Madrid is a world within a city, as evidenced by its colorful array of barrios that each boast their own unique flavor. From chic, upscale Salamanca to multicultural Lavapiés to the tapas heaven that is La Latina, there's a Madrid neighborhood for anyone and everyone, no matter what your tastes may be.
But one spot in particular stands out, and that's Huertas. Officially known as "el barrio de las letras," or the Literary Quarter, it takes its local moniker from the main street that runs right through the center of the neighborhood, Calle Huertas (we'll have more on that in a bit).
The area was originally nothing but farmland (huertas means "farms" in Spanish), but became incorporated into the growing metropolis of Madrid during its urban expansion. Once it had become an established part of the city in its own right, the neighborhood began to draw some of Spain's top intellectuals, from poets to playwrights and authors and more—hence its official name.
Located just steps away from the city center, the Huertas neighborhood today offers plenty of old-school charm and contemporary fun. It's particularly known for its nightlife, but that's not the end-all-be-all of things to do in Huertas. The neighborhood also boasts plenty of history and literary references—sometimes written right on the streets themselves. Here's what to include on your itinerary for a perfect day (and night) out in Madrid's prettiest barrio.
Have a Drink at Viva Madrid and Magister
Spain is the European country with more bars per capita than any other, and two of Madrid's best are virtually side by side in Huertas. Magister is a micro-brewery that serves excellent free tapas, while Viva Madrid is one of the oldest bars in the city, dating back to 1856. Both make ideal stops on your evening pub crawl.
Enjoy the Ambiance of Plaza Santa Ana
Popular with visitors and local families alike, Plaza Santa Ana is the Huertas neighborhood's most grandiose and happening square. Here, you'll find plenty of good beer houses (one of which was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway), the famous Hotel de Reina Victoria (home to an exclusive rooftop bar), and one of Spain's most iconic writers, Federico García Lorca (in statue form, anyway).
See Authentic Flamenco at Cardamomo
Authentic flamenco is hard to come by in Madrid. Sadly, Spain's most passionate art form has, more often than not, been relegated to an overpriced touristy spectacle in most spots.
That's not the case at Cardamomo. Here, world-renowned performers take the stage every night to put on a spectacular show that's truly worthy of the name flamenco. It's not the cheapest experience in Huertas, but if you have room in your budget, this is definitely a show you won't want to miss.
Read Your Way Along Calle Huertas (And Stop for Drinks & Tapas Along the Way)
As you make your way down the neighborhood's eponymous main drag, Calle Huertas, be sure to look down every once in a while. The pavement bears inscribed quotes from some of Spain's most legendary literary minds, and you might even find a new favorite mantra as you take your stroll.
Unsurprisingly given its central location, Calle Huertas also happens to be one of the neighborhood's can't-miss tapas destinations. Make your way from bar to bar, enjoying drinks and delicious bites in historic buildings, and you'll be all set for the perfect night out.
The House Where Cervantes Died
History buffs, we didn't forget about you. Be sure to take 20 seconds out of the enjoying the food, drinks and music in the Huertas neighborhood to have a look at Calle Cervantes, 2. The street's namesake and author of Don Quijote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, hailed from nearby Alcalá de Henares, but spent a good portion of his adult life in the Spanish capital. It was in this house where he died in 1616, and although the original building that stood here was demolished in the early 1800s, the replacement structure honors the great writer with a special plaque.