In Madrid, restaurants, bars and shops over 100 years old have a special golden plaque fixed to the pavement outside, which are well worth keeping an eye out for when you’re passing, as they denote the oldest establishments in the city. We take a look at some of Madrid’s oldest restaurants.
The undisputed king of Madrid’s old establishments, Sobrino de Botín is not only Madrid’s oldest restaurant, but the oldest restaurant in the entire world, having been founded in 1725. It has the Guinness World Record certificate in its window to prove it. Specializing in roast suckling pig, Botín is the place to visit for a true slice of history and a banquet-sized meal. It was a favorite stomping ground of Ernest Hemingway, who used to write in the empty dining room on mornings, before enjoying a huge lunch with friends.
Step through the traditional old wooden-shuttered façade and into a well-preserved time capsule of a tapas bar, offering some of Madrid’s most famous tapas dishes. This traditional bullfighting tavern was opened in 1830 by legendary torero Antonio Sánchez, and today very little seems to have changed; its walls are covered in photographs of famous bullfighters and also feature some imposing bulls’ heads. Try the cocido Madrileño, Madrid’s famous stew, callos (tripe), and the torrijas, a French toast-like dessert particularly popular at Easter.
Lhardy, a dark wood-panelled slice of history just off Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, was opened in 1839 by Emilio Huguenin Lhardy, who, it is said, introduced French haute cuisine to the Spanish capital. One of Madrid’s oldest and most evocative restaurants, the décor is much the same as it would have been when Spain’s aristocracy graced its upstairs dining room. Browse the downstairs deli and choose some takeaway tapas options if your budget doesn’t stretch to a multi-course meal upstairs.
This wooden-fronted bar is thronged with locals who queue up every weekend for its melt-in-the-mouth battered cod, Casa Labra’s speciality. The tavern-cum-bar was founded in 1860 and has been serving up piping hot bacalao (cod) to generations of Madrileños ever since. Choose from a deep-fried cod bite (una tajada de bacalao) or a cod croquette (una croqueta de bacalao). Crowds spill out onto the street every lunchtime, enjoying their cod with a caña (small beer). Don’t miss what has got to be Madrid’s original street food.
This classic tapas restaurant on Madrid’s Plaza Mayor has been serving up lovingly homemade Spanish classics since it opened its doors in 1894. While many of the restaurants lining the plaza are overpriced tourist traps, Los Galayos brings a sense of occasion and class to the square and is a good place to try some of the city’s most traditional dishes, such as cocido Madrileño, a popular stew dish eaten at lunchtime.
Since 1894, Chocolatería San Ginés has been serving up delightfully thick hot chocolate alongside churros, a doughnut-like Spanish favorite that are dunked into the pudding-like chocolate for the ultimate sweet treat. San Ginés is so popular that it is open 24 hours a day, and is a popular stop off at the end of a night out. It’s common to see clubbers dunking their churros at 7 a.m., alongside businessmen on their way to work. They also serve porras, a thicker version of a churro.
This traditional Madrid tavern was founded in 1827 and is located in the heart of the Barrio de Las Letras, Madrid’s literary quarter. It is the place to go to discover the very best of Madrid’s traditional cuisine. Typical Madrid dishes that might even make an adventurous eater pause include callos (tripe), los caracoles a la Madrileña (Madrid-style snails) and las manitas de cordero (pig’s trotters). The restaurant also offers more usual tapas including albondigas (meatballs) and tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette).