Madrid is a very popular destination for foreigners and has a healthy expat community that tends to congregate in places such as Bacchus Books and J & J Books and Coffee. These English bookstores feature language exchange nights and also have bars, making them popular with English speakers. However, for something a bit livelier, there are Irish pubs such as Dubliners and Finnegan’s that are also packed with native English speakers. If you want to go to a club, try Palacio Gaviria, which is located in a converted palace in the city center, for its Thursday foreign student night.
J & J Books and Coffee
C/ Espíritu Santo 47
T: 915 218 576
C/ Meléndez Valdés, 52
T: 91 544 73 78
C/ Arenal 9
T: 915 266 069
Plaza de las Salesas 9
T: 913 100 521
Calle de Espoz y Mina 7
T: 915 227 509
Expat Meetup Groups
Meetup.com features language exchange groups or the option of meeting people from your home country in a fun, informal setting. Check the site for the date and time of the next get together. CouchSurfing, a housing exchange site, is another good way to meet adventurous expats and locals. Check the site for information on their international meet ups.
For those searching for a more authentic Madrid experience, here’s a quick run through of the different districts known for their excellent nightlife, each, of course, with its own flavor and ambience.
Chueca (Metro: Chueca)
Madrid’s gay district is home to a thriving array of cafes, small clubs, restaurants and bars. Although the area is predominantly populated by gay bars, there is also a small selection of lesbian bars and many clubs, bars and cafes offering friendly, open-minded environments, where everyone is welcome. Anyone not open to alternative lifestyles should stay away from Chueca at night, as drag queens, transsexuals and fetishists run a merry muck.
Malasaña (Metro: Tribunal & Noviciado)
A lively part of town known for its alternative bars playing every kind of rock and roll, from metal to punk to 70’s funk. The bars are low key and unpretentious and attract a varied, fun-loving crowd. Furthermore, with a few select bars open until 6:00AM, Malasaña draws crowds from other areas at around 3:00AM, when the majority of bars close for the night.
La Latina (Metro La Latina)
Known as the oldest neighborhood in Madrid, La Latina is now one of the trendiest areas in town. It is a combination of typical Spanish taverns, modern bars and cafes. On the weekends, crowding is a major problem, and another drawback is that the bars close earlier – 2:30AM – than in other neighborhoods, so La Latina is a good place to start the night before hitting clubs and bars in neighboring Malasaña or Huertas.
This neighborhood just south of Sol is the main tourist area, where you are most likely to run into expats and vacationers. Huertas always has an international feel to it, and it’s the area where several of Madrid’s important clubs, such as Joy Eslava and Palacio Gaviria, are located. The music played in this area is mainly mainstream dance and pop, and the area is also a popular place for pub crawls. It is hard to find traditional, good quality tapas here amongst the Irish pubs and tourist trap bars, but they can be found if you’re determined.
Home to elegant and expensive cafes, bars and clubs, Salamanca is generally associated with rich and wealthy wannabes. This is the spot where you go to be seen and to do a bit of star spotting. If you’re lucky enough to make it into some of the more respected clubs, such as the nationally known Gabana, you may spot an actor or footballer nonchalantly sipping on a cocktail.
Home to Madrid’s large student population, Arguelles bars are equipped with cheap alcohol, a raucous crowd and a slightly grimy feel, but there is a youthful, friendly vibe to the majority of these venues, some of which double as concert spaces for up and coming bands. The area is also known for its cluster of goth and metal bars.
The following websites have up-to-date information on Madrid’s extensive nightlife.