Once in Spain, it’s easy to see how this country has more bars per capita than anywhere else in the world. Madrid is no exception. Bars are everywhere, and this, combined with the fact that the best ones are scattered and sometimes hidden all around the city, can make bar hopping a daunting task for someone new.
Firstly, a few things are to be understood when getting to know Madrileño bar culture. For one, bars in Madrid satisfy a few purposes. Bars will almost always be serving something to eat (in contrast to the United States where food is usually optional). Secondly, it is appropriate to go to a bar at any hour of the day, whether at 11am for a cup of coffee or even a caña (small beer). Having a drink in the morning isn’t for the purpose of getting drunk and thus it isn’t considered taboo. In contrast, you might also head to a bar for the sole purpose of eating, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, and not to have an alcoholic beverage at all.
It is also important to note how drinks are ordered in Spain. Don’t order a “cerveza” for a beer, but instead tell the bartender which size you want. Order a “caña” for a small, a “doble” for a medium and a “jarra” for a pint. If ordering wine, order by region, not by grape. For a red, you can’t go wrong with a Ribera del Duero or a Rioja. If you are looking for something refreshing to cool you down in Madrid, don’t get your heart set on sangria—it might not even be on the menu. Instead, ask for a “tinto de verano” (red wine and lemon soda on ice).
In an effort to create an up-to-date resource on a wide-assortment of Madrid’s best bars, I asked some of the city’s young expats what their favorite spots were. Whether you are looking for a classy cocktail or a local and hearty dish, you can be sure to find something to suit you in this list. I also threw in a few of my favorites for good measure.
For cocktails &/or nightlife:
1862 Dry Bar: Calle Pez 27
“Going to 1862 Dry Bar is like stepping back in time to the 1920s and visiting a sophisticated speakeasy. While the vintage Gatsby-esque ambiance is equally as chic as it is inviting, it’s their finely crafted cocktails that keep hip locals coming back for more. This is my go-to spot for a classy after dinner drink, such as an indulgent Pisco Sour or a refreshing Moscow Mule. Located on Calle Pez in the heart of Malasaña, their quality cocktails cost 8 euros a piece.”
Courtney is a Seattle native living in Madrid and working as an assistant English teacher. Besides venturing around Europe, she likes drinking tinto de verano in the sunshine, embarrassing herself by trying to speak the local language, and attempting to seek out the best brunch in Spain. You can follow along on her blog, Adelante.
Maria Bonita: Calle Olmo, 23
“My favorite bar of the moment is Maria Bonita in Lavapies. Though I generally prefer a more castizo spot where I can enjoy a nice glass of Ribera and some olives, I love branching out and taking advantage of all the diverse locales in Madrid. Lavapies is such an effortlessly cool neighborhood, so I usually end up at this Mexican gem for a cocktail and a bite after an evening of exploring. I almost always go for the cucumber jalapeño margarita because it’s both refreshing and just spicy enough, and is the perfect compliment to the fantastic guacamole. If I’m there for dinner, it’s all about the carnitas tacos with pickled onions. Oh so heavenly. On top of great food and an extensive cocktail menu, Maria Bonita is amazingly priced. A mixed drink will run you around 6 euros, and for 7 you get 4 sinfully delicious tacos. You’ll leave with a full belly and the happiest tequila buzz, always.”
Julia Golden is a freelance writer and blogger based in Madrid. With a background in sociology and linguistics, she is passionate about immersing herself in new cultures and follows her wanderlust in search of the best wine, food and stories the peninsula has to offer. She chronicles all of her adventures on her blog Nowhere To Go But Everywhere, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram for real time updates.
LL Bar: Calle de Pelayo, 11
“LL Bar is straight-friendly, gay bar in Chueca and one of my favorite places because they have a fun (and interactive) drag show each night at 11:30pm. Beers cost 5€ and copas are 8€, but if you arrive early, they have 2×1 drink specials until 11pm. Buy your first drink for full price and they’ll give you a ticket to order your second for free. The show takes place at the bar upstairs bar on ground level and the crowd is very friendly and welcoming. It’s a perfect place to take your gay-friendly visitors to start the night out in Madrid. I’ve taken many friends here – girls, guys, gay and straight – and everyone has had a great time!”
TwoBadTourists was started by Auston and David during their one year, round-the world trip. A former lab scientist and engineer, they are now teaching English and working freelance. When they’re not traveling, they enjoy the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid, where they now call home. As travel addicts, they write about the best gay destinations, nightlife, festivals and events on their blog. Follow them on social media: Facebook & Twitter.
For the atmosphere:
Terraza Gymage: Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 2
Just where you wouldn’t expect it, Terraza Gymage brings an oasis to Madrid’s skyline right in Plaza de la Luna, just a block off Gran Via. Connected to a high-end gym, you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the rooftop bar. Bright white tables, chairs and lounges pop in contrast to the bright green grass, making it the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail in the sun. The atmosphere transports you to the likes of Ibiza, and the crowd of beautiful young Madrileños doesn’t hurt either.
At night the terrace is lite up, along with the old brick church behind it, making a perfect backdrop for the classy bar. There is also a restaurant and soon-to-be infinity pool just in time for summer.
Prices: €2.50+ for cañas and wine, around €7+ for cocktails. Hours: Wed-Sun 12pm- late, Mon & Tues 17:00- late
Santurce: Calle de Pelayo, 11
“Like a favourite movie or book, it’s a tough choice picking a favourite bar. Tavern preferences change from moment to moment depending on the mood, booze or food you’re after. But I’m going to have to pick Santurce. It’s a rustic, rough-and-ready bar that’s open all week but truly swings into life on Sundays. Why? Because it’s smack bang in the thick of the Rastro, Madrid’s long-running Sunday morning flea market. Santuce is famous for its crowds, its noise, its floods of beer and – most importantly – its fabulously fresh grilled sardines. They’re served piled onto a plate, straight off the grill, and when you’ve nibbled each one down to the bone, you toss the carcass onto the floor. The calamares are also excellent. Santurce is a true Madrid gastro experience (and you can live the Santurce dream virtually in my Rastro tapas crawl video here.
A plate of sardines is €3.60 A plate of calamares is €5.70 A glass of draft beer is €1.80.”
A Kiwi by birth, I’m a partner and guide with Madrid Food Tour, a company that offers culinary experiences in the Spanish capital. And when I’m not exploring the backstreets or bars of Madrid with clients, I’m also a travel and food writer, with a focus on Spain. My work has been published internationally, including in the UK Sunday Times, Toronto Star, Ryanair Let’s Go and El País English. And when I’m not doing any of that? I’m (usually futilely) trying to find the time to update my blog www.madridchow.com, full of my favourites places to eat and drink in Madrid. @theSpainGuy @MadridChow
La Victoria: Calle de Santa Isabel, 40
“La Victoria is my go-to Thursday night spot. From 10 pm to midnight every Thursday this 100-year-old former butter factory transforms into an intimate jazz café. The five band members cram into a corner usually filled with mismatched tables to belt out a stellar set as the packed crowd sways, taps and claps along. I definitely suggest getting in early in order to snag a seat as the small bar area gets rather cramped. While I always sip on a glass of Ribera del Duero wine (3€) you can also get beer (including a super tasty wheat beer!) and mixed drinks. La Victoria’s cakes are delish and while haven’t personally tried their raciónes they always look fantastic!”
After swapping a political journalism job in D.C. for a English teaching position in Galicia, Amy has spent the past year and a half hunting out the most fantastic food Spain has to offer. Now based in Madrid, she chronicles her best finds at Restless Fork. You can follow her foodie finds on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
For a date or girls’ night out:
Pez Gordo: Calle Pez, 6.
“Tucked into Malasaña, this cozy bar sets the stage for date-night wine, girl’s-night tapas, or low-key dinners. Soft lighting, low music, and fun decor lend charm to the establishment, but the food is the real star. The menu has traditional Spanish fare, from to tortilla to conservas to cured meats and cheeses. I recommend the hearty migas, picadillo with blue cheese, fried eggplant with honey, and the croquetas mixtas (half ham, half cod). Order a round of cañas or red Somontano and you’re good to go! Cañas and wine cost around 1.50 and 2.50 respectively while the raciones range from 5.5 to 12 euros.
Pez Gordo is open evenings until late from Monday – Saturday.”
Cassandra has been hamming it up in Madrid since 2010. She enjoys Spanish idioms, tortilla, paseos, and vino tinto (not necessarily in that order). Follow her adventures at: Geecassandra.com and on twitter @geecassandra.
El Jardín Secreto: Calle Conde Duque, 2
“El Jardín Secreto (The Secret Garden) is the perfect place for a date, or girls night with a few friends. Their 2 specialties are cocktails and hot chocolates (yes chocolate, yum) which come in many different flavours and varieties. They will set you back about 8€ and 4€ respectively, but plan to buy at least 2, as this is not the kind of place you want to rush out of. Not only are the drinks delicious but the decor in this place is second to none. It’s like Alice in Wonderland, with intricate decorations everywhere – vines, shells, flowers, fairy lights, water features etc. The whole place is done just perfectly. It’s exactly where you want to be drinking a cup of magic.
Be warned though, this place gets really busy, you will probably have to wait for a table. It’s best for small groups or pairs.”
Passport Packed is a light-hearted travel blog by Liz Harding – a young Kiwi traveller, flittering around the world and doing cool things. Follow her at: facebook.com/passportpacked and Twitter: @passport_liz
For local food and drinks:
Taberna el Buo: Calle Humilladero, 4
“I personally love it when Spanish restaurants add a little something different to the traditional Spanish omelette. This place has so many different types of tortillas to choose from, I was in heaven! My favorite: caramelized onions and goat cheese. Oh and did I mention that they’re huge and cheap?
El Buo offers cheap drinks, big portions, perfect location. What more can you ask for? The crowd is young, but not so young that you wonder if the guys have sprouted chest hair yet. El Buo is located in the center of La Latina, close to some other great bars to hop to afterwards. It has so much to offer, the place can get crowded on a prime-time Saturday night. As all good Spanish tapas bars are, you’ll find an open table after some cheeky cañas, and the wait is worth it.
Go during the week for chilled out tapas and drinks with friends. Try Friday and Saturday night for a busy and lively night out. Wine costs around €2.80 with a tapa. Tortillas are about €9 each.”
Food, the universal language. At La Vida Zukas, I focus on the thing I love most about my travels and which brings people all over the world together. Whether it is a dish from my own country or new food that I have discovered while traveling Europe… I want to share it all. Website: http://lavidazukas.blogspot.com.es/ or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Petisqueria: Calle Churruca, 6
“Petisqueria is a small authentic Spanish tapas bar. It is hidden on a side street just around the corner from my apartment in Madrid’s Malasaña. It’s not modern, it’s not flashy and it’s certainly not fancy, but this is exactly why I’ve come to love it so much. It’s simply an intimate neighborhood bar often filled with Spanish locals. It’s also one of very few bars in Madrid that follows the tradition of free tapas with every drink order. Every 1,75€ caña earns you a VERY generous helping of whatever dish is on the menu that day. I’ve enjoyed popular dishes from Spanish tortilla and patatas bravas to fried eggs and immense helpings of paella. For under 10€ you can eat like a king and leave satisfying stuffed.
It’s usually pretty crowded, but if you arrive early (9ish on Spanish time) you won’t have a problem finding a place to sit. There is also plenty of space to stand around the bar. Petisqueria is a great stop for young people on a budget!”
Lauren is a language assistant in Madrid and writer of her new blog thewanderlustress. She hopes not only to share stories with fellow travelers but also to inspire others to get out and explore the world around them. You can follow her blog on Facebook and Instagram (@lbonheim).
For something different:
Bar Lambuzo– Andalusian style tapas in Madrid
Calle de las Conchas, 9
“I first discovered Bar Lambuzo when it opened about a year ago, and since then it’s been my favorite bar in Madrid, for many reasons. Owned and lovingly run by a family from Cádiz, Lambuzo is the type of bar that makes you feel at home every single time you go. Upstairs, you’ll find delicious Andalusian food, beautiful décor and warm service. And downstairs in the wine cellar, you’ll find fun events such as generous wine and olive oil tastings, as well as micro-theater sessions every Thursday night. Just go! (p.s. I’ve just heard they’re opening a new one in Barrio Chamberí!)
Price Range: €10-20. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lambuzo (they post all their events and menús del día here.)”
Daphne Binioris is from New York but has been living in Madrid for seven years. Her dream is to live between the two cities! She writes about her favorite Madrid spots for Nakedmadrid.com and you can follow along via her Facebook and Twitter.
Fábrica Maravillas – Craft beer made in Madrid
Calle Valverde, 29
While I won’t complain about a €5 cub0 (bucket) of Cruz Campos or a €1 caña to wash down a greasy bite to eat, sometimes I just need something more. Fábrica Maravillas satisfies my craving for good quality craft beer and the prices are just right.
This simple, small and classy bar blends modern craft beer with traditional Spanish drinking culture- each brew is offered in the convenient caña size! This makes trying each variety easy and cheap, without having to drink your weight in beer.
During the day getting a table can be quite easy, but at night the small space gets pretty crowded. The décor and huge beer vats in the back make it trendy, while the different brews on tap are sure to please a lot of different beer drinkers. All on offer are tasty, and some are seasonal. I like the strong, malty “Fl(ipa)” (American India Pale Ale) and also the fruity, hoppy “Malasaña” ale.
Prices: caña, media pinta y pinta sizes range between €1.90 to €6. Hours: Mon- Fri 18:00- 00h, Sat –Sun 13:00 – 00h
¡Salud! You can find all of the locations below.