Dance, Theater, and Music
La Casa Encendida
“A commitment to experimental art, music, and culture that is unparalleled in Madrid; state-of-the-art facilities host everything from independent film festivals to photography exhibits to electronic music conferences.”— Andy Johnson, assistant editor, TBS: The Broadsheet. Rooftop garden offers DJs and cocktails in warm weather. Ronda Valencia, 2; tel. 34 902 430 322. www.lacasaencendida.com
“An absolute explosion of energy; you’ll be moved to tears even if you have no idea exactly what is going on.”—Andy Johnson. Performers include both flamenco legends and powerful up-and-comers; go early for tapas in the traditional Andalusian dining room up front; reservations required. Calle Cañizares, 10; tel. 34 913 690 496. www.casapatas.com
“A courtly setting for world-class outdoor concerts.”—Andy Johnson. An 18th-century barracks turned arts center; summer brings jazz, pop, and flamenco shows with artists from George Clinton to Enrique Morente. Calle Conde Duque, 9-11; tel. 34 915 885 834; fee. www.esmadrid.com/condeduque
Jardines de Sabatini
“Watching an operetta in these gorgeous 20th-century gardens against the backdrop of the lit-up Palacio Real is an unforgettable way to spend a Madrid summer’s eve.”—Genevieve McCarthy, director, Cellar Tours, Madrid-based luxury wine tour company. Gardens host zarzuelas (classic Madrid operettas) every summer. Next to the Palacio Real; fee.
Madrid’s grand opera house; also home to the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; under-26s can get discounted tickets by showing up an hour and a half early on performance days. Plaza Oriente; tel. 34 915 160 660; fee. www.teatro-real.com
“Enjoy an exquisitely poured cocktail amid the Victorian splendor of this ex-brothel; arrive early to snag a comfy leather couch.”—Andy Johnson, assistant editor, TBS: The Broadsheet. The shuttered door is a holdover from the bar’s more exclusive days—Ava Gardner used to rendezvous with Spanish bullfighters here. Now you only need knock for entry. C/Reina, 16; tel. 34 915 322 826.
“For decades this has been a Madrid nightlife destination; young, old, locals, tourists, businessmen, transvestites, everyone comes here to dance till dawn, singing along to classic Spanish pop.”—Mario Suárez González, editor-in-chief, On Madrid. Stage rises from the dance floor for cabaret performances from drag queens, go-go girls, and magicians. Costanilla de San Pedro, 11; tel. 34 913 662 034.
A Madrid classic for jazz for decades; roster of big-name performers and soon-to-be stars; tiny marble tables; airy yet intimate art deco setting. Tip: Enjoy pre-jazz tapas in nearby Plaza Santa Ana. Plaza del Ángel, 10; tel. 34 913 694 143. www.cafecentralmadrid.com
Café Maria Pandora
“Impossibly romantic with walls of books, cozy sofas, and candles everywhere.”—Raquel Saéz, assistant director, Hola.com. In warm weather, the front wall opens to overlook Las Vistillas, one of Madrid’s most beautiful views. Plaza Gabriel Miró, 1; tel. 34 913 640 039.
Rooftop bar offering upscale cocktails and chilled-down beats to Madrid’s gente guapa (beautiful people); sexy beachfront lounge decor and spectacular 360-degree views over old Madrid. ME Reina Victoria Hotel, Plaza Santa Ana, 14; tel. 34 917 016 000.
“It’s like sitting in the parlor of a friend’s home—if that friend happens to be an amazing flamenco singer.”—Kirsty Tuxford, editor, In Madrid. House guitarists provide flamenco backup for impromptu singing performances; doesn’t get going until after 1 a.m.; no fee, but you must buy a drink. C/Cava Baja, 34; tel. 34 913 660 534.
A signature sherry bar in Madrid—tobacco-stained ceilings, peeling old sherry posters, a rickety wooden bar; have one of the types of sherry (no beer, no cocktails) pulled from heaving wooden barrels; comes with a side of garlicky olives. C/Echegaray, 7; tel. 34 914 297 313.
May. Fighting a bull in Madrid is the matador’s equivalent to performing a solo on Broadway. The festivals of San Isidro draw the world’s best matadors, Spain’s fiercest bulls, and thousands of passionate fans for three weeks of nightly corridas; there are also street parties, fireworks, and parades.
Late June/early July. One of the biggest gay pride events in Europe, and Madrid’s wildest party; Barrio Chueca becomes a massive outdoor fiesta with concerts, drag shows, world-famous DJs, parades, and two million-plus revelers.
Fiestas de San Cayetano, San Lorenzo y La Paloma
First half of August. With half of the city away on vacation, the other half enjoys this series of wild parties in three of Madrid’s most traditional barrios; food stalls, live music, and dancing in the streets until dawn.
Festival de Otoño
October to November. Singularly converts Madrid into a cultural reference point for Europe; dozens of top international theater, dance, and circus companies perform more than a hundred shows throughout the city.
La Trashumancia—Sheep Crossing
First Sunday in November. Old and new Madrid come together as dozens of traditionally attired shepherds herd hundreds of sheep to their winter grazing grounds—going right through downtown Madrid.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.