In 2005, Spain became the third country to fully legalize same-sex marriage. Not surprisingly, Madrid is one of the most gay-friendly cities on this planet. It even hosted World Pride in 2017. The heart of Madrid’s LGBTQ community is centered around a neighborhood named after Spanish composer and author Federico Chueca. Thankfully, my friend Carlos is an aficionado of this neighborhood. Bribing him with the promise of drinks (in the name of neighborhood research), I recruited him to help me out with this installation of my Barrios de Madrid blog series. It is a pleasure to introduce Chueca, a neighborhood that welcomes everyone, regardless of who (or how) they love.
Very centrally located, it is easy to get to Chueca from anywhere in Madrid. The Chueca Metro station is in the heart of the neighborhood in beautiful Plaza de Chueca. You will know when you arrived as soon as the train pulls into the station, decorated with rainbows. It is a huge welcome to the gayborhood. Lined with terrace cafés, the central plaza is a great place to sit with a drink and people watch, and the best place to start your walking tour of Chueca. Not in the plaza itself, but very close by is Acuarela, a Brazilian cafe, serves some of Chueca’s best coffee, and with hot Brazilian baristas too! Their Café Bombom is to die for and comes with a small chocolate.
Although not as charming as Plaza de Chueca, Plaza de Pedro Zerolo is an important stop on a stroll through Chueca. Venezuelan born Pedro Zerolo was the first openly gay member of Madrid’s city council. He was a key player in legalizing gay marriage in Spain as well as helping to pass many gay-friendly initiatives in Madrid. In 2015, he died of pancreatic cancer. Later that year, the Madrid City Council decided to name the plaza (previously named Plaza de Vázquez de Mella) after him.
Chueca is filled with shops catering to LGBTI clientele. Stroll down any street and you will find leather shops, underwear shops, shops stocking rainbow flags and paraphernalia, and video shops. Berkana, the oldest gay bookstore in Madrid, sells a variety of books, magazines, and music.
Historically Chueca restaurants had a reputation for having bad food but hot waiters. Most of the waiters are still hot, but thankfully the food has improved over the years. One of my favorite places to grab a quick and healthy lunch is in the area, Happy Green, where you can customize your own fresh bowl. Mainly vegetarian, they offer some healthy meat options as well. If you are in the mood to try food from all over Spain, Mercado de San Antón is a great lunchtime spot. Along with the traditional selection of tapas, it is possible to try the cuisine from places like the Canary Islands. The bar on the terrace upstairs has some nice views. Taberna Ángel Sierra is also a popular spot, serving inexpensive (for Chueca anyway) tapas. The facade is also old Madrileño-style, and they have terrace seating in Plaza de Chueca. True, Madrid is not Valencia and is not exactly known for its paella. But according to Carlos, Madrid’s best paella can be found at La Barraca, a Valencian restaurant in the neighborhood.
Not surprisingly, Chueca is renowned for its nightlife. Clearly oriented to the LGBTI community, the bars are welcoming to all. Recently several of Chueca’s bars have gone out of business due to the popularity of apps such as Grindr. Why leave your couch when you can find a hookup from there? Despite this, nighttime in Cheuca is still full of life. La Bohemia Bar is Chueca’s oldest bar. Nearby, LL Bar regularly hosts drag shows. And Chueca legend, Why Not? is decked out with black and white photos of famous actresses from the past. For more unique evening entertainment, tiny Sala AZarte hosts mainly LGBTI theater productions.
The heart of the gay community in one of Europe’s most open cities full of pride, Cheuca is always so much fun to explore. Ready to travel to Madrid? As a professional travel consultant with experience planning customized trips all over the country, I can help make all of your Spanish travel dreams come true. Let’s get in touch to plan your tailor-made trip to Spain!