Lay of the Land
“To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time your friends will be a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the café.”~Ernest Hemingway
Puerta del Sol, the modest Madrid plaza from which roads in Spain radiate outward like rays of the sun, serves to orient you to more interesting locations in the nation’s capital. Although the streets circling Puerta del Sol are teeming with hotels, the majority of recommended hotels lie beyond this touristy area. Sol, together with the surrounding neighborhoods of La Latina, Las Letras and Asturias, comprise the historic city center. Asturias, to the west of Sol, is best known as the home to kings and the location of the Royal Palace. La Latina folds out to the south, just behind the regal Plaza Mayor, and includes a maze of tiny streets and traditional tapas bars and restaurants such as La Trucha and Casa Lucio. To the east, heading towards the Paseo del Prado, is Las Letras, where the ME Melia, the Hotel Urban and the family-friendly Westin Palace are located, as well as the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia.
Cross the leafy Paseo del Prado to the museum of the same name to explore the Retiro neighborhood, an upscale area with magnificent historic architecture, the Hotel Ritz and the handsome Retiro Park, perfect for strolling or picnics. As the Paseo del Prado heads north, it becomes Paseo de la Castellana, itself bordered by the posh shopping and dining mecca of Salamanca to the east and tony, residential Chamberí to the west, where you’ll find the AC Santo Mauro hotel. South of Chamberí you’ll hit the trendy Chueca and Malasaña neighborhoods before finding yourself back at Puerta del Sol.