Gay Guide to MADRID
Gay Madrid has one of the most eclectic party scenes in Europe. Hot guys, warm welcomes and innovative bars, restaurants and party nights guarantee a good time to all who visit!
First things first! Madrileños love to party. If New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, then Madrid is most certainly the European equivalent – except maybe for a leisurely disco nap in the afternoon that is! Considering the blazing hot late spring and summer afternoons you would also be well advised to join the Madrileños in seeking a cool place to pass the heat of the day with a little siesta.
The siesta is not just recommended here, it’s essential in a city whose desire for nightlife is relentless and doesn’t even begin until midnight. Nearly 2,000 bars and restaurants create outside terraces in the spring and summer where locals vie for space and the welcome cool night air. Passing the evenings until the early hours is a national past-time, discussing the day’s events over a cool beer and some tapas and watching the world go by.
This is one of Europe’s most loved capitals, the third largest city in the European Union, and a welcome respite for gay travelers due to the staggering quantity and diversity of gay nightlife. The countless bars, disco bars (with a dance floor, but which don’t charge on the door) and discos in Madrid open, close and change names with alarming frequency. At weekends the scene can still last the full 48 hours, depending on your stamina. Madrileños love to tour the bars and discos, so you might find yourself in a place that’s semi-empty one moment, and packed to the gills the next.
Madrid is a contrasting city of historic sites by day and a thriving, hedonistic venue by night. Don’t be surprised to find yourself in a traffic jam at 4am in the morning!From the time you touch ground at the airport, Madrid feels like one big party – a party with an artist’s soul. Perhaps nowhere else in the world will you find such a spirited harmony of contrasts. Grandeur and romanticism stroll hand in hand down winding 16th-century streets. Beautiful parks nestle up to modern glass skyscrapers, and the River Manzanares flows through the heart of everything with a seductive, lazy arrogance.
Madrid’s location in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula explains the extremes of climate it experiences, with steaming hot summers, cold winters and much more moderate spring and autumns.
The Chueca quarter is the capital’s fashionable gay neighborhood or “barrio”.
Home to 3 million people, this is Europe’s highest capital city and the countries centre of government, business and home to Spain’s royal household. Madrid has managed to preserve the look and feel of its historic areas, making the neighborhoods really worth a visit. Notable landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Teatro Real (Royal Theater), and the city center’s Buen Retiro park, which was first established in the early 1600’s as private gardens for royalty.
The metro is a quick and inexpensive way to get around. And taxis are handy. But by all means walk! Wander. The city is a walker’s paradise. Its main east-west street is the early 20th century Gran Vía, running from the Prado area to the modern Plaza de España. Roughly parallel, the c. Mayor leads through the city’s medieval heart, from the Puerta del Sol, Spain’s “kilometer zero” from which all of the country’s destinations are measured, past charming Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s prettiest square, to c. de Bailén, near the Royal Palace.
A visit to Gran Via is a must where you can explore great art deco and beau-arts buildings, theatres and stores.Madrid features a number of lively, well-defined quarters and you will want to find time to visit all of them. Just a few blocks from the Gran Via, you are in “Old Madrid.” Narrow streets, with old buildings and old-fashioned shops selling anything from military costumes to religious articles seem to catapult you into an era three centuries back. The old cafés at the bustling center attract residents of all ages and persuasions.
The Chueca quarter is the capital’s fashionable gay neighborhood or “barrio”. The Chueca is a pulsating neighborhood festooned with rainbow flags and filled with bars, clubs, and stores.The two main streets through Chueca are Calle Horteleza and Fuencarral. Both these streets run parallel to each other, up from Gran Via, making them easy to find, and contain gay bars that are easily recognisable from the gay flag that hangs outside.
The first stop on any gay traveler’s shopping list is Librería Berkana (Calle Hortaleza, 64; +34-91-532-1393; www.libreriaberkana.com), the well-stocked and modern gay bookstore at the top of Plaza Chueca. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will tell you all you need to know about Madrid’s gay life, and the selection of books (many in English), cards, and magazines is quite impressive. Another popular bookstore in the area is A Different Life (CallePelayo, 30; +33-91-532-9652; www.lifegay.com), a two-level bookstore with an annex down the street. The friendly owners will point you in the right direction. Be sure to pick up a gay map of the city and a copy of ShangayExpress to get in touch with the latest in the social scene.
Try taking breakfast at La Austriaca (San Onofre, 3). Here you will find some delicious pastries or why not indulge in the traditional churros with hot chocolate.Spend the morning browsing some of the many art and photographic galleries. Oliva Arauna (Barquillo, 23) has some of the most interesting displays in the city. If you are looking for something authentic gifts or momentos to take home, pay a visit to Mad is Mad (Pelayo, 48) where you can find a range of contemporary pieces signed by the original artists.
Lunchtime and your choice of restaurants is endless. If you are not that hungry yet, why not try a drop of vermú de grifo from Reus (vermouth on tap) at Bodegas Ángel Sierra, in Plaza de Chueca with some delicious tapas, olives, tuna and anchovies. Restaurants we recommend include Polenta (Pelayo, 28, Tel. 91 542 38 95) where you can sample the latest Mediterranen fusion dishes. For those looking for a lighter snack , check out Diurno. Located in the heart of Chueca, this cafe stands out for size –it occupies the entire ground floor of a building– and its glass windows, which let you see what’s going on inside. A quick peek in reveals it is much more than a simple café.
Those looking for something more upmarket should check out “Splash”, the terrace on the 8th floor of the trendy Hotel Oscar Room Mate. Its slick, stylish and very gay-friendly.
Drinks are served from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. Its swimming pool is open during the rest of the day, and you can enjoy it without being a guest at the hotel.
Recommended bars include the Museo Chicote, a very old and fashionable cocktail bar on the best side of the Gran Via. Founded in 1939, it has hosted Spanish and American stars, actors and comedians, politicians, kings and queens. Now it hosts young and posh customers. The cocktails are good, the ambience is perfect. Enfrente and Hot are the two venues of the Madrid’s rich bear scene. Liquid is one of the most crowded bars in Chueca, and PK2 (Pekados) is a club that attracts the younger crowd.
To the west, poets and musicians frequent the “underground” bars, while the gilded youth of Brazil and more than a few straying Chueca denizens pulse to the beat in the charmingly rehabilitated Malasaña quarter.Many new gay-friendly bars and clubs, especially for women, have opened in Lavapies and Latina, two areas south of the Gran Via. On Sunday’s don’t miss on Sunday, the wonderful Rastro market, where you can search for vintage clothes and bargain Spanish memorabilia.
When it comes to finding somewhere to sleep, Madrid offers a broad choice including various price ranges and services. You’ll find it all, from luxurious cosmopolitan establishments with avant-garde designs to hostels where you can enjoy a pleasant stay at great rates.
Madrid has some of the finest art museums and architecture in Europe, all within easy walking distance from each other.
Experience the unique Tapas nightlife with a night tour. Take a private running tour. Head to Toledo for an afternoon of breathtaking beauty. The choices are endless.
The Paseo del Arte, the arts’ walk, is home to four of the best Spanish museums. And The Museo del Prado is an unmissable highlight of anyone’s visit to Madrid. Save time queuing and book the Madrid Card in Advance. Gain entry to over 50 museums, partake in a “Discover Madrid” walking tour, enjoy a theater show or visit the Bernabeu Stadium Tour. With the choice of a 24 hour, 48 hour, 72 hour or 120 hour card, you can also enjoy discounts on shopping, restaurants and nightlife such as a flamenco show.
The Palacio Real (or Royal Palace, also referred to as the Palacio de Oriente) is the lavish site of royal events, but is not home to the royal family (they have lived in the smaller Palacio de la Zarzuela for some time).The Palacio Real is still a fascinating place to walk through though, with its maze of 50 themed rooms decorated in the finest metals and richest fabrics – though this is only a small sampling of the total 2,800 rooms of the palace. On the guided tour, you will also learn much about the interesting history behind the Bourbon dynasty, during whose reign the palace
was most in use.