What is the best location to stay in Madrid? This is a question we always receive. Therefore, we created this guide on where to stay in Madrid.
It includes the best areas for first-time visitors, families, couples, luxury travelers, design travelers, groups, solo-travelers, nightlife-seeking travelers and budget travelers.
We even included a big map with the top 10 sights in Madrid, so you can organize your trip to don’t miss anything!
(This guide is always up to date, the last updated September 2023.)
But, first things first:
Question: Where to stay in Madrid for a first-time visit?
Answer: The center of the city is the best option. Staying central will help you in easy access to the major tourist destinations in the city.
The very city center includes:
These are the most central and historical areas of Madrid, and probably those are the most convenient areas to stay because they have direct access to the airport, public transport and many of the major sights nearby.
Why do I recommend these areas?
The transport usually works very well in Madrid, the metro service starts at 6 am and ends at 1:30 am; and the train service starts at 5:30 am and ends at 23.30 am.
This means that the last metro or train departs at that time, so you can find service later, but I don’t recommend you to wait so late, just in case. The bus service starts at 6 am and ends at 23 pm, but there are buses service all night, known as nocturnes buses and identified by an N (and the line number) on the bus.
Good to know: Make sure you read our handwritten guide to 7 days in Madrid – and how to prepare properly!
But remember that Madrid is a city that you can tour by walk. It is true that maybe the distances are long but sometimes I have walked so far and it is not weary at all.
Here’s a full map for you to understand the different areas.
We added our best places to stay in Madrid as well as the top sights. Read our guide on the best fun things to do in Madrid for more details.
1. Best areas and handpicked hotels for Madrid
As mentioned, the city center of Madrid is the perfect place for first-time visitors, it is not like a huge city, it is more like a big town, and that is its charm.
I also understand that different travel styles match different needs so I created an overview of this.
Here you will find some options for families, couples, luxury travelers, design travelers, groups, solo-travelers, nightlife-seeking travelers and budget travelers.
You will notice some areas are excluded or added to the previous recommendation.
Let’s see handpicked hotels.
Continue scrolling or pick your group and travel type on the menu:
As a historical neighborhood, Austrias and Las Letras are great places to stay for families. There are many things to learn (pieces of poetry written on the floor, the house of Lope de Vega and Cervantes…
But at Las Letras, there are many bars, so at night there is a lot of noise on the weekends. For this, I recommend you to stay in this neighborhood but near Paseo del Prado.
So you can stay in a beautiful area of Madrid but also near Museo del Prado (great if you want to learn about art and admire hundreds of artworks) and Parque del Retiro, where you can have a relaxing walk, a picnic… and cycling or skating, of course. Maybe the best option for families is an apartment.
For families we recommend the following districts:
This map shows you the areas recommended for families:
Handpicked accommodations for families
Flexibility is a must while traveling with a family group, that is why the best option would be to look for an apartment centrally located or nearby the beach, depending on the family purposes.
Also, check if you need self-catering facilities, such as a kitchen. For me, this is always useful to have.
Love is in Madrid’s air too, of course. If you want to do a romantic picnic and see the sunset, you can do it! If you want to have a walk in the old streets of the city and then have a cold coffee (or a cold beer), you can do it, of course.
And what about rent a bike and cycling in the beautiful Parque del Retiro? Madrid offers a lot of plans for couples, and the best areas to stay are:
Barrio de Salamanca
This map shows you the areas recommended for couples:
La Latina Apartment
La Latina Apartment is a great option for couples because there is a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom.
You will find it near La Latina metro station. And there are so many squares to visit (Plaza de la Plaja, Plaza de Los Carros) and other romantic places as Jardin del Principe de Anglona.
Also, it is 15 minutes walking to Palacio Real and 10 to Plaza Mayor.
Set on a 19th-century that continuous to feature its original art and style up to this day is Gran Hotel Inglés.
The property is a 5-star hotel set in Barrio de las Letras which puts you close to Madrid’s main museums and El Retiro Park. On the other hand, the Royal Palace is just a 20-minutes walk from the hotel.
You will also find a cocktail-bar to grab a few drinks or enjoy Mediterranean cuisines at the hotel’s restaurant.
As a designer traveler, there are areas in Madrid that can be very interesting for you, like Barrio de Salamanca or Gran Via, where you will find incredible examples of architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries.
At Barrio de Salamanca there are all the shops like Chanel, Prada, etc. and at Gran Vi, you can find Swaroski and Loewe (in the intersection with Calle Alcalá).
For this reason, I recommend the following districts for a design traveler:
Barrio de Salamanca
This map shows you the areas recommended for Design Lovers:
If you’re a music lover, Barceló Imagine is the perfect accommodation for you. Inspired by music, the hotel has created rooms that feature all types of music genres.
Rooms have themed rock, jazz or flamenco styles which music fans will love. Aside from music decors, the rooms are also installed with flat-screen TVs and tea and coffee machines.
And you will definitely find it amusing to see the wonderful panoramic view of Madrid from the hotel’s Sky Lounge. The perfect way to celebrate your tour and enjoy a lovely drink of your favorite cocktail.
All the decoration of the rooms and the whole Dormirdcine is inspired by the cinema, so it is a very original option to stay.
There is a cinema bar, and all da they serve a buffet breakfast. All the rooms have TV, private bathroom and minibar. The hotel is in Diego de Leon metro station, in line 5 (green), so it is very easy to reach places as Gran Via, Callao or La Latina, for example.
Located in Calle San Bernardo, near Gran Via, Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments – Madrid Suites are a great option for design travelers. Some of the apartments have a balcony with a view of the city, and the reception is open 24 hours.
You also got several bars and restaurant options located around the property which makes it great to explore.
The best neighborhoods to stay in Madrid for solo-travelers are Las Letras and Austria.
If you are a solo traveler, you know that it is not a sad trip and it is not necessary to stay in sad hotels. Madrid is a city full of people who love to do things alone because sometimes it is good to have time for ourselves.
But, at the same time, people of Madrid love to meet new people and talk to them in the bars, museums or wherever.
If you don’t want to miss a thing about Madrid, the best neighborhoods are:
This map shows you the areas recommended for solo travelers:
Situated right in the center of Madrid is Sungate One. Just a 15-minute walk away from Prado National Museum and Plaza Mayor Square.
The hostel organizes several activities in which guests are welcome to join. They also have tickets for tourist sites available at the reception.
You will also find a shared kitchen and TV lounge where you are able to socialize with other guests and win new friends.
If you are a budget traveler, the best option for you is the hostels or Albergues, where the bathroom is shared and often also the room.
The difference is that Albergue, hostel or pension usually means that the place is working for many years, and maybe it is a familiar business.
The hostel (known as backpackers’ hostel) is a better option if you travel with friends. So, you can find a hostel, a hostel, a pensión or an Albergue. Of course, all the options are cheap. There is no concrete area where a budget traveler can stay because there are many cheap places in all neighborhoods.
This is why the best options for a budget traveler are these districts:
Hostel Era Alonso Martinez
If you don’t care to stay in a shared room, Hostel Era Alonso Martinez is a good option. This hostel is near Alonso Martinez metro station, but you can have a walk and arrive easily at other places in the city, like Chueca or Malasaña.
They offer free continental breakfast and the reception is open 24 hours.
This palace was built by Filippo Juvarra between 1735 and 1764. It’s a great place to visit because a huge collection of artworks can be admired. It takes a lot of time to see all the palace, a minimum of 3 hours.
You can also visit the Jardines del Campo del Moro and the Jardines de Sabatini.
At noon on the first Wednesday of every month, it takes place the Changing Guard, except January, August, and September (or because there is an official act in the palace).
The play is long 1 hour, and almost 400 participate in the spectacle. But if you can’t see the Changing Guard, every Wednesday and Saturday there is another Changing Guard, so much smaller.
Location: Plaza de Oriente. (Metro Station: Opera)
Hours: 10 am-18 pm, from October to March; 10 am- 20 pm, from April to September.
It was built between 1883 and 1993, so it’s a very modern cathedral if we compare it with others in Europe. In some festivities the exterior it’s decorated with hundreds of flowers and it’s very beautiful to see. You can also have a guided visit to the crypt.
Location: Calle de Bailén, 10 (Metro Station: Opera)
Hours: 9 am-20.30 pm (10-21 July and August)
Tickets: Free; the ticket for the museum costs 6 euro and 3 euros for the guided visit to the crypt.
Museo del Prado is one of the most important museums in the world. The collection proceeds from the Royal Collection and that explains why there are so many works from artists like Velazquez, Tiziano or Rubens, great painters who worked for the Spanish kings.
The building was design by Juan Villanueva to be a museum of Natural History in 1785, but finally, it was opened as the Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture in 1819.
Location: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 23 (Train Station: Atocha; Metro Station: Paseo del Arte, Banco de España)
Hours: 10am-20pm (Mondays to Saturdays); 10am-19pm (Sundays and Holidays); 18pm-20pm Free (Mondays to Sat); 17pm-19pm (Free Sundays and Holidays)
Temple de Debod is an authentic Egyptian temple from the Second Century b. C., which was given to the Spanish people for their help in the construction of the Aswan dam.
It’s so beautiful just to see its environment, a park where you can go for a picnic and admire the sunset. In fact, in summer a lot of people go there to do that and sometimes there is not a place to stay.
Location: Calle Ferraz, 1 (Metro Station: Plaza de España, Ventura Rodriguez)
Hours: 10am-20pm; 10am-19pm (from June 15th to September 15th). Mondays are closed.
2.5 Parque del Retiro
Built in the 17th Century for the king Philip II. Parque del Retiro is a great place to walk, doing sport, have a picnic, see the amazing Book Fair in June, or rent a boat at the lake.
At this park, you can also find the Palacio de Cristal and the statue of Ángel Caí The Palacio de Cristal is an amazing structure surrounded by a lake. This place is usually used for exhibitions, but when it’s empty, belief, it’s incredible.
The light of the sun illuminates all the structure and it creates a very special atmosphere. The statue of the Angel Caído (it means literally Fallen Angel) represents exactly that, an angel expelled from Heaven.
Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 7 (Train Station: Atocha; Metro Station: Retiro)
Hours: 6am-22pm (from October to March): 6am-00am (from April to September)
2.6 El Rastro
El Rastro it’s a huge market where you can find everything you want, new or used. This market started in the 18th century as a market where you could buy and sell your things.
It was located near the slaughterhouse of the city, so there was always a trace (rastro in Spanish) of the animals’ blood on the floor. It is not a very nice name, I know, none of that exists at present.
There is always a lot of people, but the tradition is to go there and then drink a beer in some of the bars in the neighborhood. Stay calm if you don’t like people, there is a lot, everywhere.
Location: Ribera de Curtidores, Plaza de Cascorro, Plaza de Vara del Rey, etc. (Train Station: Embajadores; Metro Station: Embajadores, La Latina, Tirso de Molina, Puerta de Toledo).
Hours: Sundays from 9 am to 15 pm.
2.7 Gran Vía
One of the most important avenues in Madrid is Gran Via, with a lot of shops and amazing architecture. It was built between 1910 and 1931, and it was planned to organize and upgrade the center of the city.
Just taking a walk at Gran Via and see the architecture it’s a pleasure. At the intersection between Gran Via and Calle Alcala, there is the Metropolis building, a great example of modernist architecture from 1906.
At the top, there is a phoenix, a bird from Ancient Greek mythology.
2.8 Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor (in the past, Plaza del Arrabal) was the center of the city from the 16th Century. Here there was the principal market of the city, where you could buy bread, wine, fish… all you needed.
In fact, in the surroundings of the square you can find Calle de la Sal (Salt street, where the salt was sold); Calle de la Fresa (Strawberry Street, a tiny but charming street) and others like that.
The square as we see today it was built from 1580 to 1619, but there were three fires in 1631, 1670 and 1790, and it’s partially reconstructed. At the center of the square, there is a statue of Philipe II. Here it takes place public concerts and many activities for the people.
At Christmas, there is a market where you can find a lot of figures for the “Belén”.
Location: Plaza Mayor, 28012 Madrid, Spain (2 min walk from Mercado de San Miguel)
2.9 Puerta del Sol
It really is the Plaza del Sol, because it’s a square, but nobody in Madrid says Plaza, but Puerta del Sol.
Here you can find the Km. 0, that is the point where start the Spanish roads; the statue of El Oso y el Madroño, that it’s a bear and a madroño, a typical tree in Madrid; the equestrian statue of Charles III; and the luminous ad of Tío Pepe.
Thousands of people reunite in this square all the December 31st to eat “uvas” (grapes) for the countdown to the New Year, a really special (and funny) Spanish tradition.
Location: Sol, Centro, Madrid
2.10 Mercado de San Miguel
One of the most notorious markets in Madrid is Mercado de San Miguel. In the beginning, it was a normal market, but now it’s more “gourmet” and you can find many activities to do.
Near the market, there is a statue of an angel falling into a building, called Air Crash (yes, the people from Madrid likes the angels). You can see it from the Plaza de San Miguel, it’s at the Calle Mayor, at the top of a building.
Location: Plaza de San Miguel s/n
Hours: 10 am – 00 pm (Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays); 10 am-1 am (Fridays and Saturdays).
Tickets: Free, unless you want to buy, eat or drink 😊
3. Neighborhood guide (to understand the different areas)
There are some things that all central neighborhoods have in common. Let’s talk about them:
I recommend you look for yellow plaques in the buildings. There are 370 plaques explaining historic events or curiosities that took place at that point.
This can be a fun game you can play with kids, who will discover the next plaque?
It is surprising how many things you can discover if you look up when you walk, I mean, there are buildings that are artwork, like at Calle Arenal, Gran Via o near Plaza Mayor.
As you will see, sometimes there are names of the streets written until three times. This is simple: the conservation of the local. And this is something so particular from this city: the names of the streets on painted tiles.
For example, in the tile of Calle del Clavel, there is a carnation; and is the same thing at Calle del Biombo (folding screen) o Calle del Codo (yes, there is an Elbow Street).
And talking about the name of the streets… you will find names like Ribera de Curtidores (Tanners Street), Calle de Bordadoras (Embroidery Street), Calle (and arch) de Cuchilleros (Cutler Street)…
This occurs in the surroundings of Plaza Mayor, and it means that in that place worked the guild. But other examples, which are not guilds are Calle Carretas (where the carriage was parked, as in Plaza de Los Carros), or Puerta de Alcalá and Puerta de Toledo (the roads to Alcalá and Toledo).
And Puerta de Guadalajara was located in the square of Plaza de San Miguel, in Calle Mayor.
And finally, Madrid is not like a great metropolis, well it is, but you don’t feel like that. It is more like a big town, and that is something that people of Madrid really love.
So, some areas are more central than others, obviously, and here I tell you some of them that let you know how Madrid is.
In this map we highlighted all neighborhoods in Madrid Spain.
This neighborhood corresponds to the medieval city, but it is called Austrias because in 1561 Madrid being named capital of Spain and it was the urbanistic demodulation by the Austrias‘ Royal House.
This area of Madrid has a particular architecture, which is characteristic of the Austrias‘ period: 1516-1700. You can find a lot of beautiful little streets that sometimes you don’t know where they take you, but it’s a pleasure to take a walk in this neighborhood full of history.
In fact, at Plaza de la Villa there is the oldest house in Madrid and from a tiny street in this square, you can find a way to discover those streets so typicals from Madrid.
The neighborhood includes Calle Mayor, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa, Calle Arenal, Plaza de Isabel II and the surroundings of Palacio Real.
In the last years, in August, a public dancing party is organized at Plaza de Oriente because of Veranos de la Villa. So you can dance all you want in front of Palacio Real. Don’t tell me it’s not amazing!
3.2 Las Letras
In this neighborhood, you will find the history of the Spanish writers who live here, like Cervantes, Quevedo or Lope de Vega.
In this area you can find the Congreso de Los Diputados; Ateneo de Madrid opened in 1835 as a place to discuss about science and literature topics; Casa-Museo Lope de Vega, where the writer lives in Madrid; Convento de las Trinitarias, where Cervantes is buried; the Teatro de la Zarzuela, the first and only Spanish lyric theater; and the Teatro Español (before named corral de comedias del Príncipe), where the plays by those authors were released.
As you can see, this neighborhood is absolutely full of cultural and literary history.
There are so many activities to do in this neighborhood, one of the most interesting is the theatrical visits organized by the Casa-Museo Lope de Vega (casamuseolopedevega.org)
3.3 La Latina
This neighborhood is called in that way because of Beatriz Galindo, known as La Latina, a humanist, and writer from the 15th century.
This area has medieval origins and here there was a lot of lodging because the area was in the limit of the city, so the merchants prefer to stay here.
The commercial activity explains the name of many of the streets and squares, like Plaza de la Paja, where the straw was sold; Plaza de Los Carros, where the merchants let their carriages; or Plaza de la Cebada, where it took place the food market (in fact there is a market at present).
There is a little garden, the Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona, in Plaza de la Paja, which is great to read or just to sit and have a good conversation.
Other things you can find in La Latina is the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande (this place was used to keep save the artworks in the Civil War); Museo de San Isidro, museum about the origins of Madrid; Puerta de Toledo (named in that way because it was the road to Toledo); Jardín de las Vistillas; Colegiata de San Isidro; Iglesia de San Andrés, etc.
Every year, along August, it is celebrated the popular verbenas o fiestas, festivities where you can do so many activities, go to concerts… so many people, but so much fun!
Chueca is not a neighborhood itself because it has not an administrative center, and it belongs to a neighborhood named Justicia. But it is a very important area of the city.
But this is not just known as the LGTB neighborhood of Madrid.
Here you can find a lot of buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries, like Museo del Romansticismo and Museo de Historia, and Palacio de Longoria, an amazing modernist building that today is the headquarter of the Sociedad General de Autores.
Near Chueca, this neighborhood is full of vintage shops and trendy bars, it is known for its underground culture. Malasaña was the surname of Manuela Malasaña, heroin in the uprisings in the May 2nd, 1808 against the French troops.
4. Safest area to stay in Madrid
In general, I consider Madrid a safe city.
Just once my purse was stolen, but there is much police and they find the thief and I have all my stuff in return.
At night, the areas where there are many bars, there are many police wear as “paisano”, as it is said in Spanish. It means that they wear their own clothes, and not the uniform, in a way to go unnoticed for the thieves. So, if at first sight, you don’t see any police, don’t worry, they are there.
But we always can have some cautions. I leave you basic tips to avoid being pick-pocketed:
First of all, do not leave your belongings unattended (at the bar, at the underground…)
Don’t keep anything valuable in your backpack.
Put locks on your zippers (this is optional, but it’s a good option)
Don’t put anything in the back pocket.
Keep bags in front of you when on public transit (please, keep this in mind if you go to the Rastro and the underground)
Don’t carry all your money just in a pocket. Put your money in different places, like the glasses case.
Do you have any questions? Doubts?
Please please please drop me a comment below or directly an email here.
In fact, your questions help me to make this article better. So I help you to help me. Therefore, bother me! 🙂
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