When I first moved to Madrid two years ago, I knew from a previous trip that I was in love with the city and it was one of the most open places I’d ever been. Deciding which neighborhood to live in was a challenge as I really only knew Chueca – Madrid’s quintessential gay neighborhood. As I discovered more about the city, I realized that Madrid is full of diverse areas each offering their own unique style. Luckily for the LGBT community, Madrid truly is one of the most gay-friendly cities in Spain and even around the world. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half a million LGBT people live in Madrid, so no matter which neighborhood you choose, you’ll find an open and welcoming community where you can be yourself. However, for those who really want to find the best neighborhoods for the gay community, there are a few in the city that top the list.
- Chueca: The Largest Gay Neighborhood in Spain
Chueca has long been the official gay neighborhood in Madrid and it was an obvious choice for us when we moved there in the summer of 2013. We wanted to be in the middle of the action and Chueca is centrally located in the city where you’ll find the highest concentration of gay bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, saunas and shops. If you really love a vibrant neighborhood with immense gay nightlife options, this should be one of your top choices. However, for those that want a quieter and more laid back feel, you might consider other places as Chueca can at times be a bit noisy on weekends and during special events like Gay Pride.
- Malasaña: Where Gay Hipsters Come to Play
Just west of Chueca and bordered by the popular shopping street Fuencarral is Malasaña, known to locals as the “gay hipster” neighborhood. Chueca might be seen as a neighborhood of gay stereotypes, while Malasaña is more diverse with fewer expectations. This neighborhood is still packed with LGBT residents but it’s mixed with people of all types giving it a more diverse and open feel. This diversity is what drew me to the neighborhood when we relocated here from Chueca the following summer. It’s become very popular in the past decade and it’s filled with unique shops, restaurants and bars. Malasaña is where you’ll find a tattoo shop next to a gin bar while they’re serving up sushi across the street in a building decked out in graffiti-like street art. Given its proximity and central location, you’re still in walking distance to most gay venues next door in Chueca but with a more intimate and unique style.
- La Latina: Up and Coming with a Mixed Crowd
La Latina is now one of the true hipster neighborhoods in Madrid. While Malasaña has its share of hipsters, residents in La Latina will tell you that Malasaña has become too mainstream. In fact, a few of our friends have been in La Latina for years and wouldn’t go anywhere else. La Latina is where you’ll find the best tapas, more diverse nightlife options, a bigger immigrant community and the Rastro – the largest weekly Sunday market in Spain where you can find new and used goods of all types. Located on the southern edge of central Madrid, you’re still within walking distance of most of Madrid’s main areas and you can reach Chueca in 20 minutes by foot. La Latina is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in Madrid so now is a good time to move here.
- Sol: In the Center of Everything
This is probably one of the most centrally located neighborhoods in the entire city. You can walk to just about any great Madrid neighborhood from Sol and there’s always action going on nearby. You’ll definitely be exposed to more tourists in this neighborhood but that always brings a larger selection of events, restaurants and nightlife options packed into a smaller area. Though there are a few gay specific venues in Sol, most bars and clubs have a mixed or straighter crowd. This is a great neighborhood if you like the energy of being in the most visited area of the city and you’ll constantly see major events, concerts and demonstrations in central plazas like Puerta del Sol and Callao – one of the main plazas for Madrid Gay Pride’s outdoor concert series – our favorite event of the year.
- Retiro: Where You Can Stretch Out and Enjoy the Urban Green Space
On the eastern side of central Madrid is the Retiro neighborhood. The biggest benefit of living here is the proximity to Retiro Park, Madrid’s most famous and beautiful urban green space. Retiro Park is one of my favorite places in the city and I always bring visiting friends or family here to enjoy the magnificent greenery, sculptures and monuments. For those people that want a fitness-focused and quieter atmosphere, this is a great option because Retiro is packed with outdoor walking and jogging paths, not to mention an outdoor fitness area that attracts its fair share of handsome, shirtless men (and some women!) working out on a warm sunny day. You’ll also find more modern and larger apartments in the Retiro neighborhood and you’ll still be within 20 minutes walking distance to Chueca and other popular central areas of the city.
Auston is a travel blogger at TwoBadTourists and a freelance writer and has contributed to Edge Travel, Man About World and gaytravel.com. He grew up in Phoenix, later moved to Chicago and in 2012 sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband. When he’s not traveling or writing about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid.
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