional bars, but it's less exclusive than its glamorous neighbor.
Once the Jewish quarter of Madrid before the expulsion in 1492, Lavapiés is rich in history and remains one of Madrid's most culturally diverse areas. Branching out from neighboring La Latina, Lavapiés has become the ultimate student and hippie hangout with its range of cheap bars, cool ethnic restaurants and active street life. In the 1990s the area was neglected, but now it's become a cultural hub with an international mix of local residents, excellent theater, underground creative spaces and open art centers.
In the oldest part of Madrid's historic center, La Latina's winding, narrow streets are filled with antique hunters on weekdays, and bargain seekers headed to nearby Rastro market on Sundays. At night, a swarm of people move from bar to bar sampling tapas (Spanish snacks) with friends, emerging from underground cellars with live flamenco shows for a breather on warm open-air terraces. For the best bars, check out Cava Baja. Attractive and historic churches are tucked round each corner in hidden plazas. During the day, an eclectic mix of tourists and district natives throng the streets.
Tucked behind the Paseo del Prado is Huertas, nicknamed "Neighborhood of Literature." Great literary figures from Madrid's Golden Age called Huertas home, including playwright Lope de Vega, whose house can still be visited. The neighborhood bears this literary heritage proudly, with its poetry-engraved streets and distinct bohemian flair. Narrow tree-lined Calle de Huertas is famed for its nighttime bar and jazz scene, notably Café Populart, which offers free jazz and blues concerts every night. The Barrio de las Letras is a historic Hemingway hangout: the Cervecería Alemana on Plaza Santa Ana and La Venencia on Calle Echegaray were some of the writer's favorite haunts.
With its 1930s art deco charm, Gran Vía is an irresistible daytime draw for independent shops, department stores, theaters and cinemas. By night, Gran Vía side streets turn seedier—you may have to go out of your way to avoid streetwalkers on Calle Montera. Gran Vía is full of fast food restaurants and chain restaurants, so you may want to look elsewhere for authentic Spanish food.
This upscale city center has regal charm as the official home to the Spanish royal family, with the royal palace, Teatro Real and the Royal Opera House. The Plaza Oriente features sculpted gardens dotted with open-air bistros, where you can dine in old-world style before your opera or stroll through the Sabatini gardens. The Almudena Cathedral is just opposite the Royal Palace, with its wide-open interior space and modern splendors.
As Spain's geographical center, you can't get more downtown than Sol. Always full of people no matter the weather or time of day, Sol is packed with souvenir shops, street performers and touristy bars. The tourist heart of the Spanish capitol, Sol is close to the Plaza Mayor, the tourist information center, the Opera district and Gran Vía—not to mention transport connections, including three metro lines and a regional train.