The best expat bars in Madrid
There are thousands upon thousands of bars in Madrid. So where to start? Here's our pick of the watering holes most favoured by expats (and many locals too).
Run by Pepe and his Irish partner Maree, this homely English-speaking bar is – as its name implies – little more than an expanded kiosk, whose interior resembles a tiny pub and whose crowning glory is a surrounding outside tree covered area where patrons sit. It nestles in the leafy wide avenued barrio of Chamartín in the north of the city and in summer is transformed into a tranquil shady oasis.
Very popular with local and nearby expat working community, Pepe’s serves superb he-man sandwiches and Mexican style corn tortilla “wraps" (bacon, "Texas red") plus Guinness and Cruzcampo beer. Go on a sunny day. Closes in winter.
A 1920s atmosphere still prevails in this former food shop turned attractive bar where old features like the marble bar top and large display windows have still been retained in spite of a progressively trendier atmosphere. Just a stone’s throw from the Gran Vía, it provides character and value for money and is accordingly well patronised by appreciative local multinational Chueca residents and eager guide-clutching tourists.
Enjoy the draught Spanish beer and wide variety of good tapas and raciones, especially the jamón serrano (mountain ham).
With its splendid tiles, wooden beamed ceilings and painted black and white wall copies of Parisian cafe photos by Doisneau, this perennially popular rendezvous with the young and international has a certain French air. The zinc bar top looks like it’s been imported from turn of century Paris, the mirror behind the bar is pure Manet, the interior is atmospheric and there’s a small outside terrace for summer drinking.
Just round the corner from another tiled favourite, Los Gabrieles, Viva Madrid serves a good choice of Spanish wines and draught Cruzcampo beer, plus delicious canapés and tapas.
With its radiant splash of turn-of-the-century wall tile illustrations this cavernous bar is uniquely atmospheric even by old Madrid standards. Formerly a favourite of bullfighters and kings (Alfonso XIII was a regular) it now plays host to world-wide newcomers and seasoned residents.
The waitresses are attractive and genial, but drinks and tapas are expensive and play second fiddle in quality to their surroundings. So be warned.
This airy and genuine-looking pub, with its international atmosphere, is located on the northern edge of bohemian Chueca opposite Madrid's most attractive church, Santa Barbara, and las Salesas square. It's not only Irish-run but also has friendly Anglo-Irish waiters.
English rugby and premier league football matches are shown regularly on TV alongside world games and the Madrid Lions Club meets here every Thursday. Among the draught beers available are Guinness and Murphy's Red, and hearty hamburgers and ham and cheese sandwiches are the staple snack fare.
The Madrid Emerald Supporters Club meets regularly at this long atmospherically dingy watering hole, which looks like a cross between a Wild West saloon and a genuine Connemara bar.
The regular musical soirées held at the far end are particularly well received, especially on St. Patrick's Day, and friendly waitresses serve sandwiches, pasties, Irish beers, coffee and wines.
Midway between Cibeles fountain, the Paseo de Prado and the Retiro Gardens, this spacious bar, with its cosy booths and ample use of homely wooden décor, was a key rendezvous spot for the literati in the 1940s, when it was known as the Café Lion,
Today, Celtic in look and cosmopolitan in mood, it attracts a wide variety of visiting and resident international clientel with its draught Guinness and no-nonsense pub food.
A veritable madrileño institution, this magnificently unkempt long bar with its barrels and flaking posters from Jerez in Southern Spain looks as if nothing has changed since the 1930s. It’s a solid favourite with residents and visitors alike and there’s table-and-chair seating at the back.
The only thing to drink here is sherry, from sweet olorosos and generosos to finos and bone dry manzanillas. They’re served together with small tapas of nuts or olives, and you can also order raciones of ham or cheese. (“Venencia,” by the way, is not a Spanish mis-spelling of Venice, but the name of the long handled sampling tube used to taste sherry from a barrel.)
This coolly minimalist backwater, named after a county in California, lies unobtrusively behind the Plaza España and close to the Conde Duque cultural centre where art exhibitions and concert venues are held. Its polyglot clientel come to read, play Spanish or English board games, listen to occasional poetry readings and enjoy a cappuchino in an ambience of soft music and unobtrusive lighting. English, Spanish and French books can be loaned or bought and stylish modern paintings adorn the walls.
Tasty snacks, salads and soups are served during the week and there are also brunches on Saturdays and Sundays. Try the California Club Sandwich (bacon, lettuce, tomato, chicken, cheese, mayonnaise).
Particularly popular with members of Madrid’s discerning media world, this secluded bar, located at the back of a well-stocked deli, is run by a university professor whose love of fine food and wine is self-evident.
An oasis of taste, González provides a variety of mouth-watering tapas and has an eclectic and interesting cellar of international vinos.
While this exotic cafe with its belle epoque interior decor may not strictly be an expat hangout, many residents come anyway to show it off to visitors or to simply enjoy the splendid location themselves. The cafe stands on a pedestrianised plaza with a summer terrace area overlooking the sumptuous Royal Palace and its neighbouring statues.
Coffees and teas with pastries are the ideal afternoon choice and you can switch to stylish aperitifs in the evening. Inside, if you're feeling flush, there's an expensive Basque restaurant (booking essential).
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