Where to Stay in Madrid First Time: 10 Best Areas

In this blog post, I will help you to decide Where to stay in Madrid first time, the best areas to stay in Madrid for first-timers (with a video and map), best hotels in Madrid for all budgets (including the hotel where I Stayed), and safest places to stay in Madrid.

Founded in the 9th-century, Madrid is the Spanish capital and is the political, economic, and cultural center of Spain. It is famous for its historical buildings, food markets, royal palaces, renaissance and contemporary art museums, and bustling nightlife.

Where to stay in Madrid first time?

The best areas to stay in Madrid for first-time tourists are Puerta del Sol/Centro, Los Austrias, La Latina, Huertas, Malasana, Chueca, and Salamanca. These are central and popular locations, offering a wide variety of attractions and amenites.

Centro/ Sol is the overall best area to stay in Madrid for first-timers due to its prime location and proximity to major attractions such as Royal Palace, Gran Vía, and Plaza Mayor. Staying here also offers a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, and shops for all budget travelers.

Madrid Centro has a wide range of accommodations for all budgets, so I’m sure you will find a hotel that suits your preferences.

You can consider to stay in Malasana, which is the hipster haven, home to unique boutiques, and trendy bars. Great base for a bohemian atmosphere and cultural experiences.

Salamanca is one of Madrid’s most upscale neighborhoods, and is great base for those who want luxury shopping, elegant architecture, and high-end restaurants.

Lavapiés is a budget-friendly area and great base to immerse yourself in Madrid’s multicultural atmosphere, as it’s known as a melting pot of diverse cultures, street art, and ethnic cuisine.

Madrid is a very safe city and there are no no-go zones in the city cente, but like all famous tourist destinations, you should be aware of pickpocketing and scams. You should stick to central areas, well-lit streets and avoid the area around the Atocha train station at night.

Madrid Centro, Malasaña, La Latina, Chueca, Lavapiés, Salamanca, and Retiro are some of the safest areas to stay in Madrid for tourist. They have low crime rates, vibrant atmosphere, and proximity to popular attractions.

To book hotels, I recommend spend at least 3-5 days In Madrid, which is enough to see the popular attractions, enjoy the food, and get the sense of the culture. If you have more time, you can see the city in a slower pace, or take a day trip to Toledo, Salamanca, Alcalá, Segovia.

Where did I stay in Madrid?

When I first visited Madrid, I stayed for 5 nights at the Hotel Moderno Puerta del Sol. It was a great hotel in a pedestrian zone in central Madrid, within walking distance/short metro ride from major sights such as Plaza Mayor. My room was small but comfortable.

 💖 Best Area for first time visitors:Centro/ Sol
💎 Best luxury hotel:Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Hotel Liabeny
💰 Best budget hotel:Hotel Regina

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Madrid:

Map of Best Areas & Neighborhoods in Madrid
Map of Best Areas & Neighborhoods in Madrid

Best areas to stay in Madrid for first-time tourists:

1. Puerta del Sol /Centro

Puerta del Sol /Gran Vía

Puerta del Sol is the best area to stay in Madrid for first-time travelers who want to be in the most central location in the city. If you stay here, you will be located within walking distance to Madrid’s top tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Centro encompasses the area around the main square of Sol and Madrid’s main shopping street, Gran Vía, which is arguably the hot tourism hub of the city.

The Puerta del Sol square is home to the Kilometre Zero plaque, the official starting point for Spain’s 6 National Roads. It’s a convenient meeting place for both locals and tourists. 

In and around the Puerta del Sol square, you can find famous statues and buildings, such as:

  • the House of the Post Office (Real Casa de Correos), where Spaniards gather to watch the countdown of the 19th-century clock tower on New Year’s Eve.
  • The Statue of the Bear and Strawberry Tree (El Oso y El Madroño), the official symbol of the city, Oso & Madroño is the work of the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santa Fe.
  • the statue of the Bourbon King Carlos III and the reproduction of the Mariblanca statue, with the original being on display at the Municipal Museum.

Puerta del Sol is the starting point of many streets including Calle Arenal, Calle de Alcalá, Calle Mayor, and Calle Preciados. The Preciados is a pedestrianized street and is one of the most important shopping hubs of the Spanish capital.

Within a short walk from the square to the west, you will see Madrid’s main square and the focal point of medieval Madrid, Plaza Mayor. The Baroque style square has 129 meters long by 94 meters wide, surrounded by three-story buildings.

Designed by Juan de Herrera and Juan Gómez de Mora, Plaza Mayor was originally called Plaza del Arrabal during the 19th-century but renamed Plaza Mayor at the end of the Spanish Civil War.

The square is home to the Equestrian statue of Philip III, Casa de la Panadería which is one of Madrid’s first bakeries dating back 1500s, and El Arco de Cuchilleros which is one of the nine entrances to the square.

There are also a number of traditional tapas restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars, making it a prime location to sample authentic local cuisine. The traditional Christmas market is hosted here.

You can find Spain’s oldest cake shop called Antigua Pastelería del Pozo, established in 1830 and still retaining some of its original furniture, and the Sobrino de Botín, founded in 1725, world’s oldest restaurant according to the Guinness Book of Records, is famous for its roasted piglet.

If that isn’t enough Spanish culture for you, the local nightlife boasts not only a slew of the city’s top clubs and music venues but also several Flamenco houses.

You can shop along Gran Via, offering a charming shopping experience with both department stores and smaller shops that sells clothes, jewelry, art, toys, music, and football paraphernalia. 

Gran Via was built between 1910 and 1929 to link Salamanca and Argüelles. Home to some of the city’s first skyscrapers, Gran Via is an excellent exhibition of Madrid’s architectural development and boasts a selection of museums, theatres, and the Casino de Madrid.

Barrio Sol is also an important transport hub with access to including yellow, purple, and blue blue metro lines. Being so centrally located, Puerta del Sol square is not only the best area to stay in Madrid for first-time travelers, but also for one night or three days.

Puerta del Sol is generally safe for tourists. It’s a central location with high police presence, but like any tourist area, caution is advised regarding pickpocketing and crowded situations.

Puerta del Sol square offers plenty of accommodationss including 5-star hotels nad budget hostels. This central neighborhood has it all!

Stay in Sol and Gran Vía if you are a first-time tourist; you want a central location; you want easy access to public transits, shops, restaurants, and museums; you prefer to travel on foot;

Best places to stay in Madrid Centro for first-timers:

luxury ($$$): Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid This 5-star hotel in the heart of Madrid, within easy walk from Gran Via Metro Station, Puerta del Sol, and 45-minute metro ride from Madrid-Barajas Airport. There is a 24-hour gym, a bar and on-site restaurant, and 24-hour front desk.

mid-range ($$): Hotel Liabeny This 4-star hotel is only 200 m from Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía and Callao metro stations. You can enjoy traditional Spanish dishes and drinks at its on-site restaurant, Sensaciones, a bar and a cafeteria.

budget ($): Hotel Regina This 3-star hotel is centrally located next to the famous Puerta del Sol, within easy walk from Sevilla metro station, The Prado and Thyssen museums. You can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and wine at its Restaurant Castizo and wine cellar.

hostel ($): Toc Hostel Madrid this modern hostel in central Madrid, close to Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. It has 24-hour reception, private rooms, and a bed in a shared dormitory.


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2. Los Austrias

 Los Austrias, best area to stay in Madrid for sightseeing

Los Austrias, also known as El Madrid de los Austrias, is the place to stay for those looking to truly experience the history of Madrid. One of the oldest areas of the city, with buildings dating back as far as the 15th century.

Barrio Los Austrias is a great base to do sightseeing because it is located within easy access to some of the city’s best tourist attractions, including:

  • the Royal Palace, a sprawling 18th century building which was built by order of Philip V on a former Moorish castle. It is the residence of the Spanish Royal Family, is an estate so large that the public walking tours can’t cover all of its rooms in a single tour.
  • the El Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), a historical opera house, set next to the Royal Palace.
  • the Almudena Cathedral, an important religious building in Madrid, located on Calle Mayor.
  • the Plaza Mayor square, 400-year-old central square, where you can browse the city’s oldest shops, pick up traditional souvenirs, such as old coins, traditional shoes, and local delicacies. 
  • the Descalzas Reales Monastery, a nunnery that houses a collection of 17th-century art open for public viewing.

There are numerous green spaces and parks in the surrounding of the Royal Palace. The Campo del Moro Park dates back to the Middle Ages, and the exquisite neoclassical-style Sabatini Gardens. They are both free to enter and have separate entrances.

In addition to the popular Plaza Mayor, Los Austrias is home to many other beautiful lesser-known squares such as the Plaza Conde de Barajas, Plaza del Conde de Miranda, Plaza de Oriente, Plaza del Humilladero, Plaza de la Villa, and Plaza de la Paja.

If you are visiting the Plaza del Conde de Barajas, or Plaza de los Pintores, on Sunday, you can take part in the Painters’ Market where 40 local independent artists show their painting.

The nightlife here is similarly cultured, built around the local opera houses, theatres, and flamenco houses. Bars offer live music for fans of jazz and blues, as well as cocktails and dining for those looking to chat about the performances they have just witnessed.

Once you are tired of shopping and sightseeing, head to the San Miguel Market, to try traditional Spanish cuisine like patatas bravas, calamari sandwiches, pimentos padrón, and sangría.

There are many tapas bars on the Calle Cava Baja, a famous tapas street where you can enjoy local cusines and a glass of vino. Make sure to try chocolate and churros at Chocolatería San Gines, one of the oldest shops in Madrid.

As a convenient area, Los Austrias has a wide variety of accommodation options ranging from budget to luxury hotels, guest houses, apartments, and B&Bs.

Stay in Los Austrias if a place to stay with a lot of sightseeing; you love history, you love art and culture; you are looking for more relaxed nightlife; you want a romantic ambiance;

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Los Austrias for first-timers:

luxury ($$$): Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá – The Leading Hotels of the World This 5-star hotel is located within easy walk from famous tourist landmarks. You can enjoy Spanish and French cuisine and wines at its on-site restaurants.

mid-range ($$): Pestana Plaza Mayor Madrid Located in Plaza Mayor, this 4-star hotel has rooftop bar, a fitness centre, 24-hour front desk, spa, and a bar. All guest rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV, as well as private bathroom with free toiletries and a hair dryer.

budget ($): Francisco I Located in the heart of Madrid, close to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, this hotel offers simple rooms with a private bathroom, TV and free Wi-Fi. The hotel can help with car hire and airport transfers.


3. La Latina

The historical district of La Latina originated as the merchant hub of medieval Madrid and those roots shine through to this day, with the city’s largest flea market, El Rastro, acting as the area’s main tourist draw and street markets taking over the winding roads every Sunday morning.

El Rastro is located to the south of La Latina metro station and Puerta de Toledo station, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. Come here on Sunday to shop, stroll, and grab a bite one of the neighborhood’s old tapas bars.

You can also sample all the delicious flavors Spain at the Mercado de la Cebada, a good place for foodies where you can buy fresh local products and local cuisines. The market was once a hub of the La Latina neighbourhood. It is located on the Plaza de la Cebada.

Aside from its sprawling markets, the La Latina area is famous as the primary tapas hotspot in Madrid, especially on the Calle de la Cava Baja and Cava Alta streets.

La Latina draws crowds of tourists and locals alike to sample the breadth of Spanish cuisine on offer here, including a number of interesting items you probably won’t have seen on the menu at your local tapas bar. 

You can explore the neighborhood by strolling along its small narrow streets and large community squares (plazas), and beautiful churches.

There are Plaza de los Carros (Carriage Square), which was once used as a market for enslaved people but nowadays it is the place for local relax. In the square, you can find the statue of Pedro de Heredia, the city’s founder.

In a corner of Plaza de la Paja (Straw Square), you’ll find charming small walled garden, Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona. Príncipe de Anglona’s used to stroll through this garden when he lived in the adjacent palace back in the 19th century. There is a small fountain in the center of the garden and its design is reminiscent of those found in typical Arab gardens.

If you need a break from shopping and eating, there are a number of museums and historical churches, including:

  • The San Isidro Museum, a great place to learn history of Madrid from prehistoric times
  • the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, a beautiful, domed building, which showcases a collection of artworks from the 18th century.
  • the El Capilla del Obispo, Madrid’s most beautiful chapel, built by Francisco de Vargas in the 16th century. The Iglesia de San Andrés chapel was originally built to house the body of San Isidro, but now serves as the memory of Bishop Don Gutierrez.

The nightlife of the area keeps up with the lively standard of the city, offering a host of clubs, bars, and taverns to keep you entertained late into the night.

La Latina is a safe neighborhood for tourist but as any tourist destination, you should always practice common sense and be aware of your surrounding.

Accommodations in La Latina of budget options and numerous mid-range hotels, making it an ideal place for budget travelers. 

Stay in La Latina if you love good food; you enjoy shopping at markets; you are interested in antiques and vintage items; you are a first-time traveler; you travel on a budget;

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in La Latina for first-time visitors:

mid-range ($$): Posada del León de Oro Boutique Hotel This 4-star hotel is located in La Latina district, within a short stroll from Plaza Mayor and La Latina Metro Station. You can enjoy traditional regional food, wines, tapas, and buffet breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant and bar.

budget ($): L&H La Latina Selection Located in Latina neighbourhood, within easy distance from Puerta de Toledo Metro Station, Almudena Cathedral, and the Royal Palace, this accommodation offers air conditioned apartments and studios with kitchen, and a bathroom.

budget ($): Porcel Ganivet Centrally located in the heart of Madrid with easy access to El Rastro Market and the M30 road. It has 24-hour front desk, a private car parking, as well as air-conditioned rooms with laptop safes and free Wi-Fi.


4. Huertas

Huertas, also known as Barrio de las Letras or the Literary Quarter, is a hub of history, art, and culture, located just steps away from the city center. Huertas was originally farmland outside the old city center, but later home to the legendary Spanish writers, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Quevedo. The area is a celebration of literature and theatrical arts.

At the heart of Huertas stands the beautiful Plaza Santa Ana. Plaza de Santa Ana displays statues of some of Spain’s most celebrated playwrights and poets, while the Calle Huertas pavement is engraved with quotes from famous Spanish literary works.

You can also visit the Cervantes Birthplace House-Museum where Miguel de Cervantes spent much of his adult life. His final resting place can be found in the nearby Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

Visit the Lope de Vega House Museum to learn more about the writer Lope de Vega in the Golden Age Spain; or take a look at the Caixa Forum‘s vertical garden;

Las Letras is also within walking distance to the Madrid Golden Triangle of Art, where you can find Prado Museum, Reina Sofía Museum, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

There are plenty of shopping opportunities with many bookshops, interior design stores, antique emporiums, and street markets. The Ranas Street market offers live street performances and special offers from the participating vendors, first Saturday of every month.

You may think that an area dedicated to literature wouldn’t have much of a lively nightlife, in which case you will be pleasantly surprised by the varied entertainment on offer after sundown.

True to its roots as a center of the arts, a variety of live performances can be observed, from music to dancing. It’s here you’ll also find the Teatro Español, one of the principal theatres of Madrid and a key stop for anyone wanting to experience the highest quality Spanish theatre.

For a light opera, head to the Teatro de la Zarzuela; and for a flamenco tablao, check out Cardamomo, which offers a nightly flamenco performances by dancers from all over the world.

Huertas is home to one of the oldest bars in the city, Viva Madrid, while Magister is a micro-brewery with free tapas. The Plaza Santa Ana also has lots of beer houses that were favourite stops of Ernest Hemingway.

Huertas is a safe neighborhood and a good base in Madrid but you should you common sense and keep your valuables safe from pickpockets. The lodgings in Huertas range from budget to 5-star hotels, and long-term apartments for literary history lovers.

Stay in Huertas if you love culture and history; you are first-timers; and want to stay in a bohemian and convenient area; you love literature, you enjoy live performances.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Huertas for first-time visitors:

luxury ($$$): Hotel Urban this 5-star hotel is near Thyssen-Bornemisza Gallery and Puerta del Sol. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant, CEBO, the rooftop terrace, and a gastro pub Glass-Mar for tapas and cocktails. It also offers soundproofed rooms with a flat-screen TV and a DVD player.

mid-range ($$): Vincci Soho Located in the historic city centre, this hotel is set within short stroll from bars and restaurants of Plaza Santa Ana and Anton Martin Metro Station. You can try traditional cuisine or tapas at its restaurant.

budget ($): NH Madrid Nacional Located in Madrid’s famous Art Triangle, close to Atocha AVE Train Station, this hotel has air-conditioned, soundproof rooms have private bathroom comes with shower, hairdryer and free toiletries. The Tablafina Restaurant and Bar is where you can enjoy local food and drink.


5. Malasana

Malasana, great for nightlife

Malasana has a lively and bohemian atmosphere that attracts both locals and tourists. It is known for its trendy bars, eclectic shops, and vibrant street art, making it an exciting place to experience the city’s nightlife and entertainment scene.

Malasana was home to the Movida arts movement of the ‘80s and still retaining much of its rebellious character. The Movida Madrileña (Madrid Scene in English), started in the mid-1970s after the death of dictator Francisco Franco and Spain’s return to democracy. It was full of bars, drugs, and nightlife in the 80s, but now Malasaña is one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods.

The neighborhood is packed with craft coffee shops, vintage stores, tattoo parlors, rustic bars around the historic main Plaza de Dos de Mayo, and the pedestrianized-street Calle Fuencarral.

The nightlife here is distinct and varied, you’ll find adult-only shops, rock bars, and venues for just about every musical preference, with parties commonly spilling out onto the streets.

If you are less inclined to party, it may still be worth visiting in the daytime, to wander the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art Conde Duque, ABC Museum of Drawing and Illustration, or appreciate the 17th-century churches that sit nestled amongst the bars. 

Local shops offer almost everything you could be looking for but are of particular interest to anyone looking for vintage goods and clothing, or fans of comics, with several comic book stores within walking distance of one another.

Malasaña is adjacent to the popular Gran Vía and just a short walk from the bustling Puerta del Sol, and the lively Chueca. Its central location allows visitors to easily explore many of Madrid’s major attractions on foot, minimizing the need for expensive transportation.

The area is also close to the Plaza de España, a popular public square, home to a monument to Miguel de Cervantes, which is a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. Nearby is the city’s tallest buildings, Madrid Tower and the Edificio España, both built in the 1950s.

Other cultural attractions in the Malasana neighborhood is the 17th-century Iglesia de San Antonio de Los Alemanes, Teatro Victoria, TupperWare with its murals, and Palacio de Liria.

If you want to take a break from sightseeing and nightlife, take a look at the Parque de la Bombilla and Parque del Oeste, which are popular parks for a leisurely walk and a picnic.

Malasaña is one of the best areas to stay in Madrid for first-timers who enjoy good nightlife and want to experience Madrid’s alternative culture in the hip and bohemian neighborhood.

Malasaña offers a range of budget-friendly accommodation for travelers looking for affordable places to stay without compromising on location or quality.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Malasaña for first-timers:

luxury ($$$): Barceló Torre de Madrid this five-star hotel is set in Plaza de España Square, right next to Plaza de España Metro Station. It has spacious rooms come with king-size beds, air conditioning, a 42-inch TV and a laptop safe.

mid-range ($$): INNSIDE by Meliá Madrid Gran Vía This 4-star hotel is housed in 19th-century building, close to Gran Vía and Callao Square. There is rooftop bar, a terrace, 24-hour front desk, a concierge service, as well as continental or buffet breakfast.

budget ($): Ibis Madrid Centro This 3-star hotel is set in Malasaña district, within easy walk from Plaza del 2 de Mayo and Bilbao Metro Station. It offers modern rooms with free high speed WiFi, wooden floors and a flat-screen satellite TV.


6. Chueca

Chueca is conveniently located between Malasaña and Salamanca, immediately north of the prime Gran Via street. Chueca is Madrid’s premier gay neighborhood, that hosts the Gay Pride Festival around in mid-summer late June or early July.

As you would expect from an area famous for its LGBTQ community, the nightlife is a major draw for this area. The streets are lined with the hippest bars, restaurants, clubs, and cocktail bars, transforming into a vibrant hub of entertainment after sundown.

You can check out the legendary cocktail bar Museo Chicote or enjoy a drink on the rooftop terrace of the San Antón Market. Don’t worry if that’s not your thing though, there is still plenty to see here in the daytime as well.

Chueca is home to numerous squares, and popular streets for dining and shopping:

  • Plaza de Chueca, a regular meeting spot with its own metro stop.
  • Plaza Santa Barbara, a long square with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops.
  • Plaza Pedro Zerolo, important location of the Gay Pride festival.
  • Plaza del Rey, quiet square near Gran Via, home to the House of the seven Chimneys.
  • Calle de Hortaleza, packed with shopping, dining, and nightlife.
  • Calle Fuencarral, Madrid’s nightlife area, lined with cocktail bars, discos, restaurants.

You can experience local daily life at the San Anton Food Market on Calle Agusto Figueroa. The market has a wide array of vendors offering samples to those browsing the stalls. On the same street, you can find the San Ildefonso Market and Barcelò Market.

If you take the ingredients you buy from San Anton Food Market to the La Cocina de San Antón restaurant, two floors above the market, their chefs will cook it for you, so you can enjoy it as fresh as possible, whilst taking in the views from their rooftop terrace.

If your trip to Madrid needs some romantic flair, the Museum of Romanticism is housed in the former palace of the Marquis of Matallana, or for a more alternative date idea, the bones of Saint Valentine rest in the San Anton church and are available for viewing by the public.

Chueca is Madrid’s official gay neighborhood with thrilling nightlife. it is typically a safe area to stay in Madrid day and night as the popular nightlife keeps the streets busy and the lights on.

Chueca is one of the best areas to stay in Madrid for first-timer for young travelers enjoying vibrant nightlife and a trendy and hip neighbourhood. It is also a great base for the Pride festivities, LGBTQ-friendly accommodation and entertainment;

Chueca offers a wide range of accommodation options, including budget-friendly hostels, guesthouses, and budget hotels. You can find reasonably priced accommodations that cater to different budgets, allowing you to save money on lodging.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Chueca for first-time visitors:

mid-range ($$): Only YOU Boutique Hotel Madrid Located in the trendy Chueca area, this 4-star boutique hotel is 20 minutes drive by car from Barajas Airport. It has soundproofed rooms with a smart TV, electronic safe, a minibar.

mid-range ($$): Vincci The Mint Located close to Chueca Metro Station, this hotel offers modern rooms with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, work desk, minibar, and a bathroom with a bath or shower, hairdryer, and free toiletries.

budget ($): B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Fuencarral 52 Located close to Chueca metro station that connect you with the rest of the city. there is a rooftop terrace, a 24-hour reception, as well as spacious, soundproofed rooms.


7. Salamanca

Designed in the late 19th-century as a playground for the wealthy aristocracy, Barrio de Salamanca remains one of the most luxurious residential areas of Madrid, located northeast of Madrid’s historical center.

Salamanca is the safest area in Madrid due to its affluent reputation and well-patrolled streets, tends to have a lower crime rate compared to some other areas. It is also home to many embassies including the ones of the United States, Canada, Italian, and Switzerland.

While in the area, you can take a leisure stroll along Madrid’s longest and most elegant avenue, Paseo de la Castellana runs through Salamanca. It offers stunning city views and architecture.

If you like sports, you can take guided tour of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Real Madrid) which is located on Paseo de la Castellana, along with the AZCA business center, and the Cuatro Torres Business skyscrapers complex.

You can find the best high-end boutiques, fine dining eateries, upscale bars, and luxury hotels around Calle de Serrano, Calle de Velázquez, and Calle de Goya, also known as Golden Mile. In fact, even those who don’t will be able to appreciate the beautifully designed shopfronts and architecture of the area.

The area also boasts a number of museums, art galleries, and exhibition halls, including the National Archaeological Museum, Columbus Plaza, the Robot Museum, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Sorolla Museum, the Wax Museum, and Madrid’s iconic bullring Las Ventas.

There is a popular spot for taking photos called Puerta de Alcalá, which is located in Plaza de la Independencia. It is a neo-classical arch, one of Madrid’s iconic monuments, erected in 1778 by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini.

If all that shopping and wandering museums make you hungry, there are also six Michelin-starred restaurants in the area to choose from, along with a plethora of other fine dining establishments and cafes, offering an array of cuisines, from authentic local delicacies to Japanese fusion.

The nightlife of the area maintains the exclusivity and sophistication it was designed for, with the city’s top mixologists serving cocktails from some of the most prestigious clubs and bars, catering to the wealthy socialites and company executives from the nearby business districts.

Salamanca is a bit off-center but you can easily reach its attractions by metro. Velázquez, Serrano, and Ventas are the nearest metro stops to Salamanca barrios.

Salamanca is one of the best areas to stay in Madrid for first-timers who enjoy luxury vibe with high-end shopping, Michelin meals, vibrant and upscale nightlife.

Accommodations in Salamanca are mostly 4- and 5-star hotels but you can also find some budget hotels. It offers a taste of the city’s elegance and charm while providing easy access to its renowned landmarks and experiences.

Best Places to stay in Madrid in Salamanca:

luxury ($$$): Hotel Fenix Gran Meliá – The Leading Hotels of the World Located next to Plaza de Colón and Madrid’s Hard Rock Café, in Salamanca, this 5-star hotel has spacious bedrooms. You can try meal and drink at the Aduana Restaurant and Dry Martini by Javier de las Muelas.

mid-range ($$): H10 Puerta de Alcalá this stylish 4-star hotel is set close to Principe de Vergara Metro Station, Puerta de Alcalá Gate, and Plaza Cibele. Many restaurants and tapas bars are right at your doorsteps.

budget ($): Velázquez 45 by Pillow Located in Salamanca district, this guest house is within easy walk from Velazquez and Serrano Metro Stations, and Retiro Park. There is 24-hour reception desk, car rental and luggage storage.


8. Lavapiés

Barrio de Lavapiés, meaning “wash your feet”, is located between La Latina and Huertas, within walking distance to Retiro and Centro. It is a vibrant and diverse neighborhood, a good option for those who like international cuisines and a wide range of good value accommodation.

Lavapiés is home to the Plaza Lavapiés, a central meeting places for young Madrileños. It has outdoor seating, cafés, and bars, making it a great place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.

There are numerous Indian restaurants along Calle Lavapiés, also known as Curry Row by locals; while on the Calle Argumosa, you can find many more cafes, tapas bars, and pubs.

Lavapies have stayed true to their multicultural origins throughout the centuries and the melting pot of cultures that formed this working district have left their mark on the art and atmosphere of the area. 

Lavapiés has a strong artistic and cultural identity. It has a selection of exhibition centers, art galleries, and theatres include:

  • the Teatro Valle-Inclán, one of the base theatres of the National Drama Centre
  • the La Casa Encendida cultural center, has a wide variety of exhibitions, performances, art installations, and workshops.
  • The Tabacalera Cultural Center, located in the former tobacco factory
  • The Spanish Film Archive, to learn about the development of Spanish cinema.
  • Calle del Doctor Fourquet and Calle de Argumosa, popular streets to view murals and graffiti.

Thanks to its multicultural population, the neighborhood has a diverse culinary scene. The dining options available in Lavapies are varied enough, with restaurants offering food from across the world include Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American.

The Tapapiés festival takes full advantage of this smorgasbord of cultural cuisines, exhibiting live performances, catered by vendors blending their country’s traditional foods with the Spanish tradition of tapas.

It’s not just the food of these cultures that is celebrated in Lavapies however, as the thriving immigrant community brings the vibrant festivals of their home countries with them. Most notably, the Indian celebration of Holi takes over the streets at the beginning of spring, filling them with color and ushering in the season.

Lavapiés provides easy access to the Mercado de San Fernando, one of the famous markets in Centro district. It offers great food and different craft beers in cheap prices.

Lavapiés is centrally located, making it easy to reach many of Madrid’s main attractions on foot or by public transportation by metro and bus line. It’s just a short walk to the Puerta del Sol, the Plaza Mayor, and the Prado Museum, saving on transportation costs.

The Atocha Train Station is nearby, serving as the city’s major transportation hub, offering easy access to Madrid’s Barajas Airport. It is also the main hub for high-speed rail network (AVE) with link to Barcelona, Seville, Málaga, and Valencia.

Lavapiés may have a slightly rougher edge in certain areas, it is generally safe and has become increasingly popular among both locals and tourists seeking a more authentic and diverse experience in Madrid.

Lavapiés provides a selection of budget-friendly accommodation options. It offers more affordable prices compared to the city center or other popular neighborhoods in Madrid.

Stay in Lavapiés if you are first-timers; you travel on a budget; you want multicultural atmosphere; you want stay close to Atocha train station; you want well-connected to the public transportation.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Lavapiés for first-time visitors:

mid-range ($$): Catalonia Atocha Located close to Atocha Train Station, Antón Martín Metro Station, and Lavapiés Metro Station, this hotel has air-conditioned rooms with wooden floors, a minibar, free wifi, and a safe.

budget ($): Hotel Mediodia Conveniently located to Atocha Station and the Reina Sofia Museum, this hotel has 24-hour reception, air-conditioned rooms and free wifi.

budget ($): SLEEP’N Atocha – B Corp Certified Located a 10 minute walk from lively district of Lavapies offers paid airport shuttle service and public car parking. Each room has a flat-screen TV, free high-speed WiFi, and safety deposit box.


See more: Where to stay in Madrid on a budget

9. Retiro

Retiro, family-friendly area

Retiro is a family-friendly neighborhood, conveniently located close to Paseo del Prado and Av de Menéndez Pelayo. It is famous for its Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro) and the Golden Triangle which include the Reina Sofia Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and Prado Museum.

Parque del Retiro is Madrid’s most famous park and was first opened to the public in 1868. It was originally built for King Philip IV, has damaged during the War of Independence, later became a place for commoners and royals. This sprawling 125-hectare estate has more than 15,000 trees, the lungs of Madrid are a great place to relax.

Retiro Park boasts Crystal Palace that has been converted into exhibition centers, a large artificial lake (Estanque del Retiro) with the option to hire a rowboat and spend an afternoon on the water, and a number of statues, art installations, and fountains including the monument to King Alfonso VII.

For families with young children, the Teatro de Títeres is a puppet theatre that performs shows every weekend, to keep little ones entertained in between trips to the various playgrounds.

Such a large open space makes an ideal venue for festivals, which includes the annual book fair, held early each summer, that sees publishing houses from across Spain gather to display their titles. 

Don’t despair if you can’t make it for the fair though, as the Cuesta de Moyano book market is situated nearby, with over 30 permanent stalls forming an open-air bookshop, selling books both new and secondhand.

Retiro is the perfect area to relax and unwind, with the many cafes surrounding the park offering the opportunity to sip a drink on the terrace and bask in the Spanish weather.

History buffss can find several museums to explore. The Casa de la Moneda Museum, National Museum of Anthropology, Naval Museum, and CaixaForum Madrid can be found nearby the park.

Retiro benefits from excellent transportation connections. The Atocha train station is located nearby, providing easy access to other cities in Spain and even international destinations. The Retiro metro station is well-connected, allowing for convenient travel throughout Madrid.

Retiro is generally considered a safe neighborhood as it has a relatively low crime rate and is well-patrolled by police. This provides a sense of security, allowing travelers to explore the area comfortably.

Retiro is one of the best areas stay in Madrid for first-timers who are couples and families looking for a relaxing over nightlife, sightseeing, and shopping.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Retiro:

mid-range ($$): Only YOU Hotel Atocha Located 150 m from Madrid-Atocha Train Station, this 4-star hotel offers the views of the Paseo Infanta Isabel and Calle Alfonso XII. You can have a good night sleep with soundproofed rooms with TV, safe, and a minibar.

mid-range ($$): Agumar this 4-star hotel is close to Retiro Park, and Atocha Train Station that offering a high-speed AVE service and links to Barajas Airport. The hotel’s Las Arenas restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine.

budget ($$): NH Madrid Atocha Located a 5 minute walk from Retiro Park, this hotel has soundproof rooms with air conditioning, a 40-inch TV, pillow menu, safe and minibar. Each one has a private bathroom with a rain-effect shower, toiletries and a hairdryer.


See more: Where to stay in Madrid with Family

10. Argüelles/Chamberi

Argüelles, Moncloa, and Chamberi, a residential areas in Madrid

Arguelles and Moncloa are the lovely residential and quiet neighborhoods of central Madrid, near the University City in Madrid. It’s just 10 minutes underground to go from Moncloa-Aravaca to the city center and surrounded by green areas and cultural attractions.

Its notable sight is the Templo de Debod (Debod’s Temple), an ancient Egyptian temple gifted to Spain and transported to Madrid in 1968. Templo de Debod stands as the centerpiece of a reflection pool in the Parque del Oeste (West Park) and offers a stunning place to observe the sunset.

From Parque del Oeste, you can take a the Teleférico de Madrid cable car to Casa de Campo park for stunning views of the city, and to visit its public pool, zoo, boating lake, and a theme park.

Moncloa-Argüelles is popular with students with a number of prominent universities such as Universidad Pontífica Comillas, Universidad Politécnica, Universidad Complutense of Madrid, and Universidad Nebrija.

Unsurprisingly, the area heavily caters to international students and locals, with an array of cafes and bars, bookshops and bakeries, and, of course, a selection of clubs, pubs, and bars to keep you entertained into the evening.

Being somewhat less of a tourist hotspot, yet still, in the center of the city and within easy commute of some of the most popular attractions, Arguelles and Moncloa may be the ideal area to look for accommodation if you are on a budget but still want to stay in the heart of the city.

Stay in Moncloa if you prefer a quieter break and relax atmosphere; you want local vibe; you travel on a budget; you are visiting Madrid for the first time; you travel with family;

Best Places to Stay in Madrid in Moncloa:

luxury ($$$): Melia Madrid Princesa Five-star hotel is set within a short walk from Plaza España, Gran Via, Oeste Park, and the beautiful Debod Temple. With the Ventura Rodríguez Metro Station nearby, you can easily explore the city.

mid-range ($$$): AC Hotel Aravaca by Marriott Located on the A-6 motorway, this 4-star hotel offers easy access to Madrid’s city center and Madrid Barajas Airport.

mid-range($$$): Plaza de España Skyline this self-catered accommodation is close to Calle Princesa. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with shower and a hairdryer.


Where should I stay in Madrid for the first time?

Puerta del Sol is the best area to stay in Madrid for first-timers because it is the center of the city. If you stay here you will be located in the middle of everything, within walking distance to Madrid’s top sights, as well as restaurants, bars, and shops.

Which part of Madrid is the best to stay in?

Puerta del Sol in Centro district, Los Austrias, La Latina, Huertas, Malasana, Chueca, Salamanca, Lavapies, and Retiro are some of the best areas to stay in Madrid because they are popular and safe places for tourist.

See Also:

In conclusion, Puerta del Sol, Los Austrias, La Latina, Huertas, Malasana, Chueca, Salamanca, Lavapies, and Retiro are the best places to stay in Madrid for first-timers and tourists. They offer central and safe locations with easy access to attractions and wide range of hotels for all budgets.

Overall, I recommend Centro, particularly the area around Puerta del Sol and Gran Via as the best base in Madrid for first-timers due to its prime location. Staying here puts you within walking distance to Madrid’s top sights, many shopping, dining, and nightlife venues.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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