Moving to Madrid: Ultimate Guide to the city’s Neighborhoods


Updated on Sep 07 • 6 minute read

Considering moving to Madrid? You’re in for a treat. Madrid – the capital of Spain – somehow manages to successfully blend the bustle of a whirlwind metropolis with the historic touches of a locale still steeped in tradition, and bursting with regional culture.

Madrid is the epicenter of all the political and economical beginnings of Spain, with a great influence over the entire continent. It provides a great space for those traveling abroad to learn about the country’s culture, and to explore its truly world-class food and drink options. Additionally, Madrid is also known to have one of the most spectacular nightlife scenes, offering many areas where young internationals flock to dance until dawn. After all, it is called “la ciudad que nunca duerme” by the locals, which translates to the “city that never sleeps.”

In short, Madrid is the ideal place to spend a few months (or even longer) abroad, where you can take on a great internship, explore a few career choices or attend a popular university. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the city offers such diverse neighborhoods.

This is why our Madrid Neighborhood Guide is packed with all of the things that you’ll need to know to make an educated decision on choosing your new home-away-from-home. So, grab a coffee, kick back and get ready to dive into the best neighborhoods Madrid has to offer!

Getting Started

Before you begin looking at green spaces or mapping how far the closest bar will be to your favorite accommodation, there are a few things to take into consideration. Remember, being prepared is one of the most important aspects of moving abroad! The more you know before you go, the fewer curveballs will come your way once you’ve actually arrived. Additionally, if you need any supporting documentation, it will be much easier to gather it or to get new copies from home, rather than from across the globe.

That’s why it’s imperative to know about and understand the practical requirements to relocate to Spain. There are a few requirements that you must be aware of before you begin meeting new people on Facebook groups and other forums, and picking up the latest Spanish slang.

Perhaps most importantly, you will be legally required to obtain a “Número de Identidad de Extranjero,” or NIE. You will need this number if you plan on staying in the country for more than three months. To do so, you can easily make an appointment online by visiting the Secretaria De Estado De Administraciones Publicas, and enter “Madrid” for the region. Next select “Certificados UE” if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or “Expedición de Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero” if you are from another region. Then you can easily fill out the form and select an appointment date and time, which is usually within two weeks.

For your appointment, you’ll need to bring the following:

  • Your signed and completed NIE application form
  • Your Spanish address
  • A valid passport
  • Passport-sized photographs
  • If a student, acceptance confirmation from your university
  • Proof of your financial support via Work contracts or offers Bank account information Documentation proving financial support from another individual

It can also be a great idea to have all of your documents translated into Spanish, to avoid any further waiting periods.

Your appointment will take place at the Foreign Office, and after your initial consultation, you’ll need to go to the bank to pay for the NIE, and then back to the Foreign Office to show your receipt as proof of payment. You will then receive your completed NIE. It can be used to do all sorts of things, such as open a bank account or sign up for a mobile phone contract.

Public Transportation

Another thing that will make your move to Madrid vastly easier is to understand the public transportation system. If you are browsing some of the neighborhoods that might mean a bit of a commute, it will help you to know how well-connected the area is to transportation options.

The good news is that even though the city is quite large – boasting over three million inhabitants – you are never too far away from a bus, tram or metro connection. Plus, there are also trains into Madrid’s suburban areas. The service is fast, on time and inexpensive, which will certainly help with your other costs of living in Madrid.

Of course, it is Europe, so bikes are always a popular option for getting around.

Universities, Startups and Coworking

As you start to learn more about Madrid and what it has to offer, you’ll see that there are a variety of attractions, museums and much more. You can choose to stay in the center of the action, in neighborhoods that are closer to Madrid’s universities or commercial areas.


If you are relocating to Madrid to spend a semester or two at one of their award-winning universities, you’ll have plenty to choose from. A few to consider include:

Startups and Employment

Europe is known as a breeding ground for successful startups and other employers, which makes it a perfect place for budding entrepreneurs to take up work, especially in the technology trade.

Some Madrid startups that are popular with young internationals include:

  • Billin
  • Cabify
  • Drone Hopper
  • Etece
  • Jobandtalent
  • Indexa Capital

Coworking Spaces

If you thought coworking spaces were a passing trend, then it’s high time to admit your mistake, because they’re definitely here for the long haul. These areas provide a space for freelancers, digital nomads, entrepreneurs and even students to get some work done, mingle with like-minded individuals and use a super-strong Wi-Fi connection. And Madrid has plenty to choose from, including:

  • Espiritu 23
  • Google Campus
  • The Shed Coworking
  • La Piscine
  • Impact Hub Madrid
  • La Industrial

Madrid’s Neighborhoods

Madrid’s neighborhoods are often compared to Barcelona’s, and many expats find themselves deciding between the two cities when dreaming of relocating to Spain. However, many note that Madrid has a true feeling of authenticity, which is definitely something to crave if you’re hoping to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture. No matter your preferences, you will easily find a convenient neighborhood that matches your personality.

City Center

Centro, as it is best known, makes up the heart of Madrid and is the location for most of the city’s attractions. The Plaza Mayor is the central square, and it is surrounded by picturesque medieval streets. The Royal Palace is at one border and the wonders of the upscale Gran Vía shopping center at the other. Dining ranges from fast food stalls to some of the oldest restaurants in all of Madrid.

A lot of students and young professionals like being in the center of everything. However, accommodation here can be expensive and often located in older buildings. Yet, you can walk to a lot of places in the city from here, and there are numerous public transportation options.


This artsy neighborhood is home to one of the city’s largest green spaces, as well as numerous galleries and other museums. It’s busy on the weekends when the locals come out to relax around the lake and eat tasty treats from local food vendors near the large railway station, Atocha.

Young professionals flock to this mostly residential area, as it’s close to the city center, but has a slower pace and is slightly more affordable. However, it is still considered to be on the pricey side, but its overall convenience often compensates.

La Latina

South of the city center, this area is a perfect spot for beers and tapas, and has become a regular meeting point for both locals and expats alike. You can also visit Madrid’s largest flea market, Rastro, every Sunday.

Again, this area can be on the expensive side, even though most apartment buildings are quite old. Yet, the area has a deeply historic charm, so rooms are claimed very fast.


Situated near the other side of Retiro Park, this neighborhood is known for its high-end shopping, dining and other leisure activities. It is also just a few metro stops from the city center.

This is one of the most expensive neighborhoods, but it is a favorite among young professionals, perhaps due to its proximity to the US Embassy, a collection of banks and other well-known businesses.


Known as the trendiest area of Madrid, Malasaña is very popular with the hipster crowd. This is also a regular hangout for artists and other creatives, boasting a vibrant nightlife scene.

It can sometimes be a little noisy, but the cost of housing is less expensive than the city center, and it is still easily accessible. Students love the atmosphere and spend many weekends here, exploring the numerous bars and clubs.


This hip neighborhood is right between Malasaña to the west and Salamanca to the east. Known as the center of gay nightlife, Chueca is extremely popular with internationals, welcoming in people from all walks of life to dance until the sun comes up.

Like Malasaña, the atmosphere is fun and exciting, with a party around every corner. So, it’s a great place to stay if you want the thrill of being in the action but are not willing to pay Centro prices.


Home to bohemian life at its finest, this area is filled with bars and clubs. It also boasts the Plaza Santa Ana, with some of the best dining and drinks in the city.

Many students are drawn to this neighborhood because it was once the hangout of many of Spain’s writers, including poets and playwrights. So, try to book housing in advance, and be aware that pricing can range from moderate to high-end.

After reading our guide to Madrid’s Neighborhoods, you may already feel a little acquainted with what will soon become your new surroundings, which should put you at ease when you start considering your own moving abroad checklist, setting up a realistic budget and begin browsing for housing in the best Madrid neighborhoods. Good luck with your move to Madrid!

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