• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Sipping History in Madrid’s Timeless Cafés


Jun 12, 2024

Imagine stepping into a café where every sip of coffee tells a story. Madrid’s historic cafés are not just places to grab a quick caffeine fix; they are cultural landmarks that have shaped the city’s social fabric for centuries. For coffee lovers and history buffs alike, these iconic spots offer a unique blend of rich flavors and compelling tales and what to do in Madrid (que hacer en Madrid).

The Charm of Madrid’s Historic Cafés

What makes Madrid’s cafés so special? It’s the perfect mix of old-world charm and modern-day appeal. These establishments have witnessed revolutions, hosted literary giants, and served as the backdrop for countless stories. In this blog, we’ll explore what makes these historic cafés worth a visit, from their delicious brews to their fascinating histories.

Café Gijón – The Literary Haven

A Brief History

Café Gijón, founded in 1888, is arguably the most famous of Madrid’s historic cafés. Located along the bustling Paseo de Recoletos, it’s a place where writers, poets, and artists have gathered for over a century. Legends like Ernest Hemingway and Federico García Lorca were regular patrons.

The Ambiance

Stepping into Café Gijón feels like traveling back in time. The wooden interiors, vintage posters, and antique furnishings create an atmosphere that’s both cozy and inspiring. It’s easy to imagine the intellectual debates and creative discussions that have taken place here.

What to Order

While at Café Gijón, don’t miss out on their café con leche—coffee with milk—or their signature pastries. The menu offers a range of traditional Spanish treats that perfectly complement the rich, aromatic coffee.

Chocolatería San Ginés – A Sweet Escape

The History Behind It

Founded in 1894, Chocolatería San Ginés is another must-visit spot. This café is famous for its churros and hot chocolate, a classic Spanish combination that has delighted visitors for generations.

The Atmosphere

Located in a narrow alley near the Puerta del Sol, San Ginés exudes an old-world charm. The green-and-white tiled walls, marble tables, and mirrored panels give it a timeless appeal.

Must-Try Delights

Order the churros con chocolate, the café’s star attraction. The crispy, golden churros dipped in thick, velvety chocolate are a treat you won’t forget. Pair it with a steaming cup of espresso for the ultimate indulgence.

Café de Oriente – Elegance and History

Historical Significance

Café de Oriente, situated near the Royal Palace, offers a royal experience. Established in the 1980s but inspired by the grand cafés of the early 20th century, it blends modern elegance with historical significance.

The Setting

Imagine sipping your coffee while gazing at the Royal Palace. The outdoor terrace provides stunning views, making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

What to Savor

Their menu features a range of gourmet options, but the café’s specialty coffee and Spanish tapas are a must-try. The combination of rich coffee and flavorful bites makes for a memorable dining experience.

El Comercial – A Blend of Old and New

Historical Background

El Comercial, established in 1887, is one of Madrid’s oldest cafés. Located in the lively neighborhood of Huertas, it has seen the city evolve while maintaining its unique character.

The Vibe

The café’s eclectic décor, featuring a mix of vintage and contemporary elements, reflects its long history. It’s a place where tradition meets modernity, attracting a diverse crowd.

Signature Drinks and Dishes

Try their cortado, a shot of espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk. Pair it with a traditional Spanish tortilla or a slice of almond cake for a truly authentic experience.

Café Bellas Artes – Artistic Inspiration

A Rich Legacy

Founded in 1880, Café Bellas Artes is housed within the Circulo de Bellas Artes, an iconic cultural center. It has been a hub for artists, writers, and intellectuals for over a century.

The Artistic Ambiance

The café’s artistic ambiance is palpable. With its art-deco interiors, wall murals, and vintage furniture, it’s a place that sparks creativity.

What to Enjoy

Order a café solo, a strong, black coffee, to fuel your artistic inspiration. The café’s menu also includes a variety of Spanish pastries and light snacks that are perfect for a mid-day break.

Café Central – Jazz and Coffee

Historical Roots

Café Central, established in 1982, may not be the oldest, but it’s renowned for its live jazz performances. Located in the lively Plaza del Angel, it’s a favorite among music lovers.

The Musical Vibe

The café’s intimate setting, complete with a grand piano and cozy seating, creates the perfect atmosphere for enjoying live music. It’s a place where jazz and coffee blend seamlessly.

What to Sip On

Try their cappuccino, a delightful mix of espresso and steamed milk topped with frothy foam. It’s the ideal drink to enjoy while listening to some smooth jazz tunes.

Café Ruiz – A Hidden Gem

Historical Insights

Café Ruiz, tucked away in the Malasaña district, offers a quieter, more intimate experience. Established in the early 20th century, it’s a place where time seems to stand still.

The Cozy Atmosphere

The café’s warm, inviting interior, complete with wooden beams and vintage photographs, makes it a perfect spot for a relaxing coffee break.

What to Relish

Their café bombón, a sweet blend of espresso and condensed milk, is a must-try. Pair it with a freshly baked croissant for a delightful treat.

Café Manuela – A Bohemian Retreat

A Storied Past

Café Manuela, located in the vibrant Chueca neighborhood, has been a bohemian retreat since its establishment in 1979. It’s a place where artists and free spirits gather.

The Bohemian Vibe

The café’s eclectic décor, featuring mismatched chairs, colorful paintings, and vintage lamps, creates a unique, bohemian vibe. It’s a place that encourages creativity and free expression.

What to Try

Order the café vienés, a rich coffee topped with whipped cream. It’s a decadent treat that pairs perfectly with the café’s artistic atmosphere.

Café Barbieri – A Timeless Classic

Historical Context

Café Barbieri, founded in 1902, is a timeless classic in the Lavapiés district. It’s a place where history and culture come together.

The Classic Ambiance

The café’s classic interior, with its marble tables, wooden chairs, and vintage mirrors, transports you to another era. It’s a place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.

What to Savor

Their café cortado, a shot of espresso with a dash of milk, is a simple yet satisfying choice. Pair it with a slice of homemade cake for a truly timeless experience.

A Coffee Lover’s Guide to Madrid

Exploring the City’s Coffee Scene

Madrid’s historic cafés offer more than just great coffee; they provide a window into the city’s rich cultural history. Each café has its own unique story, making them must-visit spots for any coffee enthusiast.

The Joy of Discovery

Exploring these historic cafés is a delightful adventure. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, each café offers a unique experience that’s worth savoring.

Join the Coffee Community

By visiting these cafés, you become part of a larger community of coffee lovers. Share your experiences, discover new flavors, and celebrate the rich history of Madrid’s coffee culture.


Madrid’s historic cafés are more than just places to enjoy a cup of coffee—they are cultural landmarks that offer a unique glimpse into the city’s past and present. From the literary haven of Café Gijón to the bohemian retreat of Café Manuela, each café has its own unique charm and story. By exploring these iconic spots, you not only indulge in delicious coffee but also become part of a vibrant, coffee-loving community. Ready to start your coffee adventure in Madrid? Grab a friend and explore these historic cafés today!

By George