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Where to stay in Madrid

If you have no idea where to stay in Madrid, we've got you covered with this area guide to hotels as well as featured restaurants, bars, and attractions

One of the first things you likely consider when planning a trip is where you’ll find the perfect accommodations. In Madrid every neighbourhood has its own character and feel, so we’ve created this guide to help you choose the area that’s just right for your taste, needs and preferences. From the nightlife in Chueca to the more peaceful Chamberí, from classic architecture in Los Austrias to the alternative and lively Malasaña, from the multicultural Lavapiés to the epicentre of tourism in Sol, Madrid has a barrio that speaks to you. We also recommend restaurants, bars and points of interest in each neighbourhood to help you enjoy your stay in the city that much more.

Looking for more options? Check out the best Madrid Airbnbs

Malasaña

From the heart of the Madrid ‘La Movida’ countercultural movement to the trendy neighbourhood it is today, Malasaña has gone through huge changes over the last decades. Today modern restaurants and trendy shops live alongside traditional bars and markets that have been around since the dawn of time. It’s also one of the most popular areas in town for going out thanks to its central location. The graffiti art you’ll find around this neighbourhood hasn’t only been passed over by the city government’s clean-up crews but they’re treated as real works of art (some truly are). What’s more, nearly every week a new restaurant or gastrobar opens in the neighbourhood, and most of them now serve Sunday brunch (something relatively new to Spain), offer the latest in gastronomic trends, let you bring your dog along with you, and even provide indoor bicycle parking.

EAT

La Tasquita de Enfrente

Not only is this one of the best restaurants in Malasaña but it’s also one of the best in all of Madrid. Among some of our favourite items on the menu are a succulent version of Castilian soup, an outstanding Russian salad, light croquettes in an atypical batter similar to tempura, tuna belly of superlative quality, and an unforgettable rice pudding... the most traditional cuisine is reinvented here, where there’s attention to detail, and no gratuitous extras to the dishes, neither in their creation nor their careful presentation. Flavour rules, with a focus on texture. Do not leave without trying their exquisite traditional tripe dish of ‘callos’.

DRINK

La Ardosa

A favourite for aperitifs and afternoons, this sunny tapas bar is lined with bookshelves filled with ancient dusty beer bottles. Large draught beers are on tap to accompany tapas and small dishes from the appealing menu – the Spanish omelette is justifiably famous in the area.

DO

Plaza del Dos de Mayo

Here in Malasaña's most well-known square is where you'll find locals looking for a party meeting up regularly (although gone are the days of the free-flowing public drinking, thanks to a greater police presence). All the merriment is presided over by a great fenced-in arch that represents the entrance to the Cuartel de Monteleón: the square is located on the site where the Palacio de Monteleón was built, and later made into the Parque de Artillería in 1807 and whose troops died in the battle against French occupation on May 2, 1808.

STAY

7 Islas Hotel

One of our favourite hotels in Malasaña is the 7 Islas. Its rooms are designed by the Kikekeller firm, one of the most well-known design studios in the neighbourhood. Three of them feature a private terrace with city views, a bathtub or shower, and a yoga kit, as well as artisan rugs by Gan Rugs and therapeutic and natural amenities from Malin + Goetz. An oasis in the centre of Madrid that also boasts its own art gallery and a lobby bar.

If you do just one thing…

Don’t leave the area without trying the gorgeous croquettes at La Gastro Croquetería de Chema.

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Chueca

Chueca is known for being Madrid’s gay neighbourhood. Shops, bars and even travel agencies focus primarily on their LGBTI clientele, who have revitalised the area and now live happily alongside older locals who have called Chueca their home for decades. The area’s Gay Pride festivities are internationally renowned, and it’s also where visitors who love the nightlife book in for central accommodations. The heart of the neighbourhood is Plaza de Chueca a regular meeting place with its own metro stop. You’ll notice the progressive transoformation of the area in the modernization of its cultural venues, such as the Mercado de San Antón, for example, which, with its art gallery and bar with terrace, is more than just a market, though you can still enjoy shopping at the stalls for fresh meat, fish, and fruit and veg.

EAT

Dstage

If Diego Guerrero's name is attached to a project, it's a sure hit. Trained in the kitchens of Martín Berasategui, Guerrero earned two Michelin stars for his work at El Club Allard. In 2014 he took a chance and opened his own restaurant, and it took just a couple of years to be awarded two Michelin stars for DSTAgE as well. Chueca is the neighbourhood where he decided to set down new roots with an industrial aesthetic, including exposed-brick walls, metallic pipes, and a kitchen at the back that diners have a view into. Guerrero's cuisine is a form of untethered, free gastronomy that's garnered praise from critics and customers.

DRINK

El Tigre

It might not be the most glamorous bar in the area, but it’s definitely one of the busiest nearly every day. If you can actually make it through the door, order a beer or a cider and marvel at the hefty tapas that come with it – patatas bravas, 'jamón serrano', Spanish omelette... it's all free, and each plate varies (and gets bigger) with each round. The bar itself is incredibly noisy and always absolutely rammed. But it does disprove the theory that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

DO

Museo del Romanticismo

If the works of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Goethe, Lord Byron or Rosalia de Castro touch your heart, you'll definitely want to visit this museum that shows how people lived in the Romantic era in Spain, during the 19th century. The Romanticism Museum contains a charming collection of over 1,600 pieces including furniture, paintings, china, pianos, and more, that's on display to the public after major refurbishing kept it closed for eight years until its reopening in 2009. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee at the Café del Jardín (Garden Café), one of the best kept secrets in the capital.

STAY

Only You Boutique Hotel Madrid

This lovely four-star hotel is housed in a small palace that was restored in the 19th century. Its interior design combines the modern with colonial details, and each room has its own unique and cosy decor, along with a 42-inch television, dressing gowns, an iPhone dock and a well-stocked minibar, among other amenities. The lounge are offers guests a relaxed ambience with background music, ideal for enjoying any of the variety of cocktails and gourmet dishes.

If you do just one thing…

Be sure to head up to the rooftop of the hotel The Principal Madrid, where you can take in stellar views of Gran Vía.

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Chamberí

Chamberí

From hunting grounds to a district of aristocracy, Chamberí has always been an area in constant evolution. This traditional majestic neighbourhood that’s free from the touristy bustle of the centre, with wide streets and flats going for impossible prices, has in recent years become one of the city’s most appealing places to go for top cuisine. Not just thanks to the revitalization of C/Ponzano – an obligatory pilgrimage for fans of tapas crawls and good food – but also because of the traditional restaurants and taverns that have withstood the test of time. Though you won’t find much in the way of green spaces, the arquitecture in Chamberí deserves special mention, as well as its cultural spaces that survive especially thanks to an older population that still goes to the cinema, the theatre and a good art exhibition. What you’ll find here is an eclectic equilibrium between tradition and the avant-garde that’s missing in other areas of Madrid.

EAT

Lakasa

Everything’s very nice as soon as you cross the threshold. Before you’ve had time to scoot your chair up to the table, a staff member approaches with a tempting trolley. Generous pours of wine, a selection of vermouths and more to prepare the palate. It’s hard to say no to a Barbiana sherry or a Galician vermouth. You look over the menu while waiting for your drink to arrive. Everything looks good. You spot the house speciality – potatoes mashed with gizzard and jowls – along with seasonal recommendations and some 20 other dishes (starters and mains) that, thanks to their half portions, let you choose your own adventure through the outstanding and polished kitchen of César Martín, who moves about happily here and there in his open workspace.

DRINK

El Doble

An obligatory stop on any bar crawl in Madrid. Word is the best draught beers in town are poured here (order a 'caña' to get one), and maybe that's why El Doble's fame has spread throughout the Spanish capital, and why both the bar and its surroundings are always bustling. As the name suggests, they serve cañas that are double in size of those you'd get elsewhere, and they're always accompanied by a delicious tapa at no charge. The walls are decorated like a traditional tavern with a bullfighting motif and blue and white tiles, dotted with photos of celebrities who have stopped in for a drink. It's the perfect place to have a few beers with friends or to start a big night out.

DO

Andén Cero

Though Andén Cero (Platform Zero) is the official name of this historic corner of the district, everyone calls it the Estación Fantasma de Chamberí (the Chamberí Ghost Station). This station used to be part of Line 1 on the metro (between the still-active Iglesia and Bilbao stations) and seeing how it would have been in the first half of the century, advertising posters and all, is a moment worthy of a scene in 'Back to the Future'. No movie set could match it. An exhibition about the metro and its effects on the city and citizens round out this visit to the past.

STAY

Santo Mauro, Autograph Collection

Discretely tucked away in the Chamberí neighbourhood, this hotel is the old residence of the Duke of Santo Mauro. Nowadays it boasts 51 luxuriously decorated rooms, with extra large beds and bay windows adorned with silk curtains. The palace’s old library has been converted into a distinguished restaurant, and the former ballrooms are now conference rooms that open on to carefully goomed gardens.

If you do just one thing…

Don’t miss taking a peek at the impressive Hospital de Maudes.

Accommodations

La Latina

La Latina has got to be Madrid's top neighbourhood for tapas, mojitos and terraces, to the chagrin of some of the locals who live there. At weekends it's nearly impossible to find a spot in the jam-packed bars and restaurants if you want to have lunch or dinner, although during the week it's more like any other area, with residents shopping at the Mercado de la Cebada, and kids playing in any of La Latina's many squares. It's also full of lovely churches and basilicas sometimes hidden down narrow streets, which are worth stopping in for a look. A local Madrid tradition is heading to the Rastro market on Sunday mornings, and having a few beers nearby afterwards.

EAT

Casa Lucio

A restaurant unsurpassed by any other in Madrid for its famous patrons: Spain's former King Juan Carlos, Bill Clinton and Penélope Cruz among them. This is the place of historical rendezvous, where the wives of ex-presidents Aznar and Bush Jr. wives did lunch back when alliances were in the making. They also know how to cook up one cracking 'solomillo' (beef). The key to Lucio's glory is the use of a coal-fired oven and the best olive oil. Another star dish is the 'huevos rotos', a starter of lightly fried eggs laid on top of a bed of crisp, thinly cut chips. Be sure to ask for a table on the first floor..

DRINK

La Taberna Errante

We like this spot for many reasons. One is that it’s on the fringes of the tapa route that spans La Latina so it’s not as packed as other places in the area. Another is that La Taberna Errante has won over many locals in the area, which is always a good sign. You’ll often see owners and staff chatting away with their customers, who they treat like friends, and vice versa. It’s easy to be loyal to the place and its people. But, without a doubt, the main draw that keeps us coming back from more is their Russian salad. Order this ‘ensaladilla’ as a tapa (you’ll get a generous serving) and you’ll already be planning your next trip back as well.

DO

Basílica de San Francisco el Grande

This huge, multi-tiered church between Puerta de Toledo and the Palacio Real is difficult to miss. A monastery on the site, reputedly founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, was knocked down in 1760; in its place, between 1761 and 1784, Francisco Cabezas, and later Francesco Sabatini, built this neo-classical church. Most challenging was the construction of the spectacular dome, with a diameter of 33m (108ft). Inside there is an early Goya, 'The Sermon of San Bernardino of Siena' (1781), and several frescoes by other artists dating from the 17th century to the 19th century.

STAY

Posada del Dragón

Located on Cava Baja, one of the busiest streets in La Latina, this four-star boutique hotel was a municipal granary at the start of the 16th century, a place where they stored bread and regulated its sale and distribution. Constructed as a guest house in 1868 for the Marquis de Cubas, today it enjoys protected status. The name comes from the mythical dragon that guarded the Puerta de Moros in the old Christian wall that once surrounded Madrid. The hotel has 27 cosy rooms, each one decorated differently.

If you do just one thing…

Enjoy watching the sunset from the Dalieda dahlia gardens next to the Basílica de San Francisco el Grande.

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Sol-Gran Vía

Puerta del Sol and surrounds are the biggest draw for visitors to Madrid, as well as being the true centre of the city (and the starting point for all the motorways in the whole of Spain). This is a great meeting point for locals and visitors alike thanks to its central location and connections between various modes of public transport. The oldest building in the area is the Casa de Correos, where you'll find the seat of the government of the Community of Madrid; every New Year's Eve hundreds of revellers congregate here to ring in the new year under its clock tower. This is also a big shopping district, and it's home to the famous Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) statue, a symbol of Madrid. Just next to this emblematic square is the Gran Vía, the main artery of the city and where you'll find big clothing brands like Zara, H&M and Mango.

EAT

La Pr1mera

Paco Quirós and his partner Carlos Crespo seem to have found their way to Madrid's heart through the city's collective stomach. After the 2015 opening of La Bien Aparecida, they were at it again in 2016 in a new location – and not just any location but in the Grassy building, one of the most emblematic in town. There are plenty of nods to Cantabria; the name of the space refers to a beach in Santander, and the architect of the building is from the northern coastal region. Sandra Tarruella's interior design is in equal parts sophisticated and cosy, with an informal feel that suits the central location. Although you won't get a sea view, you will enjoy special panoramic vistas from the windows. The menu features house specialities (fried squid 'rabas', anchovies, hake in tempura, tempting desserts) as well as more modern creations such as the 'callos' (tripe) sandwich or the bonito wrapped in nori seaweed.

DRINK

Casa Labra

In Casa Labra you've got one of the most traditional bars in Madrid and one of the busiest at weekends. Famously the birthplace of the Spanish Socialist Party back in 1879, this legendary bar, with its brown 1950s paintwork, is worth a visit not only for its history but also for its house speciality: 'bacalao' (cod) in the form of croquettes or fried slices called 'tajadas'. Order a few draught beers ('cañas') and get yourself a spot at one of the high tables they set out on the street as a makeshift terrace.

DO

Círculo de Bellas Artes

The Círculo de Bellas Artes occupies a superb building, designed by Antonio Palacios and completed in 1926. Despite its persistent funding problems, it is a key player in every aspect of the Madrid arts scene. The Círculo offers a plethora of classes, exhibitions, lectures and concerts in its theatre and concert hall, as well as an annual masked ball for carnival. Its café is well worth visiting, whether to see the marvellous 'El Salto de Léucade' by Moisés de Huerta or for its wonderful views, though it has received its share of criticism alleging a decline in quality. Its rooftop terrace is usually packed and is a good option for summer evenings.

STAY

Dear Hotel

It’s hard to choose just one from among the magnificent hotels along Gran Vía. But we’ve selected the Dear Hotel for all it has to offer. Just a few steps from Plaza de España, the Dear’s rooms are elegant and sunny, with high-speed WiFi, dressing gowns, 40-inch TVs and a minibar with free mineral water, among other amenities. Up on the rooftop there’s a small swimming pool and a terrace, affording impressive views of the square below, and a restaurant, Nice to Meet You, whose menu features something for everyone, including croquettes and fried squid ‘rabas’ as well as Asian-inspired gyozas and baos, plus modern spins on fish and meat dishes.

If you do just one thing…

Try the churros with chocolate in the famous chocolatier's San Ginés, a favourite spot for snacks in the wee hours among the area's late-night crowd before heading home.

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Lavapiés

This neighbourhood is a good representation of the fusion of cultures Madrid has experienced in recent years. It’s always been a humble area, where, until the ’80s, mostly elderly people lived in the ‘corralas’, buildings whose apartment doors open up onto an interior patio of sorts, very typical in old Madrid. Currently, thanks to cheaper rental prices in comaparison to other parts of the city and to the multicultural aspect of the area, younger people have moved in and live together with the older locals and among residents of some 88 different nationalities. Indian restaurants are just as busy as their neighbouring traditional Madrid taverns – C/Argumosa, full of terraces, is one of the busiest in the area – and immigrants make up the social fabric that holds Lavapiés together. The San Lorenzo festival is celebrated here as well; the big party takes place every August, and fills the streets with locals and visitors. Tapapiés, the weeklong internationally flavoured tapas route has also become a must on the yearly calendar.

EAT

Nubel

On the ground floor of the Reina Sofía Museum's Nouvel building you’ll find Nubel, where the tireless Javier Muñoz-Calero is in charge of the kitchen. He presents a Mediterranean menu that tends toward glossy signature touches when it's time to serve; dinner is his time to shine. Behind the cocktails is Joel Jamal, who has added a dozen of his own creations to the standard drinks menu. The kitchen and bar don't close during the day in order to accommodate visitors to the museum, and they keep cooking all day, from breakfasts to snacks. For lunch it's tacos, burgers, buns, sandwiches and other house specialities, all made to order. You'll also get night-time entertainment in the form of DJs playing soul, nu-jazz, blues and more.

DRINK

La Gatoteca

This cat café is a great place for cat people or any animal lover to contribute to the well-being of our four-legged friends while having a coffee or other soft drink, and of course enjoying the company of cats who are also up for adoption. Gatoteca is also the official headquarters of the NGO ABRIGA, which helps stray cats and abandoned dogs find a new home. Here they charge by how much time you spend at the café and what you have to drink You'll find two floors with comfortable armchairs and low tables so you can play with the cats, and anyone interested in adopting a cat can get to know them all, and they can get to know you and decide if you are the person for them.

DO

Reina Sofía Museum

Located where Lavapiés meets Atocha, this is a must for art fans and one of the most important contemporary art museums in all of Spain. One of the features that draws us in is its impressive façade with glass and steel lift-shafts, designed by British architect Ian Ritchie, which welcomes you by saying, Yes, what you’re about to see is a collection of contemporary art in all its splendour. And it’s no less glorious if you come in through the back, where you’re greeted by three buildings, principally built of glass and steel, arranged around a courtyard and all covered by a triangular, zinc-and-aluminium roof, the work of French architect Jean Nouvel. This ambitious extension project adds almost 30,000 sq m to the already vast art space in the patio to the south-west of the main edifice. It includes temporary exhibition spaces. The Reina Sofía's great jewel is unquestionably 'Guernica', Picasso's impassioned denunciation of war and fascism.

STAY

Hola Rooms

This boutique hotel is nestled inside a building that enjoys protected status from the City of Madrid, both its façade and its interior. Dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, the building was originally destined to house carriages. All the rooms feature Nordic design, private bathroom, WiFi, 32-inch TVs and daily cleaning service. As a point of interest, in the same street, just a few feet from the Plaza de Tirso Molina, the famous poet and children’s writer Gloria Fuertes was born in 1918.

If you do just one thing…

Meander around the stalls in the Mercado de Anton Martín, between fishmongers and butchers, and corners of gastronomy where you can feast on sandwiches, sushi, ramen and more, and even try some craft beers.

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Barrio de las Letras

Home to great writers from the Golden Age of Spanish literature, including Cervantes and Quevado, the Barrio de las Letras is also where you’ll find Madrid’s most important museums, as well as other institutions such as the Congreso de los Diputados Congreso de los Diputados and the Teatro Español. C/Huertas, with its literary quotes inscribed in the pavement, is the area’s main street, so it’s lined with bars and eateries, especially great when you’re in the mood for tapas. Plaza de Santa Ana, with its big terraces, is another spot that attracts visitors to the area, not to mention the Art Triangle, where the city’s main museums live.

EAT

Triciclo

This restaurant hasn't stopped riding the crest of the wave since it opened. Warning: They're closed Sundays, and you're better off booking a table in advance whenever you go or you might not even get a seat at the bar near the entrance to have a tasty bite of Spanish omelette. Three businessmen/chefs have managed to satisfy the tastes of modern food snobs as well as their more traditional diners. Nearly all the dishes are available in three sizes. You can try loads of little portions, and then when you go again (and you will), dive in to the ones you liked the best, even though the staff will be tempting you with off-menu items as well.

DRINK

La Dolores

Another Madrid classic, with wonderful tiling outside and rows of dusty beer steins inside, La Dolores has been serving ice-cold frothy beer since the 1920s. There's a short list of tapas, which are good if a bit overpriced. Specialities are smoked fish, anchovies and 'mojama' (wind-dried tuna). Weekends see the space fill up with friends who meet up to have a snack and well-poured beers.

DO

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

When the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum opened in 1992, Madrid added the third point to its 'Art Triangle', along with the Prado and the Reina Sofía. The private collection of the late Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is widely considered among the most important in the world. Consisting of 775 paintings, it came to Madrid on loan, but in 1993 a purchase agreement was signed with the Spanish state. The Baron's decision to sell was doubtlessly influenced both by his wife, Carmen 'Tita' Cervera, and by the offer to house the collection in the then-empty Palacio de Villahermosa, an early-19th-century edifice that was superbly reconverted by architect Rafael Moneo to become the museum it is today.

STAY

Me Madrid Reina Victoria

The ME Madrid Reina Victoria is a luxury design hotel located in an emblematic 19th-century building in the historic Plaza de Santa Ana. Its elegant rooms feature plasma TVs, hydromassage showers, free WiFi and outlets that are compatible with UK and US plugs. One if its most attractive spots is the rooftop terrace bar-restaurant, Radio ME. With a relaxed ambience and international cuisine, the menu, designed by young chef David Fernández, is seasonal and reflects casual exotisim, as you can see in dishes such as octopus with olive paste, bacon quinotto, Canarian-Nikkei suckling pig, and Peruvian 'causa colorada'.

If you do just one thing…

Don’t miss the impressive 24-metre-high vertical garden at the entrance of the CaixaForum.

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Los Austrias

Among the streets of this neighbourhood with the most history in Madrid are secrets of the great monarchs who have lived here. From the Almudena Cathedral to the Plaza Mayor, the beautiful architecture in the area brings in a good amount of visitors who gaze with wonder on the constructions built by Madrid’s ancestors. Restaurants in the district serve up traditional Madrid ‘cocido’ (stew), while the Sabatini Gardens are a great place for tired travellers to find a bench and take a break. Since the 16th century, palaces, churches and monasteries have been standing in Las Austrias, an area that’s had its name since the era when the House of Habsburg reigned in Spain, with Carlos I at the helm, a king who decided to build squares and monumental buildings throughout the city.

EAT

Taberna La Bola

Holding court on a quiet backstreet, this dignified, classic Madrid restaurant is considered by many to be the home of 'cocido', the huge and hearty stew lifelong Madrid residents love and a test for the biggest of appetites. La Bola is still run by the same family that founded it in the 19th century, and the cocido (which is only served at lunchtime) is still cooked traditionally in earthenware pots on a wood fire.

DRINK

Bar Postas

One of the most traditional and authentic fish restaurants in Madrid, Postas Bar is famous for its calamari sandwiches, marinated fish and other fried-fish delights. Located next to Plaza Mayor, it's the perfect spot to take a break while visiting the city. It's not the most spacious place in town, with just a few chairs and tables, so your best bet is to have tapas right at the bar, and watch how the orders are prepared.

DO

Palacio Real

Commissioned by Felipe V after the earlier Alcázar was lost to a fire in 1734, the Royal Palace is rarely used by the royal family today, and many of its 3,000 rooms are open to view. The architects principally responsible for the final design, which reflects the taste of the Spanish Bourbons, were Italian – Giambattista Sacchetti and Francesco Sabatini – with contributions by the Spaniard Ventura Rodríguez. Filippo Juvarra, Felipe V's first choice, had planned a palace four times as large, but after his death the project became a little less ambitious. Completed in 1764, the late-baroque palace is built almost entirely of granite and white Colmenar stone, and, surrounded as it is by majestic gardens, contributes greatly to the splendour of the city.

STAY

Petit Palace Posada del Peine

This small hotel, next to the Plaza Mayor, is known as one of the oldest lodgings in Spain – the building dates back to 1610. It was closed between 1960 and 2006, when it reopened its doors after major renovations. These days it boasts elegant rooms where you can rest after exploring the city; the rooms feature the free use of iPads upon request, flat-screen TVs, a minibar, and a hydromassage shower. There’s also free WiFi throughout the hotel, and you can rent bicycles upon availability.

If you do just one thing…

Visit the Mercado de San Miguel, an old municipal market that nowadays is one of the most modern gastronomic spaces in the city.

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