Spain might be Europe’s liveliest country for nightlife. Within Spain there is nowhere that compares with Madrid for bar life as locals and visitors alike crawl their way through some of the city’s thousands of varied drinking and tapas bars before heading off to a nightclub until sunrise.
There are bars to suit everybody’s taste ranging from ultra chic cocktail bars to traditional tiled tabernas and well stocked tapas bars. In the past opening hours didn’t exist and drinking through the night was not a problem. Today, however, you’ll find the typical tapas bars will open all day and close around midnight according to how busy they are whilst the more trendy ‘copas bars’ will continue well into the night.
Visitors to Spain often assume that ‘tapas’ are a nationwide tradition, however, this is not the case. Originally from Andalucia, the idea of giving a small snacks (a tapa) with a drink is still strong in the south though you will probably have to pay for them unless you’re in Granada Province. In the north (Bilbao, San Sebastian and Barcelona) you’ll discover excellent tapas though you’ll have to buy them with your drink. In Madrid, however, you’ll still be invited in many bars to a small ‘tapa’ with your drink.
A novelty tour which is very popular is an evening walking tour led by a local foodie who will show you around some of the best tapas bars hidden away in the backstreets of Old Madrid. These are places where the locals hang out which you’d be unlikely to find on your own.
Remember that a ‘tapa’ is a small taster and will probably not be enough to keep you going all night so you’ll want to order a ración or a ‘media-ración’ which are plates full of your chosen dishes. Buying a selection of ‘media-raciónes’ is a great way for a small group of people to try a wide range of local specialities.
In Madrid specialities include ‘patatas bravas‘ (deep-fried potato in a spicy sauce), fried pig’s ear (orejas) and tripe (callos). Spanish omelette (tortilla) and deep fried squid rings (calamares) are perennial favourites and you’ll find excellent shellfish tapas arriving daily from the coast. Seafood tends to be excellent and Madrid’s fish market is the world’s second largest after Tokyo. Quite surprising when you think the nearest coast is over four hours away.
Some of our Favourite Bars in Madrid
Las Bravas (c\ Espoz y Mina 13)
Try the spicy potatoes, a speciality in several bars in this area.
Casa del Abuelo (c\ de la Victoria)
A great little bar selling house wine and prawns. Sister bar around the corner.
Meson del Champiñones (c\ Cuchilleros)
One of Madrid’s oldest taverns among a series of cave bars. All you can eat are mushrooms.
Cerveceria Roldan (c\ de Postas,12)
Excellent tapas bar and cold frothy beer in jugs.
Cerveceria Bar Postas (c\ de Postas)
Opposite Roldan. A great bar for tapas, less expensive and with pictures of the food on the walls so you can point at what you fancy!
Museo del Jamon (c\ de Postas, 6)
Vegetarians should stay well away from this bar which is dedicated to serrano ham.
Restaurante Rodriguez (c\ de San Cristobal)
A few metres off C/ Postas this popular little restaurant offers an excellent lunchtime menú del día.
España Cañi (Plaza del Angel 14)A traditional Spanish taberna. The tapas are straightforward: Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, Morcilla (blood sausage) and Spanish omelette (tortilla española ). Also served are a full range of wines and sherries.
Naturbier (Plaza Santa Ana)
This bar in Plaza Santa Ana serves something unique in Madrid, beer brewed on the premises. Also on sale at the bar are selections of paté, charcutery, cheeses and salads.
Cerveceria Santa Ana (Plaza Santa Ana)
Another nice little bar on Plaza Santa Ana with plenty tapas available.
Cervecería Alemana (Plaza Santa Ana 6)
Built in 1904 and based on a German bier keller, the Alemana still serves beer in steins. Hemingway actually did drink here during his stays in Madrid, and the old place is still much as it was then.
El Anciano Rey de los Vinos (C/de la Paz 4(
The ‘Old Man King of Wines’ has a wonderful tiled interior, and excellent tapas to accompany the fine wines the bar is famous for.
Cervecería La Moderna (Plaza Santa Ana 12)
A fine tapas bar with excellent smoked hams and cheeses as well as some quality wines available.
Taberna Las Gabrieles (c/Echegaray, 17)
This tile bar in the heart of Madrid has a fascinating history as it is a place where bullfighters took shelter and where political discussion groups (tertulias) helped shape the history of modern Spain. Flamenco shows on Tuesdays.