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Tamaño letra

15 legendary bars in Madrid

An inside look at the Spanish capital’s recent history through the story of unique establishments that have left an indelible mark on the city

  • At the center of La Movida – the Madrid countercultural movement during the transition to democracy – this bar on Calle Pez, 8 provided the inspiration for director Alex de la Iglesia’s movie El Bar and is also featured in the book The Bar, Stories and Mysteries of Madrid's Legendary Bars (Lenwerg), a collection of taverns that have stood the test of time and continue to affect the lives of Madrileños. El Palentino, which is currently enjoying something of a revival, opened in 1942 and has kept its mirrored walls, fragmented marble façade and aluminum windows.
    1El Palentino At the center of La Movida – the Madrid countercultural movement during the transition to democracy – this bar on Calle Pez, 8 provided the inspiration for director Alex de la Iglesia’s movie El Bar and is also featured in the book The Bar, Stories and Mysteries of Madrid's Legendary Bars (Lenwerg), a collection of taverns that have stood the test of time and continue to affect the lives of Madrileños. El Palentino, which is currently enjoying something of a revival, opened in 1942 and has kept its mirrored walls, fragmented marble façade and aluminum windows.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton stopped here for a fried squid bocadillo when they were in Madrid for a NATO Summit in 1997 and took an afternoon to soak up the culture on the Paseo Del Prado. Located at number 8, Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, El Brillante has been serving baguette-style sandwiches since 1961 when it was opened by Alfredo Rodríguez Villa, who learned his trade in another famous ‘bocadillo’ bar, El Diamante, after arriving in the city in 1934 from León.
    2El Brillante Bill and Hillary Clinton stopped here for a fried squid bocadillo when they were in Madrid for a NATO Summit in 1997 and took an afternoon to soak up the culture on the Paseo Del Prado. Located at number 8, Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, El Brillante has been serving baguette-style sandwiches since 1961 when it was opened by Alfredo Rodríguez Villa, who learned his trade in another famous ‘bocadillo’ bar, El Diamante, after arriving in the city in 1934 from León.
  • Located at the heart of the Madrid tapas area at 58, Calle Ponzano, El Doble is a classic cañas bar, where the beer is served in long 40cc glasses. “It's the perfect size for keeping a head on the beer,” says a staff member. Opened in 1987 by Román del Puerto, it is adorned by Talavera de la Reina tiles and serves appetizers the good old way, on freshly toasted bread, making it a ‘go-to’ for foodies who also rate its grilled prawns and English-style chips.
    3El Doble Located at the heart of the Madrid tapas area at 58, Calle Ponzano, El Doble is a classic cañas bar, where the beer is served in long 40cc glasses. “It's the perfect size for keeping a head on the beer,” says a staff member. Opened in 1987 by Román del Puerto, it is adorned by Talavera de la Reina tiles and serves appetizers the good old way, on freshly toasted bread, making it a ‘go-to’ for foodies who also rate its grilled prawns and English-style chips.
  • Seventy-five years at the head of this establishment has made Amadeo Lázaro responsible for the snail-eating tradition that now exists in Madrid. He started out in 1942, just down the street from number 18, Plaza Cascorro where his family can now be found running the show. Lázaro still makes a point of dropping by to chat with his clients, who come in droves for the 1970s décor and tasty stews made from his mother’s secret recipe.
    4Los Caracoles Seventy-five years at the head of this establishment has made Amadeo Lázaro responsible for the snail-eating tradition that now exists in Madrid. He started out in 1942, just down the street from number 18, Plaza Cascorro where his family can now be found running the show. Lázaro still makes a point of dropping by to chat with his clients, who come in droves for the 1970s décor and tasty stews made from his mother’s secret recipe.
  • This was traditionally a taxi drivers joint, but it could also be described as Madrid’s first 'afterhours' bar and has been the 19th hole for hedonists in Madrid since 1979. Located at 4, Glorieta de Ruiz Jiménez, it is open for all but three hours a day - up until a couple of years ago, it was open 247 - making it ideal for that last drink or a spot of breakfast before crawling into bed.
    5Bar Iberia This was traditionally a taxi drivers joint, but it could also be described as Madrid’s first 'afterhours' bar and has been the 19th hole for hedonists in Madrid since 1979. Located at 4, Glorieta de Ruiz Jiménez, it is open for all but three hours a day - up until a couple of years ago, it was open 24/7 - making it ideal for that last drink or a spot of breakfast before crawling into bed.
  • This almost 200-year-old establishment in the Barrio de las Letras – Calle de las Huertas, 18 – occupies the exact spot where Miguel de Cervantes lived and wrote the second half of Don Quixote and The Travails of Persiles and Sigismunda. Opened in 1827, its façade and antique sink add to its timeless ambience, and was a favorite of Madrid’s first democratically elected mayor, Enrique Tierno Galván, who dropped by almost daily to snack on meatballs and croquettes.
    6Casa Alberto This almost 200-year-old establishment in the Barrio de las Letras – Calle de las Huertas, 18 – occupies the exact spot where Miguel de Cervantes lived and wrote the second half of Don Quixote and The Travails of Persiles and Sigismunda. Opened in 1827, its façade and antique sink add to its timeless ambience, and was a favorite of Madrid’s first democratically elected mayor, Enrique Tierno Galván, who dropped by almost daily to snack on meatballs and croquettes.
  • When Manuel Alfaro arrived in the capital from Soria in 1918, little did he know his winery would one day become an icon of authentic Madrid. Though his business expanded until he owned three bars, the ‘bodega’ at 10, Calle Ave María, reflects his original vision. With its barrels of red vermouth and zinc bar top, this Lavapiés tavern still conserves the red doors that were traditionally a sign of fine wine served within. Foodwise, it is said the best Cantabrian anchovies in the capital used to be served here and its marinated anchovies are currently among the Top Ten aperitifs in Madrid.
    7Bodegas Alfaro When Manuel Alfaro arrived in the capital from Soria in 1918, little did he know his winery would one day become an icon of authentic Madrid. Though his business expanded until he owned three bars, the ‘bodega’ at 10, Calle Ave María, reflects his original vision. With its barrels of red vermouth and zinc bar top, this Lavapiés tavern still conserves the red doors that were traditionally a sign of fine wine served within. Foodwise, it is said the best Cantabrian anchovies in the capital used to be served here and its marinated anchovies are currently among the Top Ten aperitifs in Madrid.
  • Among the appetizers at number 3, Calle de Latoneros, are Los Soldaditos de Pavía – battered cod bites typical of popular fare in Madrid. Opened in 1966 by Santiago Revuelta, an entrepreneur from Valladolid, the tiled walls, wooden beams and seasoned waiters are a throwback to the 1970s, while its bacon rashers and squid in its own ink served with glasses of barreled red vermouth attract a large crowd from the Rastro flea-market on Sundays.
    8Casa Revuelta Among the appetizers at number 3, Calle de Latoneros, are Los Soldaditos de Pavía – battered cod bites typical of popular fare in Madrid. Opened in 1966 by Santiago Revuelta, an entrepreneur from Valladolid, the tiled walls, wooden beams and seasoned waiters are a throwback to the 1970s, while its bacon rashers and squid in its own ink served with glasses of barreled red vermouth attract a large crowd from the Rastro flea-market on Sundays.
  • Who would have thought that this churrería fritters bar from the 1940s would have turned into a hip hangout for actors? Once a purveyor of the traditional Madrileño breakfast, it morphed in 2011 into the place to go for coffees, drinks and snacks if you’re into a background of indie music. Located at 15, Calle de Santa Isabel, it has hardly changed since the 1950s and its Formica tables and chairs, odd paintings of hunters, red fake leather armchairs and marble floors mean it has been used as a set in TV series such as 'El Ministerio del Tiempo'.
    9Bar Benteveo Who would have thought that this churrería fritters bar from the 1940s would have turned into a hip hangout for actors? Once a purveyor of the traditional Madrileño breakfast, it morphed in 2011 into the place to go for coffees, drinks and snacks if you’re into a background of indie music. Located at 15, Calle de Santa Isabel, it has hardly changed since the 1950s and its Formica tables and chairs, odd paintings of hunters, red fake leather armchairs and marble floors mean it has been used as a set in TV series such as 'El Ministerio del Tiempo'.
  • This establishment was known for years as Pepe el guarro – Pepe the pig – not because its owners were unhygienic but because its customers tended to toss on the floor all the bones from the fried chicken wings that they ordered. Located at 19, Calle de Celanova, it's nothing short of El Barrio del Pilar’s only tourist attraction, with waiters who ring a bell every time they receive a tip and a collection of stuffed toys behind the bar. The food is hearty: spicy potatoes, grilled pigs ears and, of course, fried chicken wings.
    10This establishment was known for years as Pepe el guarro – Pepe the pig – not because its owners were unhygienic but because its customers tended to toss on the floor all the bones from the fried chicken wings that they ordered. Located at 19, Calle de Celanova, it's nothing short of El Barrio del Pilar’s only tourist attraction, with waiters who ring a bell every time they receive a tip and a collection of stuffed toys behind the bar. The food is hearty: spicy potatoes, grilled pigs ears and, of course, fried chicken wings.
  • Off the beaten vermouth and tapas trail, the Richelieu can be found on Paseo de Eduardo Dato, 11, and for decades it has been favored by a bullfighting crowd and stars from the Spanish-speaking movie industry. Opened in 1969, it conserves the air of a private club, and gained fame when actress and singer Sara Montiel chose it for her daily aperitif. A big portrait of Cardinal Richelieu dominates the bar, and pink neon lights outside indicate that first-rate cocktails can be ordered within.
    11Richelieu Off the beaten vermouth and tapas trail, the Richelieu can be found on Paseo de Eduardo Dato, 11, and for decades it has been favored by a bullfighting crowd and stars from the Spanish-speaking movie industry. Opened in 1969, it conserves the air of a private club, and gained fame when actress and singer Sara Montiel chose it for her daily aperitif. A big portrait of Cardinal Richelieu dominates the bar, and pink neon lights outside indicate that first-rate cocktails can be ordered within.
  • During a visit to Madrid in 2000, U2 used this Malasaña bar for a promotional photo session. During the shoot, bass player Adam Clayton bought a round of croquettes for his band mates, and ever since it has been known as U2’s croquette bar. Opened in 1921 at 37, Calle de la Madera, the night watchmen during the 1940s used to come here for vermouth on tap in the early hours of the morning.
    12Casa Julio During a visit to Madrid in 2000, U2 used this Malasaña bar for a promotional photo session. During the shoot, bass player Adam Clayton bought a round of croquettes for his band mates, and ever since it has been known as U2’s croquette bar. Opened in 1921 at 37, Calle de la Madera, the night watchmen during the 1940s used to come here for vermouth on tap in the early hours of the morning.
  • Opened in 1979, this bar was transformed from a carpenter’s workshop and has managed to capture the essence of what makes Madrid bars great – well-pulled cañas and an intellectual touch. A popular haunt with the literary set, thinker and essayist Agustín García Calvo gave talks here (29, Calle San Vicente Ferrer) for years while other clients included Francisco Umbral, Carmen Martín Gaite and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio. It was also a favorite with Tomás de Antequera, a balladeer to rival Concha Piquer who became famous with the song El Romance de la Reina Mercedes.
    13Café Manuela Opened in 1979, this bar was transformed from a carpenter’s workshop and has managed to capture the essence of what makes Madrid bars great – well-pulled cañas and an intellectual touch. A popular haunt with the literary set, thinker and essayist Agustín García Calvo gave talks here (29, Calle San Vicente Ferrer) for years while other clients included Francisco Umbral, Carmen Martín Gaite and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio. It was also a favorite with Tomás de Antequera, a balladeer to rival Concha Piquer who became famous with the song El Romance de la Reina Mercedes.
  • There’s still the odd portrait of Napoleon on the walls of this tavern as it is named after the Frenchman’s brother José I Bonaparte –affectionately known as Pepe Botella because of his love of wine. Opened in the middle of the 20th century at 12, Calle de San Andrés, it is popular with the film and literary crowd. Mateo Gil chose it for a few scenes of his movie, Nadie Conoce a Nadie, and, during the 1990s, Alejandro Amenábar could be found here, along with other talented directors of his generation. It still has plenty of culture as well as offering scandalously good fries with sweet peppers, excellent coffee and a prize view of the comings and goings in Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
    14Café Pepe Botella There’s still the odd portrait of Napoleon on the walls of this tavern as it is named after the Frenchman’s brother José I Bonaparte –affectionately known as Pepe Botella because of his love of wine. Opened in the middle of the 20th century at 12, Calle de San Andrés, it is popular with the film and literary crowd. Mateo Gil chose it for a few scenes of his movie, Nadie Conoce a Nadie, and, during the 1990s, Alejandro Amenábar could be found here, along with other talented directors of his generation. It still has plenty of culture as well as offering scandalously good fries with sweet peppers, excellent coffee and a prize view of the comings and goings in Plaza del Dos de Mayo.
  • The past 10 years have seen a rash of tapas franchises in Madrid but the forefather of these was El Maño at 64, Calle de la Palma, a business which grew to have nine bars around the city. The chain was the brainchild of a couple of businessmen from Aragon, Francisco Martínez and Antonio Pérez who came up with a successful formula based on cask liqueurs that they brought by the truckload from their home territory at the beginning of last century. Now there’s only one bar left which has taken its place in the collection, The Bar, Stories and Mysteries of Madrid's Mythical Bars (Lenwerg).
    15Bodegas El Maño The past 10 years have seen a rash of tapas franchises in Madrid but the forefather of these was El Maño at 64, Calle de la Palma, a business which grew to have nine bars around the city. The chain was the brainchild of a couple of businessmen from Aragon, Francisco Martínez and Antonio Pérez who came up with a successful formula based on cask liqueurs that they brought by the truckload from their home territory at the beginning of last century. Now there’s only one bar left which has taken its place in the collection, The Bar, Stories and Mysteries of Madrid's Mythical Bars (Lenwerg).