Author: Of course, which neighborhoods are more livable than others is always a matter of debate. So for those who live in Madrid, let the friendly bantering begin. Hopefully through some discussion we can come up with a pretty good guide for anyone looking for a place to live in Madrid.
Sol / Opera / Las Cortes
Sol is the city center. Most city dwellers spend a lot of time here shopping, meeting friends, or just passing through from one place to another. Because Sol is central and home to some of the best monuments in the city such as Plaza Mayor, The Royal Palace, and The Cathedral of Almudena, it’s full of tourists (and as a result, pickpockets). Sol may be a great place to visit or spend time, but it’s not great for daily life sorts of things like buying groceries or getting a haircut.
Take a walk down Gran Vía, and you’ll know you are in a big city. Tall office buildings, giant department stores, movie theaters—this is modern Madrid. Beware of Plaza Luna. It’s rundown and dirty, and like Gran Vía and c/Montera by night, it’s where the prostitutes work.
Not a neighborhood known for anything in particular, Huertas is still home of some of my Madrid favorites. Populart is my favorite jazz club. Ricci is my favorite gelado / ice cream shop. And Plaza de Santa Ana is a great place to enjoy a summer drink on a terrace. Huertas is also walking distance from Sol, Madrid’s best museums, and the ever popular Retiro Park.
Everything that is traditionally Madrid you’ll find here—the people, the food, the architecture, and the way of life. La Latina is hands down the oldest and most beautiful neighborhood in Madrid. Still, old buildings are nicer to look at than to live in. They’re often rundown, dingy, dark and lacking modern conveniences like heat, good-sized windows, natural gas, etc.
El Rastro may look like other neighborhoods in Madrid during the week, but on Sunday it’s something else altogether. Street venders line the streets and people flood in from everywhere to get a bargain and spend an afternoon with friends eating lunch on a terrace. Pickpockets are rampant. If you live in this neighborhood, think twice about sleeping in on Sundays or doing anything other than watching the swarms of people from your windows.
Lavapiés is a neighborhood of extremes. Here you’ll find young and old, Madrileño and foreigner, and the barrio with a reputation for being full of life and full of crime. I would consider not living here for safety reasons.
Named after the city’s most important train station, Atocha is great for getting anywhere by train. Also, its central location puts most places nearby. Atocha may not be the coolest place to live, but it’s convenient and good for daily life sorts of things.
Malasaña is quiet and residential, but also trendy and alternative. See the Conde Duque cultural center or the shops and people on c/Fuencarral or find out for yourself by spending a night in any one of the small and eclectic clubs in the area. Malasaña is also international. Some of the best international restaurants are on c/San Bernardino. Just down the street is the international food market.
Chueca is best known for being the gay district of Madrid. It’s yuppie, cosmopolitan, and prides itself for having a great nightlife. By day, Chueca is the city on a small scale, a blend of little streets, little shops, and the hustle and bustle of normal life.
Alonso Martínez / Bilbao
Most of the people who live in this neighborhood are young professionals, but on the weekends the streets surge with teenagers clubbing and drinking and smoking in the streets. The location is close to Sol, but also to the business district along the Castellana.
Moncloa / Argüelles
Madrid’s Complutense, the largest university in Spain, is located in Moncloa. Mostly students and the elderly live here. The neighborhood is a getaway from the chaos of the city center, but only a short metro ride away. You’ll find everything you need for daily life here. Also, the park around El Templo de Debod and Parque del Oeste provide some quality green space for hanging out with friends.
The Castellana is Madrid’s business world. Here you’ll find the headquarters of many banks and companies. There’s not much to look at besides wide highways and tall buildings. It’s a place to live if you want to be close to work.
Salamanca is a classy neighborhood. A lot of people who have money and want to live in the city live here. Sunday afternoons at Retiro Park is a favorite pastime for the locals. Try it for yourself sometime, and you’ll find there’s something to do for everybody.
Nuevos Ministerios / Rios Rosas / Chamartín
These neighborhoods are mostly residential and lots of families live here. They are far enough outside the city that most people probably only go the city center if they work there or on special occasions. Shopping caters to the locals, including some fine tapas restaurants—nothing fancy, just good food at great prices.