Autumn is here already. But no matter the time of year, in Madrid there are traditions that don’t change. Right at the top is that beautiful space of time that runs from the end of a hearty dinner to the moment when you walk through the door of your favourite haunt. Time for laughter and confiding in those close to us. A few short-lived hours during which we talk about our joys and our sorrows, our loves and our heartbreaks. The drinking, the reunion, the first toast, the chatting, the joking. And the friends. But like with everything else, Madrid is a city of contrasts. And you need to choose wisely to make sure you have a fantastic evening. Today I’m presenting my selection of early evening bars (as always with lots of gay vibes) where you’ll find good drinking, a fine selection of music and lots of cool people.
1. Taverns 2.0
Here in Madrid we fell in love with all things vintage years ago. Proof of that are these new kinds of venues that mix old-fashioned bars and traditional decor with a decidedly hipster dress code and elegant electronic sound. They include Casa Macareno in first place, one of the capital’s trendy bars in the Malasaña district. Cazador comes second as one of the busiest and crammed with good-looking young men. And third up is Verbena Bar for its perfect incarnation as a modern Madrid pub.
2. All-time classic gay bars
Even though we’re so fond now of electroclash and distressed wooden tables, there was a time in Madrid when nobody was so modern. And that time returns every weekend when we hanker for a bit of good old-fashioned fun. In this category my top choice is Why Not, a bar with interesting decor, for rounding off the evening on a Wednesday or kicking things off on a Friday. Studio 54 is another timeless classic where you’ll find equal amounts of mainstream house music and handsome young men. I’m giving it second place. And Bar Prado in Malasaña is my third pick for having successfully earned itself the privileged spot of the legendary Nike bar in Chueca. Hot tip: minis (large drinks to share) at affordable prices and a great hetero-friendly atmosphere.
3. Rooftop terraces
These are undoubtedly among the coolest and most appealing options around. Among the ones you can find in Madrid, some lend themselves to gay flirting more so than others. Queen of them all for its location is Terraza del Óscar. There’s no gorgeous male, whether local or visiting, who hasn’t been there. Taking second place is The Roof which, because of its location in Plaza de Santa Ana and its architecture, attracts muscles and trendy customers in equal measure. Coming in third in this case is La Terraza del Mercado de San Antón, the most centrally located of them all (right in the heart of Chueca) and the one pulling in the crowds.
4. The must list
I find myself including this section of “places to be” on Madrid’s gay bar scene because there are venues you go to in Madrid because you just can’t not go. Because they’ve been always been there and that’s that. The legendary ones. Standing head and shoulders above the rest in first place is Museo Chicote, which doesn’t need an introduction. Taking second is the Toni 2 piano bar, one of my favourite spots in Madrid of which I could tell you a thousand and one urban myths. Almost all of them true. Third and last, but by no means least, is the new Café Berlín, where they stage the best musical nights in Madrid. They’re all must-visits if heading to the city.
5. Cocktail bars
We often forget the age-old tradition of mixed drinks and good taste that lives on in Madrid to this day. But these temples to the well-mixed and well-enjoyed tipple deserve their very own category. The strongest contender for first place by far is Del Diego, with its classy atmosphere and some of the best concoctions Madrid has to offer. Coming in second for its legendary status on the gay nightlife scene, as well as for its interior design and tailored cocktails, is Bar Cock.And in third place is Corazón, the capital’s trendiest gay cocktail bar. Macera sneaks in here, in fourth place, because I can’t bear to leave anyone out (and because they produce their own alcohol).