In the words of Ernest Hemingway: "Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night." The statement still rings true nearly an entire century later. Today, Spain's capital city has one of the highest concentration of bars per capita in the world and at the heart of its hip nightlife scene is Malasaña.
Malasaña, the area to the north of Gran Via, is youthful, trendy, and forward-thinking. It's been called the "Williamsburg of Madrid" because of its devastatingly cool hipster vibe. By day, every local in the barrio is in their favorite coffeehouse sipping espresso. Come midnight, though, they'll be flooding into the boisterous tapas bars and taverns.
The nightlife in Malasaña could be described as quirky, unconventional, and downright cutting edge. It's certainly worth a side trip if you're visiting Madrid (and do yourself a favor by coming on a weekend). Most nightspots in the area can be easily accessed from the Tribunal metro stop.
Madrid's drinking culture and foodie culture are intertwined. You'll find the locals having pre-clubbing drinks inside tapas bars (because, yes, Spanish people eat tapas at 11 p.m.), but be warned: They can become mega crowded.
- La Vía Láctea: Walls and ceilings covered with pop culture memorabilia and '60s jams playing on the speakers is what you'll find at La Vía Láctea which is, indeed, Spanish for "the milky way." Its two floors are perpetually busy, but most of the dancing takes place downstairs. On quieter nights, revelers make use of the pool table. This bar is open until 3:30 a.m. on weekends.
- El Rincón: El Rincón's terrace is one of Malsañas most happening places. On any given day, in any given weather, you'll find a crowd of people outside this neighborhood hangout (which is literally on a corner, for a charming effect), sipping beers and savoring their pesto gnocchi. Inside, the interior is simple: checkered floors, black and white photos, and a few mismatched tables.
- Madklyn: Madklyn is the place usually playing the loudest music near Plaza Dos de Mayo. Rock and punk are the genres of choice. If you're not into dancing, you can nurse your mojito over a pinball table instead.
- La Mezcaleria: Before Le Mezcaleria was a mega franchise (now all over Europe and Mexico), it was a humble Malasaña haunt. If you haven't downed your obligatory shot of mezcal—a spirit derived from agave, like tequila—then this place should be your first stop.
- Tupperware: Malasaña doesn't have much in the way of dance clubs, but Tupperware—technically categorized as a lounge, but one with DJs, a dance floor, and spotlights—is about as close as they come. This place is as funky on the inside as its patchwork facade suggests. Think "Star Wars" action figures, Sex Pistols lunch boxes, and "Godzilla" memorabilia adorning the wall behind the bar. Downstairs can get chaotic, but the upstairs area is typically more relaxed.
Nearly every eatery could be considered "late-night" in Malasaña, seeing as the locals' normal dinnertime is close to midnight. Many restaurants don't even open until 8 p.m. In any case, there are a few standouts that are perfect for the post-bar munchies.
- Lady Pepa: The wee hours of the morning are perhaps the best—or the only—time to go to this cult classic Italian restaurant, seeing as it's the first time of the night you'll actually be able to get in. At around 2:30 a.m., you can finally devour a plate spaghetti bolognese or have a whole pizza to yourself.
- Bocadillos Oink: If it's a quick sandwich you're after (one made with the crunchiest baguette bread, at that), this 24-hour eatery is clutch. It's also extremely cheap (about €2 for a sub).
- Café de la Luz: Wind down after a few beers with a cup of coffee (or more beers) and some breakfast food at this cozy, vintage-style cafe, open until 2:30 a.m. on weekends. And don't be surprised if you want to come back in the morning.
Tips for Going Out in Malasaña
- The locals go out late. The peak time for a tapas place, for instance, is 10 or 11 p.m. Bars remain empty until after midnight and people typically stay out past 3 a.m. Many clubs in Madrid don't even close until 6 or 7 a.m.
- Drinking in public is not permitted in Madrid and shops (including liquor stores and such, not bars) are required to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m., so always purchase your pregaming beverages early.
- The drinking age in Spain is 18 years old.
- Although many locals speak English, it's helpful to know the Spanish words for Spain's beer sizes to make ordering at the bar less stressful: Caña is a small (200 milliliters), a tubo is a tall, slim glass (330 milliliters), and a pinta—or jarra—is a pint.
- Tipping bartenders (or any type of servers, for that matter) is not required or expected, although there are exceptions (touristy places or super-fancy bars).
- Don't avoid a bar just because of its entry fee. Sometimes the cover includes a free drink and the ones that don't charge covers tend to have pricier drinks.
- Malasaña is a popular place—sometimes too popular for its tapas bars. Don't be offended if there's only room to stand.