Gay Vacations in Madrid, Spain

Street café at night near Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain
Street café near Plaza Mayor, in Madrid, Spain (Peter Adams/Digital Vision/Getty)

Madrid Highlights

  • Get a good map and club-hop. Exploring the massive and varied nightlife scene is a challenge, so do as the Madrileños do and hop from club to club, never staying too long at just one so you can take it all in.
  • Stay in the Chueca area. A good selection of both gay and mainstream lodgings are found in this queer ghetto, making it easier to stagger home from a night on the town.
  • World-class museums. Must-see sights in Madrid include the Prado Museum (Goya, El Greco, Velazquez, Bosch), Reina Sofia (Picasso's Guernica), and the Royal Palace.

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Madrid gets short-changed on Spain's gay tourist circuit, which centers on Barcelona, Ibiza, and Sitges. But you've barely scratched the queer surface of the country unless you've dived into the colossal nightlife of Madrid, where hundreds of bars and establishments pump until dawn and beyond. Madrid has by far the most active and organized LGBT scene in Spain, much of it concentrated in the Chueca neighborhood (especially the streets of Calle Horteleza and Calle de Fuencarral). It's a traditionally alternative district that's been renovated in recent years, where gays and lesbians hold hands and kiss without anyone blinking. Other regenerated castizo (traditional) districts that have gone artsy and trendy include Malasana and Lavapies, which look architecturally unchanged for centuries.

Madrid has a huge general nightlife scene too—it's home to more than 17,000 bars. Madrileños don't even bother going out until well after midnight, and there are enough after-hour establishments to keep you awake. (No wonder the city sees traffic jams at 4 a.m. on the weekends.) Dinner can be a casual and late affair at the plethora of tiny, stand-up tapas bars on tiny, cobblestone alleys in Madrid's maze-like medieval heart.

Other highlights are Plaza Mayor, Madrid's most picturesque square; Retiro, Madrid's huge park with fountains, flowers, and boats on a lake; and the Rastro, Madrid's 500 year-old flea market. And don't miss the Prado, a world-famous art museum that ranks with the Louvre. It can take days to take in the more than 4,000 masterpieces housed here, including works by Goya, Velazquez, Caravaggio, and Botticelli.


Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Madrid

$118-$1194
Average/night*
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#1
Eurostars Madrid Tower
$295
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#2
The Westin Palace, Madrid
$169-$192
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#3
Hotel Wellington Madrid
$91-$863
Average/night*
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#4
Confortel Pio XII

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