One woman’s mission to document the Madrid bars that time forgot

On her blog, British journalist Leah Pattem pays tribute to 100 of the Spanish capital’s old-fashioned watering holes, which are slowly closing down or being replaced by franchises

One of Madrid's traditional bars.
One of Madrid's traditional bars.Leah Pattem

I’ve forever found no-frills bars inspiring spaces. They’re gateways to Madrid’s working-class soul, and are unpretentiously beautiful, just like the city. They’re also where my blog Madrid No Frills was born, propping up the bar with a caña and a tapa and listening to the owner’s story.

I visit these charming Madrid haunts regularly and, over the years, I’ve accidentally gathered a vast collection of photographs and tales. The story often repeats: clients are dwindling with the dismantling of neighborhood communities, which is deeply connected to our city’s soaring rent prices. Many people are also losing interest in these Madrid institutions, opting for large chains that literally open up in former no-frills bars.

By putting these 100 no-frills bars together side-by-side, I hope to show you and encourage you to cherish their unique beauty and charm, which is something that the spiritless chains taking over the city could never lay claim to.

Since taking these photos, some of the bars have sadly closed their shutters for good. The rest continue serving perfectly-poured cañas and generous tapas in a city where the odds are undeniably stacked against them. But, for as long as we continue visiting the no-frills bar, they’ll hopefully live on, as will the true Madrid: a bustling international metropolis with the soul of a Mediterranean village.


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