You might have heard of the Malasaña neighbourhood in Madrid for its arty, inventive nightlife, but there are trendy bars all over the capital of Spain. Chueca, Huertas and La Latina are all buzzing areas once the sun goes down, thereby proving Ernest Hemingway right in his claim that “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.” Here are some of the best trendy bars, laid-back lounges and debonair dives in Madrid.
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La Vía Láctea
One of the Malasaña originals, which opened in 1979, was always designed to have a vintage vibe to it, but, as the years pass by, it seems increasingly anachronistic without losing cool points. The drinks prices seem as rooted in the past as the extravagant poster collages and unusual 1950s sci-fi imagery that surrounds the upper level of the bar – appropriate, given that La Vía Láctea means “the Milky Way”.
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Taking hipster cool to a whole new level, factory-like Macera has bare, roughly plastered walls and a bank of nondescript bottles that’s backlit against one of those walls and kept behind chicken wire. These contain Macera’s own artisanal cocktails, which are made all the more potent by soaking the key ingredients (mostly fruit) in alcohol. Oh, and one of those bare walls is not quite so bare; if you’re in any way inclined to jump on a trend, put some lipstick on and plant a big red lippy mark on the wall alongside all the others.
Diplodocus Rock Bar
Another round of brontosaurus milk, anyone? This is a legitimate thing you can say at Diplodocus without drawing concerned looks in your general direction. If you’re a fan of dinosaurs (and who in their right mind isn’t?), then this light-hearted rock bar is the place to be. Look out for the poster of a diplodocus dressed as the Terminator – oh, and the brontosaurus milk is a drink, if you were wondering. One of the bizarre, and humongous, house cocktails. Brontosaurus milk contains rum, gin, strawberries, milk, Cointreau and triple sec.
La Fisna Vinos
Back in the normal world, La Fisna is the place to go for exquisite Spanish wines and cheeses. One of life’s infallible pairings is given a classy twist at La Fisna, where a whopping 50 wines are available to try by the glass at rather incredible prices, with many more sold by the bottle. The cheese board includes five kinds of cheese, and plenty of other tapas are available. The decor ensures that guests are surrounded by wine; each bottle is presented in its own little square, creating quite the vintner’s collage.
1862 Dry Bar
It might be located in the Malasaña neighbourhood, but there’s a definite switch of pace at 1862 Dry, a modern cocktail bar with a healthy shot of traditional charm. The upstairs bar has all the refinement of a stately home, while the cellar below, with its low lighting and vaulted ceiling, feels more like a fancy prison, where, fortunately, it’s only the hundreds of bottles of spirits that are kept behind bars. Expect classic cocktails, done well, all the way here. The dark espresso martini and the pisco punch are both strong menu entries.
Nothing makes a place trendy like a freebie; this has been the tried-and-tested method at El Doble for decades, which explains the crowds of people inside and outside this bar. The beers poured here are usually bigger than the standard caña that you’ll get elsewhere, and you’ll be given a free tapa (olives, a bit of chorizo or octopus) to go with it. That in itself is becoming increasingly rare in Spain.
Lolina Vintage Cafe
There’s a strong 1960s vibe going on at Lolina Vintage Cafe; the oval mirrors, garish lampshades and cute green stools at the bar are all complemented by warm lighting. This is the ideal place to start a night out, thanks to the cocktail and cake deals. They even have suggested pairings: who’d have thought that a mojito would go so well with carrot cake or that a lovely slice of red velvet is nothing without a stiff cosmopolitan?
Blackbird Rock Bar
If the key to being trendy is not being too try-hard, then Blackbird is certainly a cool bar. Singing well into the dead of night, you can check out live music for free on weeknights. Although it’s branded as a rock bar, the genres are much more fluid than that, often turning into jam sessions that probe the recesses of folk, blues and jazz. There’s beer on tap, and good gin and tonics are served in goblet glasses.
Conjuring up some intriguing images is the inventively named Salmón Gurú – the official logo is part salmon, part waiter. A modern cocktail bar, with equally inventive interior decor (wanton explosions of neon) and unique cocktails, Salmón Gurú is the main contender for the trendiest-bar-in-Madrid crown and has been for some time. Yes, there are classic cocktails, and you can bet they’ll be done well, but you can send the mixologists into a higher gear by telling them what kind of thing you like and seeing what bespoke blend they can rustle up for you.
There’s a definite love for the live music bar in Madrid, perhaps more than any other Spanish city, but the underground bar La Coquette is in a league of its own for intimate gig venues. In what feels more like a cellar with vaulted ceilings, blues acts take to the little stage. Alternatively, music is played over the phonograph, drawing from the owner’s vast collection of LPs. The drink of choice is beer, and it’ll come with a bowl of sunflower seeds. Genuine, old-school charm.
For more teeming nightlife, check out the best bars and nightclubs in Madrid. For some activities to enjoy during the day, be sure to check out the best experiences in the city, alongside how to make the most of Madrid in the summer. Also, our guide will tell you the best places to stay, including the most luxurious hotels in Madrid, which are all bookable with Culture Trip.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally written by Jessica Jones.
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