Every year we get to meet and host plenty of international students coming to Madrid for a semester, a year or even an entire major. Mad4You is their first home in the city and we are always super glad to help them looking for the perfect barrio (neighborhood) where to rent the apartment that will be their home for the rest of their Spanish adventure!
So, here's a (partial) list of Madrid's top areas with few tips about the best spots in each barrio. Which one suites you better?
Let’s start with Mad4You Hostel neighborhood, also known for being the coolest, most art filled and alternative barrio of Madrid: Malasaña.
Located west of Chueca and north of Gran Via, is known for its young and countercultural vibes as well for its many rock bars and cafes; Malasaña has been trough some changes over the past decades, that is why is very easy to see modern restaurants and second-hand shops live alongside traditional cheap spanish bars and markets.
When the hipster movement took over and young people started taking a serious interest on this area of the city, prices naturally went up transforming a very traditional and classic madrilenian barrio into the new hot spot. Street art is also a big part of Malasaña as lots of graffitis and drawings on the walls have survived city cleaning and they are part of a very cool tour organized by the assosication “Street Art Project”, that takes you around the neighbourhood and show you the best of the best of Madrid’s street art.
So, where to eat/drink/have a good time?
LA BICICLETA CAFE’ (Plaza Ildefonso, 9)
La Bicicleta Cafe is the meeting point for lots of students and madrilenian in general. Situated in one of Malasana’s main and busiest squares, Plaza San Ildefonso, La Bicicleta is a bar, a cafe and a workplace; packed with students, is ideal for group studying, a sunday brunch, or just a drink (they do have a big variety of foreign liquors and cocktails).
PALENTINO (Calle Pez, 8)
Luckily some things never change, so it is still possible to find some old style spanish bar with their cigarette vending machine, the 80’s steel bar furnitures and the Atletico Madrid match screening on tv. One of them is Palentino, an icon of Madrid’s nightlife: this place has seen generations of youngsters coming in and out looking for cheap booze and good spanish bar food. In one word: a classic.
(they are too cool and old school to have a website!)
EL BARCO (Calle Barco, 34)
Do you like live music? Then Barco is the right venue for you. This super popular place is probably Malasaña’s best rock bar. They host live concerts almost every night, the crowd is always enthusiastic about the music being played and having a good time and the prices are fairly cheap for being a club. Open from Tuesday to Sunday till late night.
PLAZA DOS DE MAYO
Literally Malasaña’s hearth, this beautiful square is the place to be if you truly wish to understand what this barrio is all about. Everyone is sitting on the floor, sharing a cold beer (even though we remind you public drinking is illegal in Madrid) and playing some music with a guitar or a bongo drum, especially in the hot summer nights. A must of your madrilenian experience.
Renting in Malasaña
As stated before, in the last few years Malasana's renting prices went considerably up after becoming a trendy neighborhood; the good news is that is still pretty affordable. Sharing a flat could cost you from 350€ to up to 500€ per month, but you will be living in the centre, in a lively safe neighborhood and just stone's throw away from good parties. Just double check is not right above the most popular clubs or you will be hearing some noise during the weekend nights... or maybe you won't be home to hear it!
Another spectacular barrio is, without a doubt, La Latina: only few minutes' walk from Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor (= super centric) this area perfectly summarizes what Madrid and Spain in general is all about. Tapas, people happily chatting in the streets and weekends get together for a lunch or a caña under the Madrid sun.
Another good reason to choose La Latina is the Fiesta de la Paloma, a neighborhood party taking place for a week in the middle of August where everybody goes wild: stage with concerts, food trucks, an ocean of people all over the barrio...Oh, and is one of the very few occasions where in Madrid is legal to drink in the streets which makes it even more unmissable.
Let's not forget that La Latina is also where the famous Rastro market takes place, which gives this neighborhood a big plus: don't miss out on Europe's most iconic street market (every Sunday starting from 9 am until around 2 pm), get a good deal on some furniture, vintage purse or vinyl records and then head to either Plaza Cascorro or Puerta de Toledo for a drink and a tosta.
La Latina is a really authentic neighborhood, the buildings are colorful yet elegant and there is literally a tapas or a bar de copas every door step and even if we strongly suggest you to enter as many as you can by walking down the entire Calle Cava Baja, here are some of our favorites:
JUANA LA LOCA (Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4)
Do you like pintxos? Then you need to stop at Juana La Loca to try a couple. This wine bar will amaze you with some pretty creative cuisine and especially with their masterpiece: the tortillas de patatas, probably the best one in the centre of Madrid.
LAMIAK (Calle Cava Baja, 42)
If you are looking for a good Spanish crowd, this garrito (small bar)is a good stop for your Latina route. Warm lights, cozy atmosphere and plenty of locals enjoying their Saturday night and/or Sunday afternoon with a copa or a beer.
CAMPO DE LA CEBADA (Plaza de la Cebada, 4)
Our favorite “open air” option for La Latina is the Campo de La Cebada: residents of La Latina took over a site earmarked for the construction of a public facility, and converted it into a meeting place for a wide-ranging series of events including inflatable pools, open-air cinema and neighborhood breakfasts. Perfect spot to relax in the sun and have a pic-nic with your friends on a warm, sunny, perfect Madrid day.
Renting in La Latina
La Latina is a great place to live in. As advised for Malasaña, be careful not to rent an apartment just above a hot party spot (best way to find out if a street is noisy is to walk around and ask neighbors, Spaniards are always pretty happy to talk - and sometimes complain - about their barrio). Even if super centric, La Latina is still an affordable area, especially the Southern part, with one of the best price to quality ratio of Madrid.
One word to describe this neighborhood that starts from Tirso the Molina squares and ends up in Embajadores: ethnic. Once considered the dodgy part of town, is now one of the most frequented and popular area of the city.
So popular to establish Tapapies, aka the multicultural tapas route taking place for 10 days in October : (http://tapapies.com) and the Fiesta de San Lorenzo (August 10th) that brings together in only one place people from all over the barrio, the city and the province to celebrate a magical summer night with music, food and lots of booze!
Lavapies is the perfect fusion between immigration and tradition, between exotic and classic Spanish: its main movida street is Calle Argumosa, with bars, terraces and restaurants packed along this street.
If you are into exotic and ethnic food then, you won’t resist Lavapies and its many authentic Indian, Greek, African and Middle –eastern restaurants:
GIBRALTAR (Calle Casino, 16B)
Want to take a trip to Morocco without leaving the city? Then check out this little Moroccan restaurant in Calle Casino, 100% authentic cuisine and staff (all very friendly and passionate about their savory plates) for hungry people on a budget.
BAOBAB (Calle de los Cabestreros, 1)
Have you ever tried the Yassa (delicious chicken covered with onion sauce) or the Dibi (grilled lamb with mustard sauce)? No? Then we think you should. Head over this Senegalese restaurant near Plaza Nelson Mandela, you will be so full that you won’t be eating for a week!
LA TABACALERA (Calle de Embajadores, 51)
Welcome to Madrid's best known self-managed centre! Located in an old tobacco factory, La Tabacalera it's a collective cultural space where anyone can submit a proposal to set up an exhibit, an art performance, a debate they've made.The beauty of this place is that there are no set rules and no real "owner": is a free space, where to express yourself, being surrounded by people and where the key words are imagination and solidarity.
Renting in Lavapies
Lavapies is probably your cheapest option if you want to live close to the centre of Madrid: the square meter is 10-20% cheaper than the average – 10-13 € / m2 to rent compared to 15-17 € in other neighborhoods of the center. Also, it's a safe neighborhood, no risk at walking around it at late night because there is always people hanging out outside, sitting on benches and getting together in plazas. Chose this area if you like diversity, as you will be sharing barrio with 90 different nationalities!
So, this was the first part of our blog regarding the best barrios in the city, especially dedicated to those who are planning to move to our beautiful Madrid soon... Stay tuned for the second part, with more neighborhoods coming up!
Cheers from the Mad4You Hostel Staff :)