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The City The guide was updated:Madrid is not as large as it might seem—especially the central districts. Right in the middle of the city lies the Puerta del Sol, a traffic nexus that is the point from which all distances are measured. Also, the house numbering on every street starts at the end nearest the Sol. West and south of the Sol are the oldest areas of the city, Los Austrias, which contain the royal palace (Palacio Real) and the historic and well-trodden square, Plaza Mayor.
The triangular area to the east and south of the Sol—with the Plaza de Cibeles, Atocha Station and the Sol at its corners—is one of the liveliest districts in Madrid, containing countless bars and restaurants. This is also where the three big museums stand in a row, and beyond them, the largest park in central Madrid, Parque del Buen Retiro.
Directly south of the Sol is Lavapiés: formerly a working-class area, but now the most ethnically interesting part of the city thanks to a significant influx of immigrants from Africa and Asia.
North of the Puerta del Sol and the parade avenue of Gran Vía you will find the Malasaña and Chueca districts. The former is an old residential area that has been cleaned up in the last twenty years, whilst remaining one of the city’s most relaxed bar districts. The latter has also undergone a rebirth: today it is Madrid’s hippest quarter, a centre for a culture of clubbing, restaurants and clothing shops. Originally a gay district, it is now best described as broad-minded.