One of the reasons why Lavapiés (in the Embajadores district of Madrid) is considered to be the most colourful, quirkiest and best place to visit in 2018.

Today’s blog title may sound a little cryptic – indeed the very concept of “cool” is certainly subjective – but Time Out magazine has indeed compiled a list of the world’s 50 coolest neighbourhoods to visit, and the results are rather surprising…

The top place to be in 2018 is not Soho in London, neither is it the newly-gentrified Meatpacking District in New York or Berlin’s hip Neukölln… it is, in fact, the district of Embajadores in Madrid.

First of all, it must be pointed out that this ranking – published just last week – was based on a survey of 15,000 people and ranking points were awarded based on a “City Life Index” of their own creation; a scale which, among others, poses the following questions:

  • Is there a buzz about the area, with cool new venues opening?
  • Can most people even afford to live there?
  • Is it a great place to stay for someone visiting the city?
  • Does it feel like a place that’s on the up?

Madrid’s just-south-of-centre Embajadores district encompasses the bohemian and alternative neighbourhood of Lavapiés, as well as the popular nightspots around Tirso de Molina, and is home to the famous Sunday flea market, el rastro.

According to Time Out’s survey, the district stands out because “people from near and far live side by side, cooking up a bustling cultural life” and its position on this list is due to the richness of art, gastronomy, fashion and “cool new venues” that one can find there.

In recent years, the district has experienced a revival and huge efforts have been made to change the image of the one-time down-trodden and dangerous barrio. Improvements to the Matadero – the artistic and cultural centre on the site of an old abbortoire – and the transformation of the Madrid Río into a family friendly weekend hangout are just two examples that spring to mind.

As a former Madrid (and Embajadores!) resident, this writer has seen the evolution of the neighbourhood with his own eyes, and it has certainly gone from deplorable to desirable in recent times… but is it the “coolest” in the world in 2018?

The jury is still out. But one thing for sure is that Madrid, much like other big cities and regional capitals like Barcelona – whose Sant Antoni district occupies 22nd place on the list – , Valencia and Málaga, is an amalgamation of various different neighbourhoods with their own unique vibes and strong local and cultural identities.

What do you think the coolest areas of Marbella are? Or Málaga? Let us know what Costa del Sol areas would make your list!

P.S. For Time Out’s full list of the top 50 neighbourhoods to visit in 2018, click here>>