There’s no such thing as a boring Tuesday night in Chueca. This super central Madrid neighbourhood is known for its excellent shopping and fun-loving atmosphere. It’s the heart of gay culture in Madrid with lots of bars, drag shows, and one of Europe’s largest pride parades each year. Regardless of what day it is, there’s always something to do in Chueca and people of all backgrounds are welcome.
Chueca centres around the Chueca metro station, and is bordered by the larger and more laid back Malasaña neighbourhood to the west. Fuencarral Street, a pedestrianised shopping street, is the border between the two. Whenever globetrotter Bob W is in Madrid, Chueca is where you’ll find him. We’ve pulled together his top recommendations so you can save time and skip right to the good stuff.
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Madrid is known for some of the best art museums in Europe and the world, including the big three: the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Chueca boasts three excellent museums of its own. And the best part? They’re either free or close to it.
The Museum of Romanticism is situated in a mansion that recreates life during the Romantic era in 19th-century Spain. Think decadent room after room filled with art, clothing, decor and even children’s toys from the time. The museum is free on certain days and only costs a few euros on others. There is also a small garden cafe on the museum’s quiet inner courtyard which is somewhat of a Madrilenian secret. Here, you can enjoy homemade cakes and an afternoon tea or coffee without a museum ticket.
Nearby, the History Museum of Madrid is a free museum that transports you through the city’s past. It’s located in an eye-catching pink Baroque building. Inside, exhibits give an overview of the arts, industries, lifestyles and customs of the city’s residents – Madrileños – from 1561, the year when Madrid was established as the Spanish capital, to today.
On the corner of Fuencarral Street and Gran Via, Espacio Fundación Telefónica has free permanent and temporary exhibits about the history of telecommunications, art, colour theory and more. You’ll need to reserve your free ticket online by choosing a date and time before entering. Its four dark and air-conditioned floors are a great place to duck into during a hot Spanish afternoon.
Restaurants and cafes
There are a few things you should know about dining out in Madrid. During the era of Covid, many establishments have replaced physical menus with QR codes on the table. While it takes a bit of getting used to and you’ll need a decent internet connection to see the menu, we came to love this and hope it sticks around.
The second thing you should know is that in Spain, including Madrid, people have dinner late. Think sitting down around 10 PM or later. If you go at 9, 8, or god forbid 7 PM, prepare to have the place to yourself and some strange looks from the waiters.
This brings us to tip three, which is that if you’re heart-set on going to a specific sit-down restaurant for dinner, make a reservation. The people of Madrid love good food, and you’ll find popular restaurants packed even on weeknights. If you don’t have a reservation, you can try your luck for an early dinner though (by Spanish standards). With that out of the way, let’s get into places to eat.
Breakfast, coffee and desserts
Start your day at Harina, an airy artisan bakery and cafe with great breakfasts just off Fuencarral Street and a Bob W breakfast partner. Fresh squeezed orange juice, coffees, and full breakfasts are all in store. If you’re craving something sweet next, head across the street to Mistura Ice Cream, whose homemade ice cream they’ll mix with yummy toppings of your choice on a cold block.
Get your morning (or afternoon) caffeine fix at Bianchi Kiosko Caffé, a hole in the wall place serving handmade artisan coffee drinks. There’s no seating, so get your coffee, matcha or house-blended chai takeaway and explore the neighbourhood’s nearby vintage shops. P.S. If you’re staying with Bob W in Chueca, complimentary Bianchi Kiosko Caffé coffee awaits in your apartment.
For a must-have Chueca experience, grab a waffle from La Pollería or La Coñería. But these aren’t just any waffles. If you go in the evening, you’ll know you’ve found La Pollería by the line around the block of people waiting for, *ahem*, penis-shaped waffles. Line too long? Try going in the afternoon, or check out La Coñería a few blocks away on the Chueca metro station square, where there’s a noticeably shorter line for female-counterpart waffles.
Lunch and dinner
La Tita Rivera has a green inner courtyard garden and serves a good selection of craft beers and ciders, alongside tasty food. It’s a quiet oasis from the action of Fuencarral Street. Along those lines, Bosco de Lobos is an Italian restaurant in a ‘secret garden’ inside a college of architecture. Naturally, the restaurant is an architectural gem with large windows and a bookstore inside and terrace.
Ochenta Grados has four locations in the Madrid area, including one in Malasaña. But do not be mistaken – this is no chain restaurant. Their name conveys their philosophy: cooking at 80℃ to maintain flavour. Dishes come as hot and cold ‘mini plates’ at affordable prices, so you can try a bunch of different things. They also take digital menus to another level with 3D augmented reality images of their dishes, which is a lot of fun to play around with while waiting on your order.
For unpretentious French-Spanish gourmet cuisine, head to Les Mauvais Garçons - Los Chicos Malos. In this small place, the owner and waiters take turns sitting down with you and walking you through the menu giving personalised recommendations. This restaurant caters to the carnivores, but there is a very special ‘Chocolate Experience’ on the dessert menu. We’ve been sworn to secrecy, so we can’t tell you anything more than it’s not what you’re expecting but it’s everything you’d hope for. Just try it!
A restaurant guide in Madrid wouldn’t be complete without some tapas spots. There are plenty to choose from but two right next door to each other (and right around the corner from Bob W Chueca) are: Bodega de la Ardosa, especially for its excellent tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), and Bar Sidi for classic tapas. Just off the Plaza de Chueca is also Hermanos Vinagre, a small yet lively spot for fish and seafood tapas. Expect these places to be packed even on weeknights.
There are a lot of shopping opportunities in Chueca depending on your taste. The massive Gran Vía Street, Madrid’s main thoroughfare, runs along the southern edge of Chueca and has all your big names. Perpendicular to Gran Vía is the much smaller yet buzzing Fuencarral Street, with international as well as Spanish brands.
A small design shop a few blocks off Gran Vía, Hijo de Epigmenio sells home decor handmade in different regions of Spain. The prices are reasonable and the products including hand-painted ceramics will make unique souvenirs. A few blocks away, El Moderno Concept Store focuses on eclectic international design as well as Spanish-made products. Here you’ll find aesthetic decorations, candles, succulent terrariums and even furniture.
Deep inside Chueca is a vintage shopping lover’s paradise. There are dozens of beautifully curated secondhand shops, but they are especially concentrated on Velarde and Espíritu Santo Streets as well as around San Ildefonso Plaza. There’s literally something for every vintage style, ranging from 50s, 60s and 70s at El Rincon de Tia Jo, to 80s and 90s at Biba Vintage, to sports jerseys at Alphaville, to punk and rock at Temple de Susu. LOOP and Magpie are also staples, while Retro City feels like a delightful and slightly chaotic treasure hunt. Seriously, you can’t swing a hipster without hitting awesome thrift and vintage stores in Chueca.
Mercado San Antón is a modern indoor market spread across four floors in the heart of Chueca. On the ground floor, you’ve got a supermarket with all your necessities. On the middle two floors, you’ve got butchers, cheese shops and a couple of tapas places. On the rooftop, there’s a terrace restaurant. Do note though that as of autumn 2021, a lot of stalls are closed for renovation.
El Corte Inglés Callao is a massive department store that has a gourmet food court and terrace on the ninth-floor rooftop. Up here, you’ll get great views of the city and Gran Via. Grab some pizza and cocktails and look for a coveted seat right at the end of the building for the best views. Also note that there are elevators at the south end of the store which will take you to the ninth floor. Otherwise, you’ll need to take escalators all the way up.
Bars and nightlife
Areia is a moody, tropical escape from the city. Inside, palms line the walls while bamboo lamps cast a flattering light perfect for selfies. Mojitos and Mai Tais are, of course, in order, and the bar has a weekly DJ lineup.
Saint Ildephonsus Market has numerous international food stalls spread across three floors, a courtyard and a terrace. It also has several bars, each specialising in beer, cocktails and wines. It’s open late every night of the week, making it a great stop for dinner and drinks.
Ojalá is a whimsical place designed by internationally renowned architect Andrés Jaque. You can hang out here from morning till evening, starting with a substantial brunch spread and ending with cocktails in the sand-blanketed beach bar in the basement. Kick off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes!
Black & White’s tagline is “Every day is Saturday”, which is totally fitting as they host drag and cabaret shows 365 nights a year. Owned by local legend La Plexy, you’ll often see her in the lineup along with a cast of guest stars. If you want the full experience, arrive a bit early and grab a seat in front of the small stage. Shows are in Spanish and involve plenty of audience interaction, so bring a friend to translate if your Spanish is rusty (or non-existent). Otherwise, don’t sweat it because humour and fabulousness are universal and you’ll have a blast!
Sports and wellness
Disguised behind the terrace and tables out front, Compadre Barber’s Club is tucked back off the street. Here, gentlemen can get an old school haircut and shave surrounded by vintage decor. If you don’t have a beard, you can still come for a beer out front.
Gymage Lounge Resort is a glamorous kind of gym that’ll make you feel like a celebrity. They’ve got a workout area as well as a rooftop pool and terrace. Finally, although it’s technically a 15-minute walk from Chueca, Retiro Park is the place in central Madrid for a picnic or stroll. Get lost down its winding paths, do laps around the lake, or rent a rowboat and get in that upper body workout.
Whether you’re coming to Madrid for a night or a month, stay like a local in one of Bob W’s locally designed apartments in Chueca, right on Fuencarral Street. Get complimentary access to Gymage, fixed-price Breakfast Passes to cafe Harina for deliciously lazy mornings, and complimentary coffee from Bianchi Kiosko Caffé in your apartment. For the best rates and perks you won’t get elsewhere, book directly on bobw.co.
Interested in exploring more of Madrid? Check out our neighbourhood guide to Atocha!