Madrid is the type of city for those who like a nightlife that only starts once Cinderella's carriage turns back into a pumpkin and may only end around the same time grandma is sipping her morning tea. During the day, Madrid plays the part of cultural capital well, but once night falls, there is enough nightlife variety to rival any city in Europe. From Goth bars to jazz cafes to glamorous superclubs to rock venues to cheap and lively pubs and much more, you'll need the an insider's view to find where you fit in. That's where we come in, you say? Wow, that's pressure. Let's see what we can do for you.
With all this talk of late nights, it's not to say that there isn't a vibrant atmosphere to be found where a few daylight drinks are the norm; look no further than the ubiquitous tapas bar for this. There are plenty in Centro, between Calle Mayor and Calle de Atocha, just west of Paseo de Prado and southeast of the Puerta del Sol. This area is actually a great place to hang out as dusk falls too, for there are plenty of bars, pubs, and music venues in the neighborhood that appeal to the 20-something crowd. For tapas, Taberna La Alhambra, Casa Alberto, and Museo del Jamón (where the ham literally hangs from the ceiling) have deserved reputations. Another concentration of tapas bars lies in the oldest part of Madrid, La Latina. This place is pedestrian madness on the weekends and is usually packed full with outdoor seating. Try Taberna Txakolina, Juana la Loca, or the great views of El Viajero. Finally, if you're looking for tapas institutions, head to Calle de las Infantas just a street north of Gran Via, where El Tigre is boss; for an equally crowded and equally fun experience, the nearby Mercado de la Reina is also a must.
Once your tapas crawl is complete, you may want to stop at a bar or lounge to relax a bit before the late night out. Spread throughout the city are numerous places where the football match may be the center of attention (El Rincón de Fogg in Retiro, Dubliners near the Puerta del Sol), but if you want an alternative area to kick back, then the Malasaña district is your style. The nightlife here is without pretense and a range of places are allowed to thrive; the best of the bunch (and there are a ton of spots) include chill bars like El Penta, Bodega La Ardosa, and the throwback 60's vibes of Angie Bar. For a more high-end vibe, La Latina is known for its attractive streets and the concentration of nightlife on and around Calle de la Cava Baja. Younger crowds frequent Calle de las Huertas and the surrounding streets, while the trendier “see-and-be-seen” types can be found around the Salamanca district.
Although dispersed around the previously mentioned neighborhoods of Madrid, there are a few huge clubs that deserve mention in their own right. The Palacio de Gaviria near the Puerto del Sol is chic and cool to wander through; Kapital on Calle de Atocha is seven futuristic floors of dance; Joy Eslava (just north of Plaza Mayor) is the king of live indie and dance; and Gabana 1800 in Salamanca is flashy, huge, and expensive. Then again, live bands may be the key to get you grooving. Cafe Central on the Plaza de Angel is the premiere place for live jazz and is actually aided by the intimate atmosphere. Sala Caracol delivers the hard rock and metal goods just south of city center, while Sala la Riviera just south of the Campo del Moro Gardens does the indie and alternative scene justice.
Last on the nightlife agenda is the most culturally intertwined of Madrid's nightlife activities: flamenco. Nowadays, it's more of an event that caters to tourists, with scheduled shows that usually include dinner, but there is still enough history and excitement that occurs in local tablaos to allow you to stop pondering ideas of authenticity and just enjoy. Corral de la Moreria may be the most famous, although Tablao Villa Rosa and Casa Patas are fantastic alternatives. A reminder that these shows don't usually occur until quite late (between 9 and 12), when the Spanish actually start settling in to eat.
As is quite obvious by now, there is a lot to offer the nightlife-loving traveler in Madrid. For further information on many of the establishments mentioned herein, take a look through our activity pages or contact the embark community for more trip ideas and planning options.