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.
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.
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).
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.
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 (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.
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.
Chocolatería San Gines (1894)
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.
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.
Café Gijón (1888)
“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.