Chocolate heaven at Cacao Sampaka

I’m not a great chocolate fan but even I was impressed by Cacao Sampaka. This establishment, just off the Plaza Santa Bárbara in c/ Orellana, combines a chocolate shop with a coffee shop. In the shop you can view all sorts of chocolate, from many different countries and of different types. The chocolate is displayed in glass cabinets, much like in a museum, and you can purchase boxes of it from the counter. Other items on display include recipe books and books on the history of chocolate, cooking utensils and even chocolate candles and incense!! The coffee shop sells thick cups of chocolate – a hot favourite (oops!) in Madrid at this time of year and various chocolate cakes and desserts.

Metro: Alonso Martínez

Café Gijón – an artist´s café

Café Gijón calls itself the “Gran Café de la historia de España” (the great Café of Spanish history). It first opened in 1888 and for well over 100 years it has been associated with artists, actors and writers, and many others artistic and political types. Places like Café de Gijón became very well known as establishments where people could, and still do, meet for ‘tertulias’ – informal chats about a range of topics. Café Gijón has hardly changed over the years and is a great place to meet up with friends and look out on to the busy Paseo de Recoletos. As you go in there is an interesting plaque above a cabinet (used to sell tobacco), which reads: “from here Alfonso, match seller and anarquist, sold tobacco and saw the world pass by” and it is dedicated to him by his friends at the Café. The nearest metro is probably Banco de España

Casa Mingo

Casa Mingo is on Madrid’s Paseo de la Florida, a short walk from Prícipe Pio Metro. It is an old-style Asturian (from the region Asturias) bar/tavern which is famous for its cider, roast chicken and its chorizos. The place is popular with all sorts of people, many students frequent the bar, and the cider is brewed and bottled by them. The setting is very informal with large wooden tables and surrounded by bottles of cider. Casa Mingo is situated next door to the la Real Ermita de San Antonio, where you will find fresoes by Goya.

Metro: Prícipe Pio
Address: Paseo de la Florida, 34

See also: Madrid Restaurants

Círculo de Bellas Artes

Cafeteria pecera, MadridThe Círculo de Bellas Artes, built in 1919, on Madrid’s c/ Alcalá offers all kinds of cultural activities and exhibitions. Within this building is a very stylish café which looks out onto Madrid’s popular Alcalá street – well worth popping in for a coffee. The café makes you think that you’re in a time warp with its classic décor and traditional Madrid cafe chairs and tables and high ceilings. Check out the sculpture which sites in the middle of the floor and which appears as if the woman is coming out of the stone. I also love the very Madrileño waiters, dressed in their white jackets.

Spanish Jamón (Ham) at the Museo del Jamón

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The Museo del Jamón is an institution in Madrid. The Museo del Jamón, like so many Spanish bars, has a huge numbers of hams dangling from its bars – and a wonderful selection it is – from the standard to the expensive (like Pata Negra) and from different provinces in Spain. They also offer good menus and tapas. For people who would like to know the process of curing the ham, take a look at their website (in the section ‘Proceso de Elaboración’). This site contains all their locations in Madrid and useful pictures (under ‘Menus’) to let you know what the dishes are.

Internet Cafés in Madrid

Want to keep in touch whilst away? Feel the urge to add a new entry into your blog? Then, head off to one of the Internet cafés, which you’ll find dotted around Madrid. The one that I use most frequently is called Bbigg and is situated on c/Alcalá, just off the Puerta del Sol. It is a huge place with many, many machines and is very reasonably priced. It costs around 1.2 Euros for 40 minutes. Another good Internet "café" can be found at Gran Vía 30, more or less opposite Madrid Rock, and run by Telefónica – costs are 2 Euros/hour or 10 hours for 12 Euros. Just down the road from Telefónica, towards Plaza de España, the well-known Cafetería Zahara has an Internet area. One other place near Puerta del Sol is Portatil in Calle Tetuán, 3.

El Rincón de Jerez – Andalucian Bar

This is a small establishment of the c/ Alcalá, near the Metro Manuel Becerra. The bar serves great food and jeréz (sherry) from Andaluía, in the south of Spain. However, the reason that I particularly like this place is that at 11 p.m. every night the lights are turned off, candles distributed and the whole bar starts singing to the Virgin, Rocio Chicó, of which they have a small statue on the wall of the bar. It is quite incredbile to see not just the bar but the pavement outside filled with people singing! Well worth a visit.

El Anciano Rey de los Vinos

El Anciano Rey de los Vinos can be found a couple of hundred metres south of the Royal Palace, in c/ Bailén. This ‘taverna’ was established in 1909 and still displays many of its original features: high ceilings, pillars and wall-to-wall tiling. It has a good selection of wines, the cider and vermouth is served from the tap and each drink is accompanied by a small biscuit/pastry. Metro: Sol or Ópera

Rodilla sandwich bar

Rodilla has to be one of my favourite “Fast Food” restaurants in Madrid. It offers a huge range of sandwiches, from foie gras to prawns. My favourite sandwich just has to be ‘ensaladilla’ – which have tuna, mayonnaise, peas and artichoke. Their sandwich bars can be found all over Madrid, including Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Callao, the Goya area and Argüelles. They also do nice salad bowls, too.

Chocolatería San Ginés

Love chocolate, then this is definitely the place for you. Next to the Church of San Ginés, just off c/Arenal, you will find a favourite haunt of many Madrileños – Chocolatería San Ginés. This place serves thick cups of chocolate with churros (long sticks of fried dough) in a white-marbled bar. It has been around for well over a hundred years and is still popular with people of all age groups. It is busy in the early evening and absolutely packed from 4 o’clock onwards, after a night out on the tiles!

Pasadizo de San Ginés 11 (91 365 65 46). Metro: Sol, lines 1, 2 & 3.

Plaza Santa Ana

Plaza Santa Ana is a great place to start an evening’s entertainment in Madrid. The Madrileños will often start arriving to this area around 11pm on Friday’s and Saturday’s. Plaza Santa Ana is a very pleasant square just off Puerta del Sol and situated in an older barrio of Madrid; indeed the house where Miguel de Cervantes (writer of Don Quixote) lived is a couple of streets away in calle Cervantes. The square is home to the oldest theatre in Madrid, Teatro Español, which was built in 1745 and puts on classical Spanish productions. At night the square becomes one of the most important hot spots for night time entertainment.

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Casa Labra – a bar with history

Casa Labra is a small bar hidden away in a street behind the Puerta del Sol, in Calle Tetuán. It is famous for being the bar where the Spanish socialist party (PSOE), who came to power in 1977, was founded on the 2nd May, 1879. A typical old-style Spanish bar, with heavy wood-panelling and only standing room in the bar, you can order bacalao (small pieces of cod in batter) from a separate bar and if there’s no room at the bar, simply take your beer and cod onto the pavement!