Lhardy is thought to be Spain’s oldest cafe-restaurant, having opened its doors in 1839. Anecdotes abound about its role in the many espionages and scandals of contemporary high society; for many decades Lhardy’s French-influenced cuisine was synonymous with unattainable luxury and aristocratic high living, and indeed the restaurant first introduced a telephone system for reservations in 1889, when the nation had less than 49 telephones installed. Today, it has left this elitist heritage behind it, and operates as a joint cafe-restaurant and boutique for unique Spanish foods and supplies.
Address: Carrera de S. Jerónimo, 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain, + 34 915 213 385
The Café de Chinitas is, first and foremost, about flamenco. Indeed, it is one of Madrid’s best-known haunts to witness this most evocative and idiosyncratic of Spanish traditions, strongly associated with the the large and often persecuted Romani community of Andalucía in the south of the country. Attendees can pick from a wide range of tapas snacks, or from heavier favorites like paella and tortillas, all while indulging in the local wines and passing a riveting evening watching skilled flamenco dancers and musicians.
Address: Calle Torija, 7, 28013 Madrid, Spain, +34 915 47 15 02
Rustika is a highly unconventional eatery situated in Calle Minas near the city center. The first obvious point of divergence with traditional Spanish cafes is the bright and whimsical decoration, which veers from the mystically-inspired to the almost psychedelic; taking a look at the menu, visitors will find a range of snacks and meals drawn from a wide variety of European, African and Oriental cuisines. A little off the beaten path, Rustika is an intriguing little corner.
Address: Calle del Limón, 11, 28015 Madrid, Spain,+34 915 42 15 67
The Café de Oriente is a vision of elegance and sophistication in the ornate Habsburg-era district of Central Madrid. Facing the Spanish Royal Palace across the grand Plaza de Oriente, this is a luxurious establishment which fully lives up to its profoundly privileged location. A gourmet experience, the cafe is as popular with local business and social parties as it is with the steady stream of tourists coming to rest and enjoy some tapas after a visit to the Palace.
Address: Plaza de Oriente, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain, +34 915 41 39 74
The Café Central is an institution in Madrid live music. Regarding the staging of musical performances as a core part of its own identity and purpose, the Café gives performers a full week of performance time, ensuring that customers will be able to arrange a visit at a time of their own convenience. Also serving a range of typical Mediterranean options such as salads, tostas and platters of Spanish cheeses, there’s little not to like about this much-loved pillar of the capital’s live music performance circuit.
Address: Plaza del Ángel, 10, 28012 Madrid, Spain, +34 913 69 41 43
Café Comercial is reputedly Madrid’s oldest coffee shop, having been licensed in 1887. The current managers are the Contreras family, who first acquired the establishment in 1909, and who maintain a proud list of the various notables and intellectuals in Spanish public life who have patronized the cafe down the years (the list includes such modern figures as world-famous director Pedro Almodóvar, alongside many of Spain’s finest poets and writers). Still a lively and welcoming environment, Café Comercial is the perfect place to soak up the local history and the finest Spanish coffee.
Address: Glorieta de Bilbao, 7, 28004 Madrid, Spain, +34 915 21 56 55
The so-called “Secret Garden” may be the worst-kept secret in Madrid, as the frequent queues on the street outside attest. Attracting all manner of visitors, El Jardín Secreto is one of Madrid’s most refreshingly distinctive cafeterias, accommodating all comers in a zany and eclectic environment which draws inspiration from some of its wackier Northern European and American counterparts. The Jardín particularly prides itself on its trademark cakes and pastries, which are a great shout for weary travelers wanting to sit a while and indulge a sweet tooth.
Address: Calle Conde Duque, 2, 28015 Madrid, Spain, +34 915 41 80 23