Modern Traveller takes a tour of Spain’s vibrant capital, in search of the best spots for sipping sangria.
Madrid is a city that never sleeps. Honestly, not a wink: at weekends clubs stay open until 6am, at which point it’s customary to seek out some delicious churros con chocolate for breakfast.
For those weekends when you need to be awake before 4pm, though, Madrid also happens to be chock full of fantastic bars to accommodate an atmospheric evening of drinks and tapas – wherever you are in the city.
El jardín secreto
2 Calle Conde Duque | eljardinsecretomadrid.com
In the university district of Moncloa, also home to the Presidential Palace, El jardín secreto – the secret garden – hides a stunning, down-the-rabbit-hole interior that’s ideal for a confidential evening’s drinking.
Grabbing a seat isn’t always simple, what with the array of pews on offer: toadstools, an iron garden bench (with cushions, of course) and even a flower-wrapped birdcage seat populate the place, giving your derrière no dearth of choice.
The cocktails are tasty, but the extensive list of speciality teas is better – not to mention the food. There’s a plentitude of vegetarian options (which can be a struggle to source in this largely carnivorous country), whilst the complimentary tapa you’ll receive with your round of drinks is a bowl of sweets – rather than the usual crisps.
Prices are relatively high, but it’s worth it for the setting – and the chilli nachos.
El Corte Inglés Callao
20 Gran Vía | elcorteingles.eu
El corte inglés is Spain’s largest department store chain, packed to the rafters with designer brands – but the food court on the top floor of its Gran Vía store is a one-off.
Seven floors up, visitors are treated to a must-see view of Madrid’s main street, as well as half the city as it slopes away towards the Puerta del Sol.
Order a tinto de verano – a sangria-like mix of red wine and lemonade – or, for more of a kick, a G&T: Spanish bar staff measure spirit units by eye, and a generous eye at that.
Once you’ve nabbed a table by the window or on the terrace, grab a bite from the feast of food stalls: burgers, Mexican, Japanese, traditional Spanish tapas – and delicious Italian ice cream for dessert.
9 Plaza de San Ildefonso | labicicletacafe.com
Branding itself as the place to go for coffee and cycling aficionados, La Bicicleta is a café-cum-restaurant-cum-bar with cool bicycle-themed décor, found in the hipster neighbourhood of Malasaña.
Away from most tourists – but just as lively as the hotspots – Malasaña is great for a wander, for lunch, for evening drinks and, if the mood so takes you, for clubs.
Offering fantastic coffee, good breakfasts and free Wi-Fi, La Bicicleta is full of quiet faces in front of laptop screens during the day and, once the work is done and the beers are flowing, you’re perfectly placed to carry on the party.
Círculo de Bellas Artes
42 Calle de Álcala | circulobellasartes.com
On the roof of not-for-profit cultural organisation Círculo de Bellas Artes, you’ll find the cool Azotea bar – and the best 360° view of the city.
Sip an expertly-made mojito as you recline on one of the terrace beds – not as sleazy as they might sound – and contemplate the serenity of the city at sunset.
The place is open daily from morning until gone midnight, and evening queues can be long, so, if you’re pushed for time, take a visit during the day.
Entry costs €4 (€3 for students) and drinks are a little pricey – though there’s no disputing the priceless view.
Café del Rey
22 Paseo del Rey | cafedelrey.es
A 5-minute walk from Madrid’s biggest park, Casa de Campo (which even contains a theme park), Café del Rey is a sleek café-bar which opened a couple of years ago and has enjoyed great success since.
Building on booming business, last year the joint opened a “beach club” terrace on the opposite side of the quiet Paseo del Rey. Home to arguably the most attractive bar staff in all of Madrid, you’ll be in good company.
After a tiring day of walking in the heat, relax at a table in the sophisticated open-air club with a craft beer or cocktail and your mouth-watering complimentary tapa. If that isn’t enough to fill the hole, during the week you can enjoy a delicious three-course lunch for just €11.50.
Poncelet Cheese Bar
61 Calle de José Abascal | ponceletcheesebar.es
This chic bar near Madrid’s Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales will be heaven for any cheese-lover: the enticing gourmet menu offers an array of dairy delights, most of which are vegetarian-friendly – something uncommon in much of Madrid.
Every dish includes at least one type of cheese and, though the portions might seem a little on the small side, don’t be discouraged: with ingredients this rich, the sizes are just right. For anyone watching their waistline, salads are on the menu, too.
The artisan cheeses are complemented by the light, minimalist interior and – of course – a glass of great wine: just ask the wonderful staff for recommendations on the best bottle for each dish.
Prices aren’t exactly cheap, particularly for the bread, but, for such a delicious dinner and culinary skills like this, it’s worth every penny.
30 Calle de las Infantas
El tigre is the epitome of cheap and cheerful and, as such, is almost always packed with students trying to save a buck or two.
Food quality does reflect the price, but don’t let that put you off: though it’s not the place to go for a sophisticated meal, if you’re planning to make it a big night on the town El tigre is a stellar starting point.
Prepare for the evening ahead with a helping of patatas bravas and tostadas con chorizo, washed down with a few cañas (glasses of beer) that, though inexpensive, are far superior to the cheap swill often found in western Europe.
92 Calle Hortaleza | areiachillout.com
Finally, take yourself away from the city’s bustle for an hour or two in Chueca, Madrid’s vibrant gay quarter, as you lay back on Areia’s Arabian style beds, enjoying a couple of cocktails whilst absorbing the sweet tones of melodious live music. In summer they even cover the floor with sand, for added authenticity.
Both service and food are wonderful, though the milkshakes can be disappointing; we recommend you stick with the cocktails, which are reasonably priced and taste nothing short of divine.
Be careful not to have too many, though: with the laid-back atmosphere, low lighting and comfy cushioned beds, you might find yourself waking at closing time from a late-night siesta.
WORDS BY ANGHARAD CHANDLER