Façade of Café Gijón, Madrid

Seven charming cafés in Spain with a sense of history


Much more than just coffee shops

Old cafés have a relaxing atmosphere with a touch of magic. As if they were a refuge, they are places to sit down and have a steaming coffee, chat with a friend, read while waiting for the person you are meeting, look out the window planning everything you've got left to see in the city, immerse yourself in memories, escape the rain momentarily... Many of these cafés also have an amazing hidden past of literary meetings, conversations between artists and politicians, napkins where a masterpiece may have started, and so on. Several century-old cafés in Spain have borne witness to these historical meetings and today they remain waiting for travellers with thousands of stories to tell. Drinking a coffee in the same place that Lorca, Hemingway or Picasso used to is a fascinating experience. Once you have sat down, just take a sip of your hot drink and close your eyes to put yourself in the picture.

Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona

What is so special about this café that Picasso chose it to exhibit his first drawings? At the end of the 19th century, it held shows and concerts and was the meeting point for artists such as Picasso, Santiago Rusiñol and Ramón Casas. It is a symbol of the bohemian and moderniste Barcelona that was inspired by the Parisian cabaret Le Chat Noir. More recently it was chosen by Woody Allen as the setting for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. Today, you can find the restored version of the original on the same street in Barcelona, 3 Montsió, on the ground floor of the beautiful Casa Martí. The famous poster designed by Picasso is still there to welcome people.

Café Gijón in Madrid

On 15 May 1888, the Asturian Gumersindo Gómez opened the Gran Café Gijón in Madrid. It had two parts: one to serve coffee to customers arriving in carriages and another part for the carriages. As fate would have it, this place ended up becoming a cultural institution and a meeting point across different eras for important people such as Pérez Galdós, Valle-Inclán, Gerardo Diego, García Lorca, Dalí, Buñuel, Sorolla, Torrente Ballester, Cela, and even the famous spy Mata-Hari. This café has been painted by artists and described in a dozen books, and is waiting for you at 21 Paseo Recoletos.

Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona

Café Comercial in Madrid

Café Comercial is back! This was the headline in the media when this legendary place on the Glorieta de Bilbao reopened in March 2017. It is said to be the oldest café in Madrid. It opened its doors in 1887 and its walls have heard the conversations of Machado, Jardiel Poncela, Berlanga and many more. Decades of culture have left their mark on a place where today, in addition to the essential coffee, you can also enjoy traditional dishes from Madrid for lunch and dinner.

Dindurra in Gijón

This is one of the last literary cafés in Spain and has been around for over 100 years. In 1898, the businessman Manuel Sánchez Dindurra opened a new theatre in the city, which also included a coffee area which would become the legendary Dindurra, one of the most important cafés in the whole of Asturias and a place for artistic and political gatherings. Over the following years it was refurbished in the Art Deco style, survived a war and closed its doors, later reopening in 2014. Today, you can enjoy its famous vermouth session or a tasty meal at 11 Paseo Begoña.

Café Dindurra in Gijón

Café Novelty in Salamanca

The statue of the writer Torrente Ballester is waiting patiently for a drinking companion in this historic café located at 2 Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. It was founded in 1905 and it is said to be the oldest café in the city. It was so famous that it served banquets to historical figures such as King Alfonso XIII, gave birth to Spain’s National Radio and was the meeting point for literary figures such as Torrente Ballester, Carmen Martín Gaite and Unamuno. Today, it is a great place to stop, sit on the terrace and try one of its famous ice creams in summer.

Café Iruña in Bilbao

This café opposite the popular Albia Gardens in Bilbao is one of the most delightful places you can imagine. It's another great classic, which opened in 1903. The first things you notice are the tiles and the beautiful Mudéjar decor. In fact, in 1980 it was declared a “Unique Monument” and received the Best Café in Spain award from the “Café Crème Guide to the Cafés of Europe”. As well as enjoying the welcoming atmosphere and the delicious coffee, we recommend ordering its famous pincho moruno.

Café Iruña in Bilbao
Panoramic view of Café Iruña, Pamplona

Café Iruña in Pamplona

In 1888, Pamplona was illuminated by the first establishment with electric lights in the city: Café Iruña. The years have passed but the charm of this place, with its period lamps, high ceilings and large mirrors, has not changed. One of its most famous customers was undoubtedly the writer Ernest Hemingway. In fact, they say this is where he began writing his books Fiesta, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. While drinking a coffee or something stronger you can imagine being the writer, concentrating, getting immortal tales down on paper, and later you can “greet” the statue of Hemingway leaning peacefully in his corner.

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