Areas and suburbs in Madrid

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Areas and suburbs in MadridMadrid is a walkable, cosmopolitan city full of art galleries, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, universities and night spots.

Whether a student, an English teacher, a young professional, or an expat family, new arrivals are sure to find a suitable area or suburb in Madrid to call home. 
Expats tend to live in and around the historic centre, on the outskirts and beyond, and even in nearby provincial towns. Goods, services and reliable transport are widespread and usually within easy reach.  
Expats should note that accommodation in most large Spanish cities is in the form of apartments, and Madrid is no different, meaning that the centre can be noisy and living space can be minimal.  
So, if preferring to live in a quiet area in a spacious, affordable house expats will probably have to live away from the city centre itself, implying a relatively short commute on excellent public transport networks or by road – although, the latter can be busy.

Central areas of Madrid

City centre

In the city centre, winding streets fan out from Madrid’s famous tourist-friendly Puerta del Sol, a broad square that acts as the commercial heart of the city. While this area is exciting, there is little green space and the accommodation is both expensive and rather rundown. 
Wider avenues, such as the main artery of the Gran Vía or the area around the Plaza de Oriente, home of the Royal Palace, are nearby. In general, this area best suits young, fun-seeking students who can keep up with its frenetic pace.  

La Latina

Close by is La Latina, where expats will find inhabitants, bars and narrow streets reminiscent of traditional Madrid. Though certainly a charming neighbourhood, much of the accommodation found here is in need of upgrading. Some of the best tapas bars in the metropolis are found here, and on Sundays the huge Rastro flea market winds its way down the area's eastern edge. Rent in the area is reasonable and it is best suited to students and young people who don´t mind sharing accommodation.

Chueca and Malasana

Other fun options in central Madrid are Chueca and Malasana. This district has a flourishing nightlife and, as such, tends to be noisy; though Malasana manages to be quieter and more residential while keeping its trendy, alternative edge. These areas are perhaps best suited to young, well-earning professionals who prefer their accommodation to be in close proximity to their favourite party spots.


Not far from the centre is the Retiro, a quiet, residential district made up of medium-sized period buildings. This neighbourhood lacks shops and markets, but is close to Madrid´s biggest railway station, Atocha, and parking is not too problematic for residents who have cars. It is suited to families, but is rather pricey.

Salamanca and Castellana

Chic, well-heeled expat professionals may want to secure accommodation in Salamanca or Castellana, some of the most expensive areas in the city. The broad thoroughfares are lined with designer shops, stylish boutiques and upmarket restaurants. The US Embassy is found here, and amid the district’s wide highways and tall buildings are the headquarters of many banks and companies.  

Off-centre areas of Madrid


Chamartín is spacious and residential, and is within easy reach of the city centre by bus and metro. Home to Real Madrid´s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, it has a well-established community of expat executives and their families. Beyond the wide avenues, there are medium to more costly modern apartment complexes, as well as secluded and expensive villas. Stylish restaurants can be found here, and there are international clubs, societies, churches and schools. It is well suited to high-earning professionals and their families.


Moncloa, north of the Plaza De Espana and the location of the Prime Minister´s official residence, is a quick, easy getaway from the buzz of the centre. This elegant area of four-storey buildings is laid out on a grid system and boasts a park as well as underground parking options. The neighbourhood is also home to the Complutense University campus with its well-kept sports facilities. Despite the large number of students, the area is quiet and is well-suited to expat families.

Nuevos Ministerios

Nuevos Ministerios, north of the city centre, is a middle-income zone and offers everything from restaurants and cinemas, to clubs and cafés. The neighbourhood is well connected to the rest of the city by bus and the underground. Parking is easy to find, and shopping options abound.

Outlying areas of Madrid


La Moraleja

La Moraleja (Alcobendas) is popular with the city's wealthier residents. Situated in Madrid´s northeast, it is the equivalent of the Spanish Beverly Hills. Tranquil, spacious and full of luxury villas with private gardens, rental and purchase costs are extremely high. Residents include the internationally rich and famous such as film stars, impresarios and top company directors, and it also used to be home to the Beckhams. A selection of Madrid’s best private schools and sports clubs is located in this area, complete with tennis, golf and pony clubs. Restaurants are select and costly. A private car is essential, both for shopping in nearby commercial centres and for going into the city. This is the place to live for prosperous expats.

San Sebastian de los Reyes

San Sebastián de los Reyes, a historical town founded in 1492, is 11 miles (18km) north of Madrid. It is well connected to the capital and to Barajas airport by rail and underground. Known for its bullfighting and sporting activities, it is also a shopper’s paradise, as major international companies such as IKEA and Leroy Merlin have branches in its Megapark and Plaza Norte 2 malls. The home of Antena 3 television station, it is a middle-class town and an ideal place for expat families.  

Las Rozas

Las Rozas is just over half an hour beyond the city limits to the northwest. It is an exclusive area with large, high standard apartments, semi-detached houses and landscaped villas. With a strongly North American influence, there is an international choice of banks, shops and eateries. There are several international schools in the area and plenty of organised sports and social facilities. Las Rozas is best suited to prosperous families or couples.

Tres Cantos

Tres Cantos, 13 miles (21km) north of Madrid, is not only the youngest town in Spain, but it has the highest percentage of highly educated residents. It prides itself on being a city of science and innovation, and is within easy reach of Barajas airport. Only six miles (10km) from the Autonomous University of Madrid, it has parks, a man-made lake, bilingual schools, a cultural centre and good shopping.

The Henares Corridor

The Henares Corridor follows a river valley through affordable communities to the historic, university town of Alcala de Henares. As the birthplace of writer Miguel de Cervantes, it continues to be a seat of learning and draws thousands of North American exchange students. Alcala is highly populated but not crowded, and its Casco Viejo, or historic centre, has a pleasant, small town feel. It is well suited to students, bilingual programme teachers and cost-conscious expat families who don´t need to form part of a permanent expat community.

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Our Madrid Expert

MaureenDolan's picture
Glasgow, Scotland. Alcalá de Henares, Spain.
Writer, hispanist and translator educated in Scotland and the United States. Resident in Spain for fourteen years. more

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