Madrid's oldest restaurants and bars offer tapas, vino and history

Madrid is a historic city that has witnessed a succession of monarchs, revolutions and artistic movements. Vestiges of this storied past can be found in the city’s centenarios – restaurants, bars and cafes over 100 years old.

Venturing into any of these centenarios is like stepping back in time to share the space where kings and merchants, writers and artisans, priests and assassins once wined and dined. And these establishments stand the test of time, still offering excellent traditional Spanish dishes and drinks. Here are our favourites.

The bright red-painted facade of Bodega Ardosa, with old-fashioned signs announcing the bar's wares and mauve curtains hanging in the windows.
Bodega Ardosa is a great place to begin a tapas crawl © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Faded sepia photographs and dusty wine bottles line the bar shelves of this wine cellar in Malasaña. Housing the oldest Guinness beer tap in Spain, this is a great place to kickstart your tapas hop with a glass of wine, excellent vermouth and European beers, served on wooden barrels-turned-tables. Their tortilla de patata (potato omelette) tops many “Best Tortilla” lists among locals and food critics. 

The opulent interior of Lhardy, with gilded fixtures, dark wood panelling and a white tiled floor.
The opulent interior of Lhardy © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

A stone’s throw from Plaza de la Puerta del Sol is an iconic restaurant that hasn't changed much since the Romantic era – retaining its original chandeliers, varnished wallpaper, and gilded fixtures. A few aesthetic adjustments mark the passing of time, like the grand gold mirrors painted black in 1904 to mark the death of Queen Isabella II. Lhardy is known for elevated versions of traditional Spanish cuisine such as cocido (chickpea stew) and callos a la madrileña (beef tripe and sausage stew).

A group of people with a bicycle outside Sobrino de Botín, which has a panelled wood frontage plus a brown sign bearing the restaurant's name in yellow writing.
Sobrino de Botín is officially the world's oldest restaurant © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Sobrino de Botín (1725)

The world’s oldest restaurant according to Guinness World Records serves excellent cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and cordero asado (roast lamb) cooked in its original cast-iron wood-fired oven. A walk down the basement steps reveals a gloriously dusty 16th-century wine cellar.

An aproned waiter pours beer from a vintage tap at Casa Alberto in Madrid; behind him, dark wood shelves are lined with bottles.
Pouring beer from the vintage tap at Casa Alberto © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Casa Alberto (1827)

Among the framed newspaper clippings and black and white photographs on Casa Alberto’s wall is a plaque commemorating Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote in the same building. The wolf’s head water fountain and vintage tap are a marvel to behold while savouring rabo de toro (stewed oxtail), the house speciality.

Posada de la Villa in Madrid: a lady sits at an intricately carved wooden bar; there is a mural on the far wall, and a beamed ceiling from which cuts of meat are hanging.
Posada de la Villa was originally established as an inn © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Posada de la Villa (1642)

This historic restaurant along Cava Baja in La Latina was originally established as an inn, replacing Madrid’s only existing flour mill in the 17th century. A majestic wood-fired oven is the restaurant’s centrepiece, still cooking its speciality – roast lamb – after more than three centuries.

The interior of Bodegas Ricla, Madrid; the walls are lined with vats of wine, above which are green shelves packed with wine bottles.
Bodegas Ricla is a wine lover's dream © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Bodegas Ricla (1867)

The wine cellar of this quaint little bar just off Plaza Mayor was once used as an air-raid shelter. Today, it’s a great place to seek refuge amidst its hefty wine vats while enjoying excellent tapas such as boquerones (white anchovies), chorizo and Manchego cheese, washed down with vermouth, sherry or wine.

A waiter bearing plates of churros and chocolate emerges from Chocolatería San Ginés Madrid; the exterior is painted yellow with a green door frame and signs.
Chocolatería San Ginés is famed for its churros con chocolate © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Chocolatería San Gines (1894)

This tourist hotspot near the Teatro Real is famous for its churros con chocolate (fried dough pastry with hot chocolate), served fresh 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

A huge bull head hangs on the dark wood wall of Taberna Antonio Sánchez, Madrid; another wall is lined with old photographs and bottles.
The interior of Taberna Antonio Sánchez is dedicated to bulls © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Taberna Antonio Sánchez (1830)

This tavern is dedicated to the bull: decorated matadors and imposing bull heads are immortalised on its dark painted walls, dramatically lit by its original gas chandeliers. As well as Spanish tortilla and chipirones (baby squid), torrija, an Easter dessert, is served all year round. 

The interior of Casa Ciriaco in Madrid: many historic photos line the walls, and there are dark wood chairs and white tablecloths.
Casa Ciriaco witnessed the near-assassination of King Alfonso XIII © Jane Mitchell / Lonely Planet

Casa Ciriaco (1897) 

This turn-of-the-century tavern was the backdrop to the near-assassination of King Alfonso XIII on his wedding procession in 1906. A photo capturing that attempted regicide hangs on its wall. Casa Ciriaco has been serving its house speciality for more than 100 years: gallina en pepitoria, chicken with a wine, egg and almond sauce. 

People inside Café Gijón, Madrid, which has a white and red tiled floor, dark wood seats with red cushions, panelled walls and white columns.
Café Gijón has long been a venue for intellectual debate © Krzysztof Dydynski / Lonely Planet

“Madrid’s last literary coffee shop” is a cultural hub renowned for its tertulias (informal cultural and political discussions) that have attracted Spanish artistic and literary icons, bohemians, and Hollywood stars in their heyday. The guest list has included Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dalí, Hemingway, Ava Gardner, and Truman Capote. It’s not hard to get into the spirit of debate while enjoying tapas around the elegant marble tables of the outside terrace, or the grand piano inside the cafe. 

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