Throughout the 20th century, while Barcelona skimmed the cutting edge, Madrid hugged Castilian conventions tight. But over the past decade, as avant-garde restaurants rocked the culinary landscape and the immigrant population swelled, the old-fashioned capital of Spain said hola to a cosmopolitan future. Travel + Leisure went people-watching in the Plaza de Vázquez de Mella, in Chueca, the Bourbon-era barrio turned center-of-all-things-hip; today the neighborhood’s Belle Époque buildings house so many boutiques, bars, and restaurants that the narrow cobblestoned streets literally buzz 24 hours a day. There, we found a diversity of looks—eclectic but somehow classic, casual and always cool—that define 21st-century Madrid.
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