Just a few weeks ago, at the beginning of July, around two million people took to the streets for the annual Desfile or Pride March as part of the annual Orgullo Gay Pride Festival. For several fun-filled days, Madrid’s streets were transformed into a collective celebration of diversity and civil rights at one of the world’s biggest Gay Pride events.
The colourful, loud, and very long parade is not just attended by thousands of LGBT tourists but a significant showing of locals also come out in force. From festive families to open-minded groups of the elderly, this collective showing of support is one of the city’s finest moments. It’s this level of tolerance that continues to make Madrid a beacon for gay people from all over the world (and from around Spain too), and when you throw in a healthy does of sunshine, the local penchant for partying, and a thriving creative community, it’s no wonder that an increasing number of foreign visitors are deciding to make Madrid a more permanent home base – or at least visit as often as possible.
So who are some of the new arrivals and what about the Spanish capital has convinced them to pack their bags and move here? More importantly, where do they live, eat, and like to party? Well, let’s hear what they have to say.
Instagram: @benclicks (followers: 43.1k)
“I moved here looking for a change. I’d carved out a good life for myself in Milan but needed a new challenge. I was attracted to Madrid by its architecture and history but above all, the people. It’s a city where it’s so easy to meet someone and when you walk through the streets you can really feel that people are happy. It’s also a place where if you give a lot of energy you also get a lot of it back. There’s a real sense of movement. Since moving here, I’ve enjoyed walking around the different ‘barrios’ and soaking up the different architectural styles. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and open the nightlife is. I’m still perfecting my Spanish skills, but people have still been making me feel really included.”
My Neighbourhood: Las Salesas
What I love about my area are all the eccentric characters, many of whom frequent my local café Cafetín and also parade along the Calle Barquillo shopping strip. The area also comes alive at night when all the bars are full of life.
Where I Eat: Diurno
I like it for the industrial yet traditional space and Spanish dishes such as tortilla de patatas and more modern items such as burgers. The staff also provides really good, friendly service.
Where I Go for a Quiet Drink: Maculato Club
This small club is close to where I live and they play really nice, chilled house. The owners Dani and Jesus are both very funny and accommodating.
Where I Party: Baile Cariño
You don’t just get to sing and dance your heart out – you also get a six-hour crash course in Spanish pop. Sometimes you’ll find me on the decks too.
Where I Workout: El Retiro Park
I prefer to run around this beautiful park in the evening. It’s so big and there are so many different paths that you can change your running route every time.
Profession: Party Producer and the Face of Papa Party
Instagram: @eliad_cohen (followers: 364k)
“I haven’t moved here but I am spending a lot of time in Madrid lately. I used to only come to Madrid once or twice a year but lately I’m traveling around the world so much that I’m coming more and more to Madrid for some downtime. It’s one of my favourite cities because it has the best people and a really fun energy. As an Israeli, I really identify with the warmth of the Madrileño people – it really reminds me of Tel Aviv. Madrid’s nightlife is also amazing – even at night people are just as warm and welcoming. There is a special kind of magic in Madrid – it’s incomparable to other cities.”
My Neighbourhood: Chueca
When I’m in Madrid I stay with friends in Chueca. It’s one of the most gay-friendly neighbourhoods in the world and everything is within walking distance. You can be in Malasaña, Sol, or the Buen Retiro Park in minutes. I love Chueca because it’s full of colour, bars, and commotion – there’s never a dull moment on the streets.
Where I Eat: Luzi Bombón
This beautiful restaurant on Paseo de la Castellana is one of my favourite places to have dinner. The food is amazing, there’s always a really nice crowd, and the staff are really friendly – they always make me feel right at home.
Where I Go for a Quiet Drink: Cines Ideal
When I’m not working I prefer to chill and just hang out with friends. The best plan is to have dinner at a friend’s house and then go to the best ‘Original Version’ cinema in town, the Cines Ideal. It’s only a short walk from Sol.
Where I Party: The WE Party
For me, the WE Party is one of the best parties in the world right now. It has some of the best production levels and whenever I go to one of their parties I’m always learning a lot.
Where I Workout: Gymage Lounge Resort
I really like to train at this gym and then go upstairs to the beautiful restaurant and terrace to eat a delicious meal afterwards. The whole complex was designed and is run by a group of young Spanish entrepreneurs. It’s a really nice space with a great menu too.
Profession: Magazine Editor
Instagram: @igor_rgp (followers: 9010)
“I am lucky enough to be able to work from wherever I want and chose Madrid simply because I love it. However, it also turned out to be great for business: I’m launching my own magazine and Madrid is the perfect base: you have fantastic writers, young people extremely eager to work and very competitive printers all over Spain. Also, I travel a lot to Latin America and crossing the pond overnight from Madrid is very convenient. What I love about Madrid is that it’s livable (and loveable) and people are happy and proud of their city – and extremely verbal about it. Living in a city where I keep hearing positive comments just feeds my soul.”
My Neighbourhood: Chamberí
If I wasn’t staying with my friend in this quieter part of town I would probably move to the Salamanca district. It’s green, next to the park and not as eventful as other parts of town. My lifestyle is hectic enough and I don’t need to live in the middle of the buzz. Yet, living walking-distance from the party zone is also nice.
For the traditional I like Casa Salvador – it’s proper old school. For the contemporary I love Sala de Despiece, because they’ve really managed to create a new experience of dining out.
Where I Go for a Quiet Drink: Bar Corazón
I don’t do many quite night outs, since I tend to go all the way. However if I don’t have a big plan, I go to Bar Corazon often, because it’s a good place to bump into friends without planning ahead.
Where I Party: “too hard to choose”
I enjoy going out with my über straight friends to clubs where you would easily run into some of the Real Madrid players – places like Graf and Boom Room. I went to the Arts Club recently, which is the newest up-market addition to the city – I had fun there. If it gets really late you’ll find me at Palma Beat – a nice after-hours.
Where I Workout: El Retiro Park
Madrid is probably the only European capital where you can workout outdoors at least 2/3 of the year. When I’m in Madrid I see Jickson, my personal trainer every day at the park. This can’t be matched.
Madrid is also full of guys from around Spain who have moved to the capital in search of greener pastures. Below, two Spaniards explain why they now call Madrid home.
Nationality: Spanish (from Seville)
Profession: Dancer & Pastry Chef
Instagram: @pettercarrasco (followers: 5708)
“I moved to Madrid from Seville at the age of 17 to study Flamenco at the Royal Conservatory of Dance and Music. I stayed here because I love the city and the welcoming nature of its people. Seville feels like a small town, but I still felt this same spirit in the capital. My first job was on the famous TV show “Un Paso Adelante” which was basically Spain’s version of Fame. From there I was cast in some of the great musicals on Gran Via – Madrid’s Broadway – such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Chicago. Today, I’m pursuing my passion for cooking by studying as a pastry chef at the prestigious school Le Cordeon Bleu and I plan on opening my own business next year. What I love about Madrid is that it makes me feel completely at home. There’s no other place like it.”
My Neighbourhood: Malasaña
This is where you’ll find the coolest people and shops. It’s the suburb in Madrid where you can see the positive effects of the economic crisis: so many young entrepreneurs have transformed the area with beautiful new businesses.
really like La Galleta because of its stylish décor and romantic atmosphere. Ramón Freixa’s restaurant Arriba inside the Platea market is also really unique – it’s situated in a converted theatre turned gastronomic amphitheatre.
Where I Go for a Quiet Drink: La Azotea Del Círculo
This rooftop bar has a spectacular view. It used to be an empty space but was transformed by some talented local designers. It’s a great place to take friends for a cocktail.
Where I Party: The WE Party
I don’t usually go out to big club parties but when I do, the WE Party at La Riviera wins hands down.
Where I Workout: Sporting Facilities of La Complutense University
These facilities are open to everyone and include a running track, a football field and even a rock-climbing wall. If you have a university card from anywhere else in the world you can also use the beautiful pool.
Nationality: Spanish (from Málaga)
Profession: VIP Customer Care in a top Madrid Hotel
Instagram: @antonio_kbrera (followers: 10.3k)
“I’m from Málaga but I moved to Madrid when I was 20; drawn here by the need for change. My city was getting too small for me and Madrid offered more theatres, exhibitions, and concerts. What I really like about Madrid is that, despite being a big city, you still get a sense of the neighbourly nature of the city. I’m always bumping into friends on the streets or at the supermarket. What I like most about Madrid is that it’s full of possibilities but also has it’s own unique rhythm.”
My Neighbourhood: Malasaña
This traditional neighbourhood has become a hipster hotspot but there are still remnants of the 1980s cultural movement ‘La Movida’ when the district served as the cultural cradle of artists of all kinds. I think that restless energy is still latent in some way, making the neighbourhood so lively. There’s always something happening on the streets. With an air of the bohemian and the cool, it all effortlessly blends together in perfect harmony.
Where I Eat: La Mucca
This eatery, located on my street has a really nice summer terrace and there is nothing on the menu that isn’t “buenísimo” (I think I’ve actually tried everything). It’s perfect for dinner with friends.
Where I Go for a Quiet Drink: Museo Chicote
This classic establishment on Gran Vía was once frequented by celebrities of all kinds, from Rainier of Monaco to Gregory Peck. I love its retro art deco chairs and I always find it full of personality. It’s a must-visit.
Fabrik is probably one of the best clubs in Madrid in terms of both capacity and sound, this is for those who like to party “big”. On Sundays, Boite has a session called Cassette, which I like a lot because it has really good music in a much smaller setting, which makes it feel friendlier.
Where I Workout: El Retiro Park
Gyms in central Madrid can get really busy, so I find it much more interesting to go jogging around El Retiro Park while enjoying the greenery of the gardens. I like working out because the park is impressive, full of culture, and has a beautiful lake.