Madrid is both vibrant and international, a melting pot like New York andLondon, and worthy of the comparison. But what does it mean to be aMadrileño? It’s not Andalusia, the country’s southernmost region and the birthplace of flamenco; it’s not San Sebastian, the gastronomical mecca to the north. Yet, you’ll find their influences in the city’s nightlife, style and food. Think of Madrid as a sort of world stage where the best of the country has come to play, cook, perform, and do whatever it takes to stand out. From the bullfighting in Pamplona to the lyrical language of the Catalans in Barcelona, you’ll find it all in the streets of Madrid. Despite a stubbornly high unemployment rate of 24%Spain’s economy is among the fastest growing economies in Europe. Tourism is thriving and American travelers benefit from an exchange rate that is much more favorable for U.S. dollar holders than it has been in a long time ($1.10 per euro as of press time).
FIVE NEIGHBORHOODS TO KNOW
If Barcelona is Spain’s daytime city, where you spend sunny days touring Gaudí architecture and splashing around on perfect beaches, then Madrid is its older, cooler brother who only goes out at night. It’s a nighttime city, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay holed up in bars. Like other metropolises of its size and magnitude, Madrid is rich with interesting neighborhoods. It’s estimated that more than half a million LGBT people live in Madrid, with many of them domiciled in or frequent visitors to these top neighborhoods.
- The first neighborhood savvy gay travelers need to know is Chueca, Madrid’s quintessential gayborhood. Centrally located Chueca is where you’ll find the highest concentration of gay bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, saunas, shops and, well, gay people. If a vibrant neighborhood with immense gay nightlife options is what you want, this is your top choice.
- Malasaña is the gay hipster neighborhood just west of Chueca and bordered by the popular shopping street,
Fuencarral. While Chueca might be seen as a neighborhood of gay stereotypes, Malasaña is more diverse with LGBT people of all types giving it a more open feel. It’s become very popular in the past decade and is filled with unique shops, restaurants and bars. Malasaña is where you’ll find a tattoo shop next to a gin bar across the street from a building decked out in graffiti-like street art where they’re serving up sushi. Given its proximity and central location, you’re still in walking distance to all the gay venues next door in Chueca but with a more intimate and unique style.
- Located on the southern edge of central Madrid, La Latina is another neighborhood to know, and an up-and-coming place that’s now one of the true hipster neighborhoods in Madrid. La Latina boys are quick to tell you that Malasaña has become too mainstream. It’s where you’ll find the best tapas, diverse nightlife, a bigger immigrant community and the Rastro — the largest weekly Sunday market in Spain. La Latina is just a 20-minute walk from Chueca and most other main areas.
- Sol is the most centrally located neighborhood in the city. It’s where the tourists are most prevalent, and gay-focused establishments are fewer. You’ll see concerts and demonstrations in Puerta del Sol and Callao plazas.
- On the eastern side of central Madrid is Retiro, close to the gorgeous Retiro Park, a greenspace of magnificent sculptures and monuments. If you’re looking for a quieter, more outdoor-fitness-focused atmosphere, Retiro would be a good choice: it’s packed with outdoor walking and jogging paths, and an outdoor fitness area where hot shirtless guys (and some women) work out.
¡VAMOS A MADRID!
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