by Niels Klok
Photo: hanging out in Chueca plaza
It has become somewhat of a cliché over the years: neglected neighbourhood with bad name is adopted by gay community and turned hip ‘n’ happening (NYC’s Meatpacking District, or Athens’ Gazi area, to name just two). This is pretty much Chueca’s story too, once a blister on Madrid’s foot, now a be-there-or-be-square phenomenon adorned with adjectives such as grungy, sexy and raw.
As befits a neighbourhood, it has its own square: Plaza de Chueca (where Gravina street hits Barbieri). This is not the place where all (small) roads lead, but its relatively sheltered position gives the plaza its offbeat uniqueness (yes, another adjective). It’s a random empty space between a set of residential buildings, littered with terraces and quirky bars. Have a seat and enjoy your clara (beer and soda) or tinto de verano (red wine and soda).
If you’re not ready yet for anything alcoholic (let’s say it’s 1 PM), head for Mamá Inés (C/ Hortaleza, 22) to have a coffee and a sandwich (or a piece of banana cake!) If you have to replenish your stomach in between anythings alcoholic (read: dinner), plenty of options: tapas with a twist at 4 de Tapas (C/ Barbieri, 4), Mexican food at La Panza es Primero (C/ Libertad, 31), a taste of the Middle East at Al-Jaima (C/ Barbieri, 1), then a bit Further East at Chueca’s The Wok branch (C/ Gravina, 17), or simply the best pita falafel with humus at the Maoz franchise (C/ Hortaleza, 7).
For anything bar-related, either stay close to the Plaza, or simply follow the crowds. Get a bit more loungy at Areia (C/ Hortaleza, 92), leaning back into ample cushions and enjoying your mojito in a Thousand-and-one-Night atmosphere. If you are up for genuinely fitting in with the young and hip, you should not skip Bar Nike (C/ Augusto Figueroa, 22): yes, indeed, that brightly lit “bathroom” on the corner with that huge crowd spilling onto the sidewalk. And while you’re at it, why not go all the way and order Calimocho (red wine with coke (!)) in a mini (one-liter plastic cup)… yes, it’s disgusting, but not as disgusting as you might think.
Finally, let it all out and follow the gay crowds down Gran Vía to (hetero-friendly) Ohm (Plaza Callao, 4 – in Discoteca Bash), a stylish basement all about hard clubbing. If you’re neither into house nor into gay, get in line for rocky/jazzy yet “upbeat” Bogui (C/ Barquillo, 29). And remember to dress up crazy – after all, anything goes in Chueca!
See map below for locations mentioned above: