Neighbourhood-hopping in Madrid


Chueca and Salamanca offer contrasting atmospheres, fashions and culinary delights.

To discover the local Madrileños’ Madrid, a good place to begin is Chueca, which is bounded by Gran Vía, Paseo de Recoletos and Fuencarral streets. Two decades ago most locals avoided the area, but now Chueca’s gay-friendly and bohemian vibe attracts trend-conscious types.

From vinegar to Champagne

According to my local friend, all Madrileños buy their footwear on Augusto Figueroa street. Alongside the regular shoe shops are outlet stores that sell low-cost samples of shoes in certain sizes. 

Mercado Fuencarral, a three-storey collection of about 60 boutiques, sells creations by young designers. There is a more discreet charm at H.A.N.D., a boutique that specialises in dresses for all ages.

Tapas bars and design hotels

Plaza de Chueca, the neighbourhood’s heart, is usually filled with people in the evenings. Madrileños are not homebodies.

There are plenty of cosy restaurants and tapas bars in a range of styles. In the homey Stop Madrid, guests sit on wooden stools between shelves lined with wine bottles and nibble on manchego cheese, air-dried ham and spicy sausages. Dozens of wines are available by the glass. 

Representing a completely different style is Óscar Hotel’s rooftop terrace, Splash. This swimming pool bar with exceptional views is the best place to sip drinks at sunset.

The discreet charm of Salamanca

Hopping from Chueca to Salamanca is like taking a trip to another city. The neighbourhoods are only divided by one street – Paseo de Recoletos – but they could hardly feel more different.  

After the jumbled warren of Chueca, Salamanca seems tidy, affluent and open. Graffiti is noticeably absent, and passersby are dressed in timeless, classic fashions. There is space to breathe, with broad boulevards placed in a clear grid. This is one of Madrid’s most desirable addresses. 

Fans of antique shops and art galleries should head to Salamanca´s Claudio Coello and its neighbouring street Lagasca. The main shopping boulevard, Calle de Serrano, is home to Spanish brands such as Loewe, Bimba & Lola and Purificación García.

The Madrid brand Hazel sells its own reasonably priced collections of youthful and stylish shoes, bags, jewellery and other accessories. Good deals can also be found along Goya and Alcala streets.

No wine lover should miss Lavinia, which sells varieties from around the world; prices start at less than ten euros. The automatic dispenser serves affordable wines by the glass.

Making the scene at Ramses 

Typifying the neighbourhood’s style are refined, old-fashioned settings such as Pastelería Embassy. This bakery, tea salon and restaurant has been in business since the 1930s.

One place to be seen is Ramses, a Mediterranean restaurant with a sleek interior by French designer Philippe Starck. There is a range of spaces and atmospheres within the same building, including Bistró for lunch and the dark-toned restaurant Petit for dinner and weekend brunches.

Loft 39 is both a recommended lunch spot and a stylish nighttime destination. Arrive before 10:00 pm to find a seat in the lounge bar; then it’s time to wait for Madrileños, who always flow into bars – or anywhere else – very late.


Stop Madrid, C. Hortaleza 11, Chueca

Embassy, Paseo de la Castellana 12, Salamanca

Ramses, Plaza de la Independencia 4, Salamanca

Loft 39, C. Velázquez 39, Salamanca

Room Mate Óscar, Plaza Vázquez de Mella 12, Chueca

H.A.N.D., Hortaleza 26, Chueca

Mercado de Fuencarral, Fuencarral 45, Chueca

Hazel, Claudio Coello 21, Salamanca or C. Velázquez 30, Salamanca.

Lavinia, C. José Ortega y Gasset 16, Salamanca.

Text by Mira Jalomies
Photo by Peppe Mancuso
A version of this article was previously published in Finnair´s Blue Wings magazine (October 2009).

Published August 2, 2011

Category: Local features