Lonely Planet Writer

Madrid's historic Café Comercial reopens two years after shock closure

The glorious old Madrid venue Café Comercial has reopened its doors after a shock closure in 2015. The cafe was a Madrid institution and had been in business for 128 years, but was closed for nearly two years before reopening on Monday.

Inside Café Comercial, Madrid.
Inside Café Comercial, Madrid. Image by Lukas Koster / CC BY-SA 2.0

The cafe is located on downtown Madrid’s Glorieta de Bilbao, and along with Gran Café de Gijón, was famed as one of Madrid’s tertulia bars – places where literary heavyweights came to debate in the 1920s. Even in recent times, it was well-known for its literary evenings that played host to famous Spanish writers. Café Comercial proudly fought a rearguard action against progress, with patrons flocking there to enjoy heavy leather seats, abundant marble and old-style waiters. It changed little since it opened in 1887, although the clientele broadened to include just about anyone, from writers and their laptops to old men playing chess.

Men reading at the Café Comercial, Madrid.
Men reading at the Café Comercial, Madrid. Image by Getty Images

It closed its doors in July 2015 amid rising rents in the area and a trend towards chain stores replacing independent venues. The closure attracted lots of media attention and locals protested about the demise of such a hallowed spot.

Men reading in the Café Comercial in 2006.
Men reading in the Café Comercial in 2006. Image by Getty Images

The cafe has now reopened under new ownership, a group called El Escondite. But as the historic venue has highest-level protection, many of its celebrated architectural features have been preserved – so longstanding fans of the cafe will be relieved to note that the old facade, staircase, bar counter, light fittings, ceiling and furniture are all still intact.

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