Many cities in Spain have Whiskerias, nominally "whiskey houses." But if you watch closely, you will notice many men (and few women) going in and out of them. Whiskey is not all they're after.
Similarly, when driving between cities in Spain, you are likely to see a number of bright neon signs proclaiming simply "club." But in these clubs, whether in Madrid or elsewhere, the clientele is more likely to be older truck drivers than partying youth on a night out. Is this the place to stop for a quick dance and drink when on the long haul from Madrid to Barcelona? Not if a dance floor is all you're looking for.
It's an easy mistake for tourists to make. You pop into what you assume is a whiskey house for a drink. It seems logical. After all, a cafetería sells coffee (café), a cervecería sells beer (cerveza), and a panadería sells bread (pan), so it seems safe to assume that a whiskería sells whiskey.
But if you make it through the door and poke your head inside, you probably won't see anyone drinking whiskey in there. Instead, you're likely to see a group of women, waiting expectantly for their next client.
A whiskeria is a brothel or puticlub in Spanish. This is where prostitutas (or putas in Spanish slang) can do their business without being hassled by the police.
Legality of Prostitution in Spain
Prostitution is not exactly illegal in Spain, but it's not regulated either. The topic is not addressed in the country's criminal code, so it exists in a sort of legal vacuum. This means it's also not highly regulated, like in the Netherlands.
However, pimping is illegal. So is street prostitution. Interestingly, brothels, as explicitly labeled, are illegal in Spain and have been since 1956. That's why they call themselves whiskerias and clubs instead. This is a sort of legal loophole in the system.
What You're Likely to See Inside a Spanish Brothel
Inside a brothel, you will likely see a bartender and probably not overt drug use. There's not necessarily a burly doorman. In fact, a brothel can feel pretty relaxed, straightforward, and not intimidating.
The Difference Between a Whiskeria and a Club
The out-of-town version of the whiskeria is the club. These specifically target the long-haul truck drivers who may get a bit lonely on the road. Some inner-city brothels are also called clubs, too, but don't assume that every club in a city is a brothel.
If you're looking for a fun night out and don't want to risk accidentally ending up in a brothel, head to some of the most popular clubs in Madrid. Some popular clubs include Ocho y Medio, Pacha, and Moma 56. Another popular nightclub in Spain (the going-for-a-boogie discotheque variety) is Nitsa Club in Barcelona. This is a standard nightclub, with music, drinking, and dancing. No legal prostitutes. Common sense should tell you if the club in question is what you are looking for or not. Usually, if it just says "club," you'll probably want to stay away unless you're seeking a brothel experience.