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A Summary of the Nightlife in Madrid

Madrid streetMadrid at nightPuerta de Sol at night

Let's see what possibilities Madrid has to offer us in terms of nightlife for those of our readers who would prefer to investigate by themselves. If you would prefer to discover all the possibilities Madrid has to offer in a secure and safe manner, avoiding all queues and entrance problems, check out our Madrid Nightlife Guided Tours.

First we can divide entertainment establishments into several categories and further down the page you can read all about the more popular areas of Madrid for going out.

CAFETERIAS: It's almost impossible to be on a street in Madrid and not see a cafeteria or bar in front of your nose. It's been said that just the city of Madrid has more such establishments than the entire country of Norway, and personally I think it could be true. Cafeterias are basically bars but always offer the possibility to order sandwiches, canapés, tapas and "raciones" (larger dishes). They are usually brightly lit and very popular for "meriendas", a mid-evening snack the Spanish will often take to keep them going until their late dinners. They are also likely to be full mid-morning, serving coffee or orange juice with croissants, toast or churros. Opening hours will vary a lot, but they will generally stay open until midnight.

BARS: Similar to cafeterias - perhaps the only difference being that some bars won't serve food, though this is very unusual. They are usually good places for a few light beers or wines, together with some free "tapas" where possible. Many will have their own tapas speciality. Again, opening hours will vary with each bar, but only more local bars in residential neighbourhoods will close before midnight.

PUBS: will open until around 2 or 3 in the morning, serving beer, wine, "copas" and often cocktails. Occasionally some things to eat, but this would be the exception rather than the rule. A "copa" is a mixed-drink, served with ice and usually in a long glass, though not always. Be prepared for a very large dash of alcohol in comparison with custom in some other countries. Typical copas are Gin & Tonic (pronounced "gin-tonic", the same as in English but without the "and"), whisky and coke, rum and lemon, vodka and orange etc. Pubs are generally more intimate places, with darker lighting, background or sometimes live music and comfortable seating. Madrid also has a growing number of Irish pubs.

TERRAZAS: Although the term could quite rightly be applied to any café-terrace, in this case we are referring to a more "up-market" phenomenon of the summer months in Madrid. As soon as the sun heats up the city enough to be out in shirt-sleeves at night, many open-air terraces suddenly sprout up around the Paseo de Castellana and Parque del Oeste areas. They are an alternative to the pubs and usually serve a more "yuppie" crowd with beers, wines and "copas" until the early hours. Loud music often accompanies the revellers.

DISCO-PUBS: basically a pub with a small dance floor. Will often stay open until 6 or 7 in the morning, serving beers and "copas", although recent licensing laws oblige many to close at around 3.30am. There is no entrance charge.

DISCOTECAS: discotheques, obviously, charging an entrance fee and often difficult to get in if you don't look cool or trendy enough. A dress code exists at many discos, although it is perhaps wisest to ask somebody who's been there before getting out the top-hat and tails. Certainly men will often wear a shirt and even suits. Women will usually wear lighter clothing. The best or at least most famous discos are probably Joy Eslava and Palacio Gaviria on Arenal street, Empire in the Paseo de Recoletos, Kapital in Calle Atocha (7 floors and 3 different musical environments) and Pachá in Barceló street. The Palacio Gaviria has special nights for foreigners (usually Thursday, but ask first), where all nationalities come together to practice their Spanish and strut their stuff. Many gay discos and pubs can be found in the Chueca area of Madrid. Reduced admission or free drinks are available at many of Madrid's nightclubs with the Madrid Card.

DISCOTECAS LIGHT: for 14 to 18 year olds, with opening hours of approximately 7pm until 10pm.

AFTER-HOURS: After-hours are discotheques that open at around 6am in the morning and go on until around mid-day.

TABLAOS: Simply put, tablaos are flamenco bars or restaurants. They are often small establishments with a few tables and a small stage. Some will serve dinner before or during the show, and others will simply provide drinks. Possibly the best flamenco show in Madrid can be seen at the Corral de la Moreria restaurant. Read our page about flamenco for the addresses of some other flamenco establishments.

Madrid does, of course, offer many other possibilities in terms of nightlife. There are theatres and cinemas in abundance, not to mention the incredible number and variety of restaurants, offering Spanish cuisine, international cuisine, French cuisine, Italian cuisine, Mediterranean food, all types of Asian and vegetarian food, or special restaurants with opera singers or actors performing while you eat ... even so-called "erotic" restaurants with imaginatively shaped bread rolls and deserts. During the Carnival, an important fancy-dress party is held at the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

Lastly we can also identify several areas of Madrid with an abundance of establishments and venues for a night out. While these areas are perhaps the most famous or popular, the list certainly doesn't include all areas - almost every neighbourhood has some possibility for an evening's entertainment.

ALONSO MARTINEZ: the area around the Plaza de Santa Bárbara, the Glorieta de Bilbao and Alonso Martínez is occupied by a large number of tapas bars, pubs and restaurants.

ARGUELLES/MONCLOA: As you would expect from a University area, these districts are frequented by students and a younger crowd and contain mostly bars and pubs.

CASTELLANA: the slightly more up-market area around the Paseo de Castellana, Paseo de Recoletos and the Paseo del Prado includes quality restaurants, "terrazas" (see above) during the summer months and several popular night spots.

CAVA BAJA: within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor, this street and the ones nearby include some traditional Castilian restaurants such as Casa Lucio and Botin, many new, modern wine bars and several tapas establishments. The area is very popular on Sunday mornings before lunch.

HUERTAS: more popular at night, with several pubs and disco-pubs (see above) open until the early hours much to the chagrin of local residents. Many cafeterias, wine-bars and restaurants make this lively area a possibility for all ages and will cater for all tastes.

MALASAÑA: this is the name given to the streets surrounding the Plaza de Dos de Mayo, home to a myriad of bars, cafeterias, pubs and restaurants. Many establishments have live music and in the summer months the cafés bring tables and chairs outside to form terraces, especially in the Plaza, where you will also be able to purchase some interesting "products" from the local dealers. Mostly a young crowd and perhaps not the best choice for more "mature" night-dwellers.

PLAZA MAYOR: although the many cafeterias and restaurants located within the Plaza Mayor itself can be a tourist trap and little expensive, it's still worth enjoying the occasional drink here if you can sit outside at one of the terraces on a nice day, enjoying the street theatre in the Plaza or simply people watching before moving on. In the area immediately surrounding the square there are many pubs, restaurants, and tapas bars for every taste and budget.

SANTA ANA: the Plaza de Santa Ana and surroundings include many tapas bars, "cervecerías" (although the name may suggest only beer is served, wines and spirits are also available), restaurants and pubs and is a lively area at night and especially just before lunch on weekends.

If you would prefer to discover all the possibilities Madrid has to offer in a secure and safe manner, avoiding all queues and entrance problems, check out our Madrid Nightlife Guided Tours



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