What is “Breaking the Barrios”?

Smart Insiders wants to give you tips for how to experience different areas in Madrid. For this reason we’re launching a new series called “Breaking the Barrios”. Get ready for excellent guides for planning your next visit to one of Madrid’s popular neighborhoods. Also you can find information about restaurants, activities, nightlife, and more! 

Sol, Gran Vía, and everything in-between.

Sol and Gran Vía are two neighborhoods that are joined by streets filled with shopping, restaurants, and historical sites. Certainly if this is your first time in Madrid, or if you have visitors coming this is a great place to start your city tour.

Here’s your checklist.


Puerta del Sol Checklist ✔️

  • La Osa y el Madroño

  • Tio Pepe

  • Kilometre Zero Stone Slab

  • The Clock – Puerta del Sol

  • Iglesia + Chocolateria de San Gines



Gran Vía Checklist ✔️

  • Grassy Building

  • Edificio Telefónica

  • Edificio Metrópolis 

  • Edificio Carrión

  • Cines Capitol

Puerta del Sol: The city’s heartbeat.


Puerta del Sol which translates to “Door of the Sun” is one of the most famous sites in Madrid. While it is the starting point for all major radial roads in Spain, it’s also where you can begin to trek some of the most popular streets like Calle del Arenal and Preciados. Almost always this plaza is busy at all hours of the day, but especially at night with the many bars and restaurants surrounding the area. Certainly you will not be bored since this is the cosmopolitan nerve center of the city. Maybe you’re around on New Year’s Eve? If so Puerta del Sol is popular for its celebration of the twelve chimes and the tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight.


Gran Vía: The broadway of Madrid.

Gran Vía which translates to “Great Way” isn’t as old as Puerta del Sol since construction only began in 1910. The goal was to create a clear path to break up the many winding streets that are in the center. Walk down this street and see a timeline of the changes in architecture and then venture off into the maze of streets. First of all, the route starts at the Plaza de Alcalá square and finishes across the city at Plaza de España. As a result, you will see a plethora of shopping, hotels, restaurants, and cinemas. Most importantly you will notice the many theatres. Gran Vía has gotten the reputation of being the broadway of Madrid. Hence this street is perhaps one of the most important profit-making districts in the city.


What’s the in-between?

Maybe you need a route to go from Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía? Because it’s so fun to get lost on the side streets of Madrid we wanted to share with you some to get you from point A to point B. Maybe you will get lost along the way in all the unique stores, restaurants, and coffee shops that act as hidden gems for your enjoyment.

Calle del Preciados



Preciados and El Carmen run parallel to each other. This a great street for shopping and you will find many popular department stores along with record stores, bars, and restaurants. Also, if you want to relax and take a break from shopping in one of the large squares head to Plaza del Callao to take in the sites of the center.

Calle de la Montera



Similarly, Montera is the main pedestrian street that connects Gran Vía and Sol. Among the many popular fast food chains, on the corner you also have the opportunity to step into one of the fanciest McDonald’s we’ve seen. Want something more traditional? Certainly you can find some tasty tapas bars if you want a snack while shopping.

Calle del Carmen


Madrid Guide


When walking down this street you will find some interesting shops, but the most noteworthy is the lottery retailer Doña Manolita. She was a woman who started selling lottery tickets at a young age of 25. In 1910, when there were only 53 ticket sellers in Madrid, Doña decided to move her operation to Gran Via and still remains today.

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