The terrace culture is Madrid.
As most tourists throw a penny into the Trevi fountain or even in the fountain on La Rambla in Barcelona – just next to an old water pump and café where men waited for the football results of the Blaugrana to come through on the radio – Madrid guidebooks and writers cannot but mention a coffee on a Terrazza. In doing so, this city of creativity allows itself one cliché. One made sacrosanct by ritual.
Here I present three of my favourite in Europe’s second city of lights. The objective in this list is to find the hidden charm in the touristy places.
James Joyce Pub – Calle Alcala
It’s all about location, location, location. And timing. Timing in the abstract and the real.
This Irish bar is built on the site of a former writer’s hang out – a Montemarte in the city centre. Inside the pub, you will find a deference to this legacy with legions of photographs of Irish writers, who themselves migrated quite frequently.
The Terrazza is what we are here for though and from the mid-morning to the late night, a view up and down the incline of this ancient thoroughfare is simply beautiful, especially at night with the lights keeping a vigil over the buildings of Banco de España. From this perch, the Palacio de Cibeles can also be seen, with its rotating carousel of culture.
Sit here with a caña and feel the rhythm of Madrid.
El Corte Ingles – Callao
An Irish pub and a chain store are quite epic, right? Well, this is a roof-top Terrazza and as such, a deeper understanding of Madrid is made possible by the sense of place. Standing over several floors of perfume, clothes and DVDs, you can take in the city.
Madrid itself was liberated by a gato, a teenager who could scale high walls like a cat; people who live in the city today, with all four grandparents from Madrid, are called gatos.
Thus, seeing Madrid from a great height is to honour the history of the city.
Callao is the middle point on Gran Via and, with another beer in hand, you can see the chuggers down below trying to sign people up for monthly charity donations, and the three distinct sections of Gran Via, which act as three markers of the evolution of the city.
Cerveceria Alemana – Plaza Santa Ana
This place was once the watering hole of Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner. Here you can find calamares and typical Spanish fare, which can also be found in the plethora of bars and cafes that dot the city.
The location is busy, expensive and touristy but, as a cinephile and Hemingway-head, this place is irresistible.
Thanks for reading!