Madrid is one of the few places in the world that literally parties all night long. With several major clubs, hundreds of bars, and a passionate and social culture, it’s perfectly normal (and a common thing to do while studying abroad) to end your night on the town at the same time people are making the morning commute to work.
The Drinking Culture in Madrid
Before adapting to the drinking and partying schedule in Madrid, one must adapt to the eating schedule. A simple breakfast is eaten between 8 am-10 am, second breakfast around 11 am, large lunch between 2 pm-4 pm, and then dinner anywhere around 10 pm. It’s common to have a small glass of beer or wine with daytime meals, while very strong mixed drinks are reserved for later in the night where mixers are served on the side.
Drinking is very social in Madrid, and it is common to greet friends with a double cheek kiss when you meet up and depart. Also, the concept of personal space is significantly smaller than in the US, so don’t be offended at being absorbed into a large crowd at bars and clubs. At most clubs, the entrance fee includes “free” drinks, so keep that in mind during your pregame.
*Madrid drinking tip– Pace yourself. Spaniards party literally all night so make sure to eat enough for dinner, drink plenty of water in between, and know your limits. It’s tempting to want to take full advantage of one euro shots, but try to space out your drinks and you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
The best bars in Madrid for study abroad students
“Whoops, sorry I missed your call- I was busy stuffing my face with this HUGE plate of FREE FOOD at El Tigre” is what I ended up telling someone at least once a week when I was abroad. If you order a drink at El Tigre, it will be bigger than you expect, and you will get a free plate of tapas. None of this small-plate-of-olives-or-chips nonsense, the plates of food at El Tigre include an array of the best croquetas in Madrid (in my opinion), patatas bravas, jamón tostados, Spanish tortilla and several other delicious homemade tapas. El Tigre is nothing fancy (toss your used napkins on the ground and stand around counters while you eat) but if you’re looking for some place that’s cheap with great atmosphere and brimming with locals- look no further. There are three El Tigre locations within a block and a half of each other, so feel free to try them all. Drinks range from 3-10 euros and the mojitos are HUGE. Ask for a baseball cap from the bartender for a unique *also free* souvenir.
Check out our guide to eating in Madrid for more nosh options.
La Vía Láctea
If you’re looking to escape the house music scene common in many bars and clubs, check out La Vía Láctea, “The Milky Way,” for a bit of rock n’ roll. There are two floors, several bars, pool tables, places to sit, and space to dance. The eclectic mix of indie, rock, punk, and garage music keeps people coming back for more, and always hearing something new.
Ice Bar Madrid
For an out-of-the-box experience in Madrid, check out the Ice Bar. Patrons wear a large, heavy winter coat to protect them from the freezing temperatures, and enjoy cocktails in frozen glasses at a frozen bar. The atmosphere includes ice sculptures, ice thrones, and ice walls. Cool!
This bar is commonly referred as “Cave Bar” and you will soon see why. A Madrid and American student favorite due to the close proximity to several Madrid universities, this bar is loaded with faux cave interior complete with stalagmites and stalactites coming from the ceiling and floor. Chapandaz features Leche de Pantera, a unique “milky” drink mixed with several different types of alcohol that comes from the ceiling, so order one to share with friends if you’re feeling up to the challenge. Also, remember to stop by Chapandaz on your birthday for a free bottle of champagne!
Located directly side by side and owned by the same person, these matching Irish pubs are the perfect places to catch up on American sports, practice your English, or save some money on great drink deals. O’Connell St. features one euro shots on Wednesday nights, making it the ideal pregame spot for Gabana, just one Metro stop away. The dark wood interior and casual Irish pub feel are welcoming to any homesick traveler, and there are always people in Sol handing out discount cards, so Dubliners/O’Connell St. is a win-win.
Where to go clubbing in Madrid
If you’ve never truly lived the phrase “party all night long,” you will once you go to Kapital. With seven different floors each offering unique music and atmosphere, you’ll never think of a “nightclub” the same way again. Kapital entices the young, wild, and free of not only Madrid, but also all major cities across the world in a paradise of dancing, alcohol, and attractive men and women. Make your experience at Kapital unique by visiting your favorite floors (mine is the Bacardi Mojito Lounge) or alternating between the lower level techno raves to the upper level, open-roof terrace and everything in between. Looking for an authentic Spanish experience while in Madrid? Hit up “The Party Zone” on level five. Want to see your friends “sing” karaoke at 4 am? Head down to level two. With so many flavors how could you possibly pick just one? Like most Spanish clubs, the party doesn’t pick up until around 1am at the earliest, but I promise you, you’ll have no trouble staying out until the Metro reopens at 6 am like true Madrileños. No other club I’ve been to in Europe comes close to Kapital, so if you have only one night in Madrid, there’s no way you should be getting any sleep.
Joy gets an A+ for atmosphere, as it is a 1950’s theater converted into a bumping nightclub. As one of the top-rated nightclubs in Europe, Joy is a melting-pot of cultures, languages, and people with two floors, several bars, and cushy VIP sections. There are usually advertised promotions about a discount card or bracelet to skip the line on certain nights, so you should definitely take advantage of that. At a certain time of night the stage area and VIP section are filled with acrobatic dancers that is as much of an experience as the club itself. Joy is always blasting all the top international hits, so be prepared to dance all night long. (Note: Papizza is located just down the street, perfect late night food.)
While it’s a rumor that Cristiano Ronaldo parties here on weekends, this club has no cover charge on Wednesdays, making it the perfect mid-week party location for the young and beautiful. Dress nicely and treat the bouncers with respect at Gabana, and they will let you into one of Madrid’s most elite clubs for an unforgettable night. The club is one room and relatively small, giving it an intimate and exclusive feel. Drinks are outrageously expensive, so take advantage of the one euro shots at O’Connell St. in Sol before ending your night at Gabana. Perhaps the best part of the night in this swanky place is between 1 am and 3 am, when a young attractive violinist takes over the DJ booth and plays Avicii and Jennifer Lopez songs so well it will make your jaw drop. As an added bonus, Gabana is a 5-10 minute walk from Ciebeles, so it’s easy to catch a night bus home if you can’t make it until 6 am.
This converted aircraft hangar has been the site of several mass raves since its opening in 2003. Located on the outskirts of Madrid, Fabrik is considered a “The World’s Clubbing Mecca” and compared the famous Spanish clubs on the party island Ibiza. With four main dance areas in two separate sections and an outdoor terrace, there’s no way you’ll ever get bored at Fabrik.
Overall, you really can’t go wrong with bars and clubs in Madrid. Because Madrid is a city of neighborhoods, it’s popular to do a neighborhood bar crawl with friends and meet new people along the way. Spaniards are extremely social, so bars and clubs are a great place to practice the language and get an intimate look at the electric Spanish culture.
What other party spots in Madrid do you recommend? Let us know in the comments.
Photo sources: Guillermo via Flickr, Chapandaz, Jexweber.fotos via Flickr, hoteldephil via Flickr
A post on Madrid is incomplete without mentioning Real Madrid FC. Planning to visit the city in May and will definitely try out Gabana as I am b big fan of Ronaldo.
How could we forget? 🙂