PUERTA DEL SOL
Puerta del Sol translates to ‘Gate of the Sun’, this historic and geographic center of Madrid is always buzzing with energy. The magnificent square is a popular venue for meeting and celebrations for both locals and tourists. There are loads of shops, cafes and tapas bars on the small streets shooting off from Puerta del Sol and the equally popular Plaza Mayor is close by. New Year’s Eve celebration on the square is a unique experience with the ritual of the clock chiming and the merry makers gobbling down their grapes.
Huertas, a small neighborhood with narrow alleys, is nicely located just south of Puerta del Sol. It’s packed with bars and cafes; in fact Plaza Santa Ana and Calle del Príncipe have some of the best bars in Madrid making Huertas a popular and lively night spot. Famous writers from Spain’s Golden Age once called this district their home; hence it’s also referred to as the literary district. The literary history is very much evident even today in the quotes from writers engraved on the streets and squares.
Gran Via spans between Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de Espana. This grand avenue which is Madrid’s main shopping area has impressive buildings that were built in the early 1900’s over a period of four decades, so changes in architectural styles are noticeable as you walk along. Dazzling brilliantly at night, it’s lined with theaters, upscale stores. Eating options here are limited, but it’s still a great neighbourhood for shopping and enjoying the grandiose architecture.
NEAR THE PRADO
This green and serene area has some of Madrid’s most prized jewels: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Real Jardín Botánico and the lovely Parque Del Retiro. Though situated on the eastern edge of the city centre, it’s easily accessible by the metro. There are quite a few reasonably priced eating options here and being tree-shaded it’s perfect for a stroll or two.
AUSTRIAS AND LA LATINA
The atmospheric areas of Austrias and La Latina are great for experiencing the charm of Old Madrid. Their narrow winding streets and plazas are packed with cafes, wine bars and souvenir shops. You can even take in a flamenco performance or visit Cava Baja, which has some of city’s best tapas bars. Some notable landmarks here are Plaza Mayor and the 2 churches, Iglesia de San Andres and Iglesia de San Francisco el Grande. Wander around, dig into a great meal and discover historic Madrid.
This district is to the north of Gran Via and prides itself on being the gay Mecca of Madrid. But Chueca is enjoyed by gays and non-gays alike thanks to its numerous trendy bars, inexpensive restaurants and clubs. The area comes alive in the night, especially the tiny Plaza de Chueca and the narrow lanes of Hortaleza, Barquillo, Infantas and San Lucas. Although a newbie in terms of Madrid’s districts, it’s centrally located, diverse and lively.