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What I love the most about Madrid is its bar scene. If you have ever been in Madrid and Barcelona you will agree with me that their main difference is that Barcelona is a party city and Madrid a bar city.
I realised walking in the streets of Madrid that you will never walk for more that 3 minutes without finding a bar. Madrileños just love to enjoy a good drink with a tapa, at any time of the day, any day of the week. That’s probably why there’s bars everywhere, so it doesn’t matter where you are you will always find a nice small cozy bar when you feel is time for a caña (small draft beer), a sangría (cold red wine) or cava (spanish sparkling wine).
If you haven’t read my post about Barcelona, you have to know that a tapa is what spanish people call appetizers/snacks that you eat with a cocktail. Usually spanish people have tapas instead of dinner in the evening. You order a variety of different tapas and that counts as a meal.
I’ve just spend a month in Madrid trying different bars in different areas of the city. Mostly of them are small bars, with just a bar and a couple of tables. They don’t need more than that. Forget about the fancy modern bar with cool music and cool people. You just need some space to stand up.
Because I’m a backpacker on a low budget I manage to find the cheapest places to enjoy Madrid’s bar scene. If you like fancy bars you should try Madrid as locals do, take note about this places.
They call themselves a “low cost bar” and they surely are. Usually if you read low cost you will think about bad quality. But this is definitely not the case. It’s a chain of bars that you can find in different areas in Madrid. They have all of their montaditos (a small sandwich) for 1 euro. Plates of appetizers “raciones” cost 3 euros. My favorites are the one with goat cheese and caramelized onion and the one with chistorra (small red sausage) and cheese. And not only tapas are cheap. Drinks such as beer and wine cost also 1 euro each glass. Cocktails cost 4 euros.
The bar has a modern look, not like a typical small spanish bar but still is very nice. It’s full of young people and they play latin dance music. It can get quite crowded but don’t worry you will always find a spot.
They have 4 bars in San Alberto, Gran Vía, Chueca and La Latina. My favorite is the one in San Alberto that has 3 floors. You can visit them and tell me which one you like the most!
You can find the address for every bar in their website.
You need to know about this place is that all of it’s menu cost 1 euro on Wednesday and Sunday. ALL OF THE MENU. Isn’t that great? The best of all is that on monday everything cost 50 cents. It sounds crazy but it’s true. The food is good and they have a lot of variety from tapas to fries, chicken wings, sandwiches even salads. So you can go for a full meal of less than 5 euros.
I love their montaditos with that typical spanish ham and a big jar of tinto de verano (cold red wine with lemon soda). It’s a big chain with over 50 bars in Madrid and also in other cities in Spain. I went to the one in Gran Vía and Calle Mayor in a very central spot and with a nice terrace in the street for the sunny days.
Check all of their locations here
Museo del Jamón
First of all this is not a real museum, is a bar/restaurant. It’s also very touristic. Maybe it’s in the Lonely Planet, I really don’t know. At the beginning I didn’t wanted to go because I thought it was another overpriced place for tourists. But in my second visit to Madrid I decided to give it a chance. And I was wrong. It’s not really only for tourists since it’s full of locals during the weekend. It doesn’t really look like a typical cool bar you would go at night so it’s perfect to go during the day. You can have for 1 euro a beer or a glass of wine and the tapas with ham also for 1 euro at the bar. Sadly if you want to sit outside you have to pay more so the cheap deal is only for the bar inside. Still the place is great with this loud atmosphere so typical of spanish people. They are all over Madrid so you can find the one closer to you in their website.
Mercado de San Miguel
If you have any guide of Madrid this place will definitely appear as a must. Is not really a bar but I like it so much I needed to include it here. It’s a very famous market right next to Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square. I went one night for dinner with a friend. We bought some wine glasses and then walk around the market stopping in every food stand. Is quite hard to get a table when it’s busy, but going around the market with a glass in your hand and just having a little bit of everything is very fun.
My favorite tapas there are the seafood tapas for 1 euro. Pulpo a la gallega (octopus), bacalao, salmon or tuna. So delicious!. There’s also an olive stand that sells pinchos (small stick with olives and something else) for 1 euro. I tried the olives with salmon, olives with ham and cheese and the olives with musles. Can’t decide which one is better.
This market is the best place to get an idea of what spanish cuisine is about. Everything that typical spanish is there: olives, tapas, seafood, paella, croquetas, etc. And also very good spanish wines. Everything in the same place!