Madrid — currently celebrating Pride and already preparing to host WorldPride 2017 — is without a doubt a must-see for LGBT travelers. The Spanish playland depicted in Almodovar's films is very much a reality: cobblestone streets, languid meals that begin at 11 p.m., and dancing until dawn. The people are happy and friendly and the city's gay neighborhood, Chueca, is brimming with history and beautiful people (Cheuca won an Out Traveler Award for Incomparable Gay Neighborhood). The city is large, but manageable, and stunning architecture greets you at every turn. Pour yourself a cafe con leche and get acquainted with Spain's heart.
EAT: Croquettes and tapas to the hilt
Madrid is known for modernizing the concept of tapas, aka little plates often shared among diners. You can expect to find a wide range when it comes to your culinary adventure in Madrid: from traditional to innovative to creative. Croquettes, aka little stuffed pastries, are also HUGE in Madrid, but paella is surprisingly not as ubiquitous in the Spanish capital. Don't forget: wine is religion, here.
BOTIN: Awarded Travellers’ Choice in 2012, Botín has been around since 1725 and is considered to be the oldest restaurant in the world (Guiness Book of Records). The same wood-fired ovens used by French chef, Jean Botin, are still used today to their famous roasted suckling pig and lamb. (Calle Cuchilleros, 17)
LA CASA DEL ABUELO: Founded in 1906, La Casa Del Abuelo is a relic of central Madrid, with walls lined with old black and white photos and advertisements. The tapas bar is famed for its shrimp, which used to be so popular back in the day that discarded shrimp tails lined the floor. (Calle de la Victoria, 12)
LA COCINA DE SAN ANTON: Situated atop Mercado San Antón, the restaurant has a great view over the roofs of Chueca. (Calle Augusto Figueroa, 24)
ESTADO PURO: “A reinterpretation of the most traditional Spanish cuisine from an avant-garde kitchen. Estado Puro brings up to date one of Spain’s most popular culinary exports: Tapas.” Estado Puro prides itself in representing Spanish cuisine as well as the Spanish way of life. (Plaza Cánovas del Castillo, 4)
LA TERRAZA DEL CASINO: This fine dining experience is headed by one of Spain’s leading contemporary chefs: Paco Roncero. Expect an avant-garde menu to go with the restaurant’s sophisticated interior. (Calle de Alcalá, 15, 28014)
SLEEP: Under the Spanish sun
Madrid's gay-friendly accommodations include budget to five-star to LGBT-owned hostels. Service is impeccable here, but at least attempt some Spanish — people will be even nicer.
HOSTAL COLORS HOST: This hostel has 19 renovated rooms, all with their own bathrooms. They also offer an optional breakfast service with an additional fee of three euros per person. WiFi is also available and you can usually get a room for about 40 bucks a night. (Calle fuencarral 14)
HOSTAL LA ZONA: Three minutes walking distance from Chueca is La Zona, a hostel owned by a gay couple. La Zona offers 14 rooms with outdoor balconies, flat screen tvs, free wifi, and A/C. Depending on the day of the week, accommodations can start as low as 35 euros per person. (Calle Valverde, 7)
HOSTAL PUERTA DEL SOL: Situated in Puerta del Sol, Madrid's central square, this hostel is popular among LGBT guests who want a comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price — 80 euros for a single room, 150 euros for a room that can accommodate four. Each reservation includes breakfast and 24 hours of free coffee and tea. (Plaza Puerta del Sol, 14, 4º)
HOTEL ROOM MATE OSCAR: For guests who enjoy avant-garde design and walking distance to Chueca nightlife, Room Mate Oscar offers an ideal choice. The roof top bar features a 360 degree view of Madrid. If you’ve got the money for it, you can reserve the presidential suite that has direct access to the terrace pool. (Plaza Vázquez de Mella, 12)
THE WESTIN PALACE: This beautiful hotel is in the heart of central Madrid, near the government center, and has cemented a luxurious reputation since its opening in 1912. Celebrities who have checked in include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, and Ernest Hemingway. The lobby, rooms, and restaurants are sumptious and filled with glamorous globe-trotters running in every direction. The Westin is often used by LGBT guests using the hotel for their wedding reception and/or ceremony (Plaza de las Cortes, 7)
EXPERIENCE: Museos en todas partes
Walk around Serrano Street for high fashion, check out the genius of Dali and Picasso at the Reina Sofia, rest in a park made for a king, or get lost within the flea market. Madrid’s culture is just as interesting as its nightlife.
REINA SOFIA NATIONAL ART MUSEUM: At the Reina Sofia you can find artworks by Dali, Miro, Juan Gris, and Picasso’s El Guernica, which will leave your breathless. Admission can be as low as three euros for students, and free certain times every day, save for Tuesday. (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52)
CALLE DE SERRANO: Situated in the Salamanca neighborhood, Serrano Street is the place to get your retail therapy during the day. Serrano Street is known for its wide streets, which make it easy to stroll down and window shop for brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Agatah Ruiz de la Prada. The street also sports bike lanes, street furniture, and outdoor cafes. (Calle de Serrano, 43)
EL RASTRO FLEA MARKET: The El Rastro Flea market is of the oldest markets in Europe, dating back to medieval times where it was a hiding place for crooks. The market now houses different items such clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, and antiques. There are also themed streets within the market, like the Painters Street where many works of art are on display. To get the full experience of El Rastro, plan your Sunday full of wandering and getting lost within the crowd. (Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores)
EL RETIRO PARK: Once a place of recreation for the Royal Family, El Retiro is now a favorite park of Madrid locals. There are many installations and monuments to photograph, including the Galapagos fountain. This park also has the world’s only monument to the devil: the Fountain of the Fallen Angel by Ricardo Bellver, which symbolizes Lucifer’s
expulsion from paradise. (Plaza de la Independencia, 7)
PLAY: Go out at midnight
Most of the gay bars thrive in Plaza del Chueca, the gay hub of Madrid. Whether you want a bar with drag shows, or a club full of scantily clad muscle men, Chueca has it all.
ÁNGEL SIERRA TABERNA: This bar overlooks Plaza del Chueca and can attract a diverse crowd during its “tapas rush hour,” but the overall experience is
youthful and modern. (Calle de Gravina, 11)
DELIRIO: This dance club attracts a huge crowd after 1 a.m. from Sunday to
Wednesday. Enjoy moderately priced drinks and a drag show. (Calle Libertad, 28)
LIQUID: This gay bar is open every day of the week and features multiple video screens, with music ranging from R&B to house. (Calle de Barbieri, 7)
LL BAR: Catch LL Bar’s main attraction, a drag show, that starts every night
around midnight. It always brings in a crowd, so arrive early to get a
drink and a spot to enjoy the entertainment. (Calle Pelayo, 11)
LOL GAY CLUB AT COOL: Here is your destination for shirtless men showcasing their hard-earned abs. The two-floor venue just celebrated its first anniversary. (Sala Cool, Isabel la Católica 6)
MORE WAYS TO EXPLORE MADRID