Madrid has something to offer everyone. It is home to a trio of world-class art galleries, an atmospheric historic core and the most successful club in the history of football. It hosts some of the best tapas, bars and nightlife in the whole of Spain. The Spanish capital is sure to wow; here's the Rough Guide to where to stay in Madrid.
Madrid is a vast, predominantly modern city, with a population of some four million and growing. Accordingly, there are some excellent places to stay in Madrid. The streets at its heart are a pleasant surprise, with pockets of medieval buildings and narrow alleys. This is where you'll find the oddest of shops and bars, interspersed with eighteenth-century Bourbon squares.
Compared with the historic cities of Spain – Toledo, Salamanca, Seville, Granada – there may be few sights of great architectural interest.The monarchs did however acquire outstanding picture collections, which formed the basis of the Prado museum. Madrid has fabulous arrays of modern Spanish painting, European and American masters, and should feature on any European art tour.
However, monuments and sights are not really what Madrid is all about. You soon realize that it’s the lifestyle of the inhabitants – the madrileños – that is the capital’s key attraction. Instead, hang out in traditional cafés or summer terrazas. Pack the lanes of the Sunday Rastro flea market.Play hard and very late in a thousand bars, clubs, discos and tascas. Whatever Barcelona or San Sebastián might claim, the Madrid scene remains the most vibrant and fun in the country.
Deciding on the best place to stay in Madrid is key. This important decision will help you get the most out your visit to the city. Whatever kind of trip you have in mind, here’s the lowdown on where to stay in the Spanish capital.
Exclusive Barrio de Salamanca is renowned for smart apartment blocks, designer emporiums and its pijo residents. There are no qualms about flaunting wealth here. This is also the home of the wonderful Museo Arqueológico, Sorolla and Lázaro Galdiano collections, as well as Real Madrid’s magnificent Santiago Bernabéu stadium.
Best for tranquil elegance:Hotel Orfila
Oozing class and elegance, the Orfila is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city streets. You'll find exquisite rooms, a verdant patio for tea and drinks and haute cuisine from Michelin-star chef Mario Sandoval. What more could you want?
Best for garden terrace:VP Jardín de Recoletos
A short walk from the Retiro park, the rooms in this recently refurbished hotel are spacious and well furnished. The real attraction though, is the lovely shady garden terrace.
The area around Sol and Plaza Mayor is the beating heart of the Spanish capital. Packed with people, bars, restaurants, clubs and cafés, this is the place to be if you share the madrileños’ zest for life.
The Plaza de Santa Ana/Huertas area lies at the heart of a triangle. It is bordered to the east by the Paseo del Prado, to the north by c/Alcalá and along the south by c/Atocha. Puerta del Sol can be found at the western tip. The city reached this district after expanding beyond the Palacio Real and the Plaza Mayor.
Best for city centre style:Room Mate Alicia
A great spot if you want to hit the bars, clubs and cafés around Huertas. A selection of neat, cool rooms are available here. These include a smart terraced executive suite and a luxurious duplex complete with a mini swimming pool.
Best for an upgraded classic:ME Madrid
Once a favourite haunt of bullfighters and celebrities, this grand hotel is now part of Melià’s exclusive ME chain. Expect minimalist decor and designer furnishings. Be sure to check out the super-cool penthouse bar and a foyer bar serving creative tapas.
The adjacent barrios of Malasaña and Chueca form one of Madrid’s most vibrant quarters. Once a humble working-class area, they are now home to hipsters, boutique hotels and independent fashion outlets. There are plenty of design-conscious cafés and some critically acclaimed eateries to look out for.
Best for sleek and stylish: Only You Hotel
This boutique hotel offers sleek standard rooms and upmarket suites. The recently refurbished nineteenth-century building also has a swish cocktail bar and a small wellness zone.
Best for urban spa: Hotel Urso
Rooms are spacious, well-equipped and comfortable at this elegant hotel. It also has a small spa area, relaxing bar and a bamboo-fringed patio restaurant.
Madrid’s three world-class art museums, The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza, are wedged into the Paseo del Arte. This stretch has the added advantage of being adjacent to the tranquil botanical gardens, while nearby is the stately Parque del Retiro. These are perfect places to visit if you need a break from the frenzied city centre.
Best for aristocratic artworks: Villa Real
The Villa Real is a distinguished hotel with its own art collection and luxurious double rooms offer spacious sitting areas. Many have balconies, too. Andy Warhol lithographs decorate the walls of East 47 restaurant, while the summer terrace has splendid views over the nearby parliament building and the Paseo del Prado.
Best for Picasso: Artrip Hotel
The perfect location for art connoisseurs, the Artrip is close to the Reina Sofia, home to Picasso’s iconic masterpiece Guernica. It's also situated on the edge of the lively Lavapiés district with its teahouses and tapas bars. Inside are seventeen bright white, pristine, design-conscious rooms with comfortable beds.
If it is atmosphere you are looking for, then the historic districts of Madrid de los Austrias and Ópera are the places to be. Tangled streets, Flemish-inspired architecture and the extravagant Plaza Mayor dominate the former.
Ópera on the other hand is a more refined, stately quarter, defined by the imposing Palacio Real and the elegant Plaza de Oriente. Ópera is one of the most pleasant and relaxed barrios in the city.
Best for old meets new: Posada del León de Oro
A stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor, this former inn has been converted into a boutique hotel. Seventeen minimalist rooms, each with an individual touch, have comfortable beds and modern bathrooms. It’s worth noting that there’s a minimum stay of three nights in high season.
Best for good value by the palace: Hotel Meninas
Named after Velázquez’s famous painting, Hotel Meninas is nestled in a quiet street close to the Palacio Real and Ópera. There's helpful staff, a selection of tasteful doubles, stylish suites and roomy family options. Breakfast is included if you reserve through the website.
One of Madrid’s great avenues, Gran Vía cuts a swathe through the city from east to west. Be sure to look up to feast your eyes on a panoply of architectural styles, sculptures and facades. To the north lie the bars and clubs of Chueca and Malasaña; to the south the sights and sounds of Sol and Huertas.
Best for rooftop cocktails: Hotel Principal
Spoil yourself with this five-star accommodation, where a visit to the cool rooftop cocktail bar is a must. Take in the wonderful views across Gran Vía from its attic restaurant, run by Michelin-star chef Ramón Freixa.
Best for pleasant surprises: Hotel Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a competitively priced hotel full of nice surprises. You'll find jungle paintings adorning the car park and a record-breaking vertical garden and waterfall.
There is even a rooftop swimming pool. The rooms have individual decor, large beds and great walk-in showers.
This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from the Pocket Rough Guide to Madrid and The Rough Guide to Spain.
Top image: Gran Vía and Madrid skyline at sunset © Sven Hansche/Shutterstock.
Simon Baskett has lived and worked in Madrid for the last 30 years. He has written the Rough Guide to Madrid, the Pocket Rough Guide to Madrid and has been a long time contributor to the Rough Guide to Spain. A former Reuters sports correspondent for Spain, he has also worked for a variety of British newspapers and magazines, a flamenco website and and has written and contributed to history books for children. Follow him on Twitter