I love visiting Spain. It is incredibly dense with bars and restaurants, having one of the highest bar-to-inhabitant ratios in the world. Going out to sit down for a long meal or drink with friends is a staple of Spanish social life. Bars are not always visited solely for the purpose of getting drunk. They are a place to socialize, catch up with friends, and eat tapas. They provide a venue where people can convene at almost any time and for virtually any occasion. Moving along the streets of Madrid, it seems like you pass by a bar every few steps. That being said, it’s literally impossible to try out every bar in the city in the span of a brief visit. Even those who live in Madrid have most likely visited a mere fraction of the bars, and frequent only their favorite spots. During my four months in the city, I must have gone to dozens of bars, but there was only a handful that I regularly visited. Here are some of the most memorable.
This place has a great selection of different craft beers from across the world. They keep 40 beers on tap and continuously rotate through different styles and brands. Taproom offers great beer that would otherwise be hard to get your hands on in Spain. It is located in the beautiful Chamberí neighborhood alongside a host of other bars and restaurants.
The only thing I’ve ever ordered at El Tigre is their mojito, which comes in a fat plastic cup almost as big as my head. The mojito is great—cold and refreshing after wandering the streets of Madrid on a hot afternoon. The extraordinary part of El Tigre is what you get alongside your drink. A large plate of tapas comes with the purchase of any alcoholic beverage. And, for being free, the tapas are surprisingly good, especially their patatas bravas.
El Junco is more of a music venue than it is a bar. However, it does have a fully-stocked bar and the small size of the space gives it a warm, intimate vibe. There are many regularly scheduled performances at the venue, in addition to improvisational shows and jam sessions. It’s a great place to go if you want to have a drink and listen to live music. They play jazz, blues, rock, soul, R&B, and hip-hop, to name a few genres, in both Spanish and English.
The Rooftop Bar at Círculo de Bellas Artes
There are a number of rooftop bars in Madrid, but few, if any, beat the view at the Círculo de Bellas Artes. The building is a cultural center, home to exhibition halls, a library, a cinema, and more. The rooftop is an open-air bar and restaurant with panoramic views of the city. The bar itself is pretty standard as far as drinks are concerned, but the view is spectacular. It’s one of the best places in Madrid to watch the sunset. It’s also centrally located at a major intersection, within walking distance of Retiro Park and Gran Vía. Admission to the rooftop costs four euros.
There are so many bars and restaurants in Madrid with rich and extensive histories; places frequented by legendary writers, artists, actors, politicians, and other important cultural figures. Museo Chicote is one of the most well-known of these places. It is a cocktail bar that has been frequented in the past by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, and Sofia Loren. Photos of famous patrons are framed and displayed over the walls of the establishment. The interior has a cool vintage design, and, late in the night, as the place fills with people, it begins to feel like a true 1930s lounge, frozen in time.
La Lianta is a small wine and tapas bar in the Chamberí neighborhood of Madrid. It has a gorgeous rustic interior with charming, coarse brick walls and elaborate tilework that runs the length of the bar. Exposed bulbs dangle from the ceiling and illuminate the place late in the evening, when the bar is at its busiest. There isn’t much in the way of decor at La Lianta besides a few faded signs, old pots and pans, two or three legs of jamón ibérico, and the wine bottles themselves, which line the shelves and countertops. The prices are reasonable and the place has a refined atmosphere that is perfect for sipping on a few glasses of wine with friends.