There are thousands upon thousands of bars in Madrid. So where to start? Here’s our pick of the watering holes favoured by expats (and many locals too).
Puerto Rico 32
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.
Tel: 915 218887
Metro: Gran Vía
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).
Manuel Fernández y González 7
Tel. 91 429 36 40
Metro: Sevilla or Sol
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.
Plaza de las Salesas
Tel: 91 310 05 21
Metro: Alonso Martínez
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.
Calle de Alcalá 59
Tel: 91 575 49 01
Metro: Banco de España
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.
Tel: 91 429 73 13
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.)
Calle Leon 12
Tel: 91 429 56 18
Metro: Anton Martín
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.
Plaza de Oriente 2
Tel: 91 541 39 74
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).
Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco
Calle Echegaray, 15
Tel: 918 05 10 38
Whilst the expat might be in a small minority here with a majority Spanish crowd, this is the place to both watch and participate in flamenco dancing every night of the week. There’s a large bar and some of Spain’s finest flamenco musicians and dancers showcase their talents on a small stage decorated in red and blue lights.
The professionals take the stage most nights to wow the crowds with their expertise and their passion for the dance, and both the customers and the performers take their flamenco seriously and cherish the opportunity to share their love of the dance with others.
Calle de Espoz y Mina, 7
Tel: 915 22 75 09
This single room Irish pub with its blue and mustard coloured walls, attracts the international reveller looking for a good craic. With two separate bars and many TV’s to catch the sports on, you can catch a mix of soccer, rugby, American football, and basketball. You can expect to get a good stomach lining with a hearty Irish breakfast and other traditional pub-grub type dishes.
Most nights see the place full of Irish expats, other wayward travellers looking to get sauced, and young Madrileños well into a night of bar-hopping, with many patrons dancing it up to the latest pop soundtrack or traditional Irish jig.
Calle de Fernando el Católico, 77
Tel: 915 49 29 68
A great bar designed on a basement cave, with low ceilings, uneven crevices and walls and fake stalactites. It offers a variety of well priced cocktails served in glasses the size of goldfish bowls who are looking to enjoy an old fashioned ambience. Very popular with Spanish students and international visitors alike.
In addition to the generously sized drinks, patrons can indulge in the bar’s speciality, leche pantera (panther milk) – a strangely delicious mixture of gin and cinnamon combined with a flowing stream of milk poured directly from the artificial rocks in at Chapandaz’s ceiling.
La Vía Láctea
Calle de Velarde, 18,
Tel: 91 446 75 81
A regular watering hole for over thirty years, La Vía Láctea is a buzzing, two-story bar that still draws a huge crowd of young madrileños, students, and travellers alike. The vintage posters and custom mini-murals of famous rock bands cover the walls and ceiling give a nod to the bar’s nonstop flood of classic rock, funk, and the occasional Motown tune remixed with techno beats.
Patrons will find more of the same in the smoky upstairs area, which is equipped with another bar, a smattering of tables, and an old 50s-style jukebox.