T+L heads to the Spanish capital and asks six stylish Madrileños where to shop and what to do in their city.
Credit: Javier Salas

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.


The shop stocks a range of dresses in amazing prints.

La Maison de la Lanterne Rouge

The property is a boutique, café, and theater all housed within a former brothel.

La Vía Láctea

This emblematic bar madrileño has old rock ’n’ roll posters on the walls. It’s been around forever.

Amaya Arzuaga

The designer is known for playing with volume—her clothing is like sculpture.


Located on a traffic-heavy street that’s a main thoroughfare through central Madrid, this Cortefiel location sells women’s and men's apparel, including classically tailored suits. The elegant stone building has story-high, street-level windows displaying clothing from brands like Spain’s Pedro del Hierro and Ralph Lauren. Entering the shop, the muted tones create a sophisticated feel suited to the shop's clientele, mostly aged 35 to 45. The name Cortefiel roughly translates to "true cut", and the Spanish chain's history dates to a small Madrid haberdashery that was founded in 1880 and became a brand in 1946.

Modern Dining Room

The lunch spot has a real Valencian making the paella.

Bar el Tigre

At this bar in the Chueca neighborhood, waiters bring a free tapas with each caña—a term for a glass of beer, local wine, or Spanish cider. Because of the complimentary food, Bar el Tigre is popular with students and budget travelers who often cram elbow-to-elbow into the room, decorated with dark wooden beams, exposed brick, and stuffed animal heads. The traditional small-portioned dishes range from garlic-heavy mussels to Spanish cheese with bread and olive oil. There are also plates of hearty patatas bravas (tomato sauce over fried potatoes) and sliced egg-and-potato tortilla.


Located in the Salamanca barrio, this millinery stocks wool caps, sun hats, and more.

Teatro Español

Behind its impressive neoclassical façade with the stone busts of playwrights, the Teatro Español stages Spanish and international dramatic works in a grand hall filled with royal-red seats and gilt trim. There’s long been a theater on this spot, starting with the open-air Corral de Príncipe in the 16th century. A series of fires and re-builds have drastically changed the building since then, and in 1804 Juan de Villanueva, architect of the Museo Nacional del Prado, designed the main elegant structure. Located off Plaza Santa Ana, the theater underwent its most recent restoration in 1980.


The shop is known for its colorful leather purses, designed by one of the owners.

Lotta Vintage

You can find everything from silk handkerchiefs to cotton bandannas mixed in with clothes from the 40’s to the 70’s.