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The best places to live in Madrid
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city full of art galleries, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, universities and a thriving nightlife.
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 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 minimal.
Expats who would prefer to live in a quiet area in a spacious, affordable house, will most likely have to live away from the city centre. While this does include a commute, the excellent public transport networks makes it easy and rather pleasant. Otherwise, expats can travel into the city centre by road, but these can be rather busy.
Central areas of Madrid
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 expensive, often in older buildings and not all newly renovated.
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.
Close by the centre is La Latina, where expats will find inhabitants, bars and narrow streets reminiscent of traditional Madrid. Though certainly a charming neighbourhood, some of the accommodation found here is in need of upgrading. That said, 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 this area is quite expensive, even if not all apartments are updated, as it is a very popular area to live in.
Chueca and Malasana
Other fun options in central Madrid are Chueca and Malasana. Chueca 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. 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 a large number of students, the area is quiet and is well-suited to expat families.
Nuevos Ministerios, north of the city centre, is a middle-income zone and offers everything from restaurants and cinemas to clubs and cafes. The neighbourhood is well connected to the rest of the city by bus and the underground, but parking is as difficult to find as in the city centre.
Outlying areas of Madrid
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. A selection of Madrid’s best private schools and sports clubs are 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 malls. The home of Antena television station, it is a middle-class town and an ideal place for expat families.
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.
Pozuelo and Somosaguas
Pozuelo is one of the richest cities in Spain, with a lot of expats living here, as there are many offices of well-known international companies. It is only 6.2 miles (10 km) to the city centre of Madrid. Somosaguas is an exclusive residential area with luxury standalone villas, where a lot of famous people live, such as television or film stars, football players and artists.
Aravaca, El Plantio and La Florida
Aravaca still forms part of the City of Madrid, even if it is next to Pozuelo. Like Pozuelo, it includes areas where the upper and high class live. In El Plantio and La Florida, there are several international schools, which is why it is a popular area for families starting a new life in Madrid.
►For more on living in the city, see Accommodation in Madrid.
►Education and Schools in Madrid is an essential read for family-conscious expats.
"I lived in quite a few different areas but particularly loved Chamberi and Barrio de las Letras." Read Kate's interview to find out more about her experience living in Madrid.
Photo credits: Central areas in Madrid by Victor Garcia. Off-centre areas in Madrid by Augustina Salas. Outlying areas of Madrid by Braden Collum. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Madrid?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Madrid. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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