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Classic Madrid Cafes

Classic cafes abound in Madrid. You can literally go to a different classic cafe each day in Madrid for weeks without need to repeat your steps or to settle for a second-rate experience (trust us, we´ve done it).

The rich tradition of Madrid cafes goes back generations. Throughout Madrid´s history, intellectuals, artists, writers, thinkers and just plain posers have retreated to Madrid´s cafes to speak authoritatively -- if not necessarily knowledgeably -- about the events and intellectual issues of the day.

Coffee is, of course, a popular drink in the cafes of Madrid, including café con leche (with lots of milk, much like a latté), cortado (less milk), or negro. A popular summertime variation as the Madrid heat settles in is café blanco y negro, which includes cold black coffee and a scoop of either horchata (authentic) or vanilla (also popular) ice cream.

Madrid cafes naturally serve other beverages, such as vino tinto (red wine), cerveza (beer) and agua either with or without bubbles.

Madrid cafe food tends toward tapas and basic snacks such as slices of tortilla espanola, salads or sandwiches, but some cafes, such the Cafe de Oriente, can serve surprisingly sophisticated meals for a bargain price.

Here are some of our favorites:

Cafe Circulo de Bellas Artes
Calle Alcala 42, Madrid
Madrid Metro Stop: Banco de Espana
A soaring hall on the ground floor of Madrid´s art center combines atmosphere, excellent food and good coffee at reasonable prices. A wonderful place for lunch not far from Madrid´s shopping or museums.

Cafe Commercial
Glorieta de Bilbao 7
Madrid Metro Stop: Bilbao
The oldest continuously operating cafe in Madrid opened in the 1880´s and has been run by the same family since the earliest days of the 20th century. There´s a modern internet cafe upstairs, but the downstairs retains a full roster of traditional tertullias and classic loungers. A personal favorite.

Café Gijón
Paseo Recoletos 21
Madrid Metro Stop: Banco de España or Colon
A historic literary cafe on the Paseo. The outdoor terraza is particularly nice in the summer.

Café de Oriente
Plaza Oriente 2
Madrid Metro Stop: Opera
Faces the Palais Real, overlooking the beautiful Plaza Oriente. Outdoor tables in season, cozy indoor rooms in the cold months. The basement banquet room with a glass floor over ancient remains with make you wish for an excuse to throw a party. Excellent food.

Nuevo Café Barbieri
Calle Ave Maria 45
Madrid Metro Stop: Lavapies
Located in the heart of Madrid´s most international neighborhood, this slightly scruffy cafe draws an avante garde crowd at night.

La Mallorquina
Puerto del Sol 8, Mayor, 2
Madrid Metro Stop: Sol
Famous for its pastries, this vintage bakery has a peaceful upstairs room where you can linger undisturbed over your café con leche and napolitana de chocolate (chocolate croissant).

Café Pabellon del Espejo
Paseo de Recoletos, 31
Madrid Metro Stop: Colon
This Madrid cafe dates only from 1978, but if we hadn´t told you you would have thought it was a relic of the gilded age. Fills up for lunch starting about 1:30, so don´t plan on lingering over just a coffee for the afternoon. Good food.

Café Central
Plaza del Angel, 10
Madrid Metro Stop: Sol
Classic café by day plays host to jazz bands at night.

Chocolateria San Ginés
Madrid Metro Stop: Sol or Opera
Famous for its pudding-thick hot chocolate and its fresh from the deep fryer churros (twisted pieces of fried batter designed to sprinkle with sugar or dip into chocolate), this cafe also offers the usual assortment of coffees and teas. Best appreciated very late at night (which, in Madrid, basically coincides with sunrise) after a night of dancing or partying.



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