Interior of Café Iruña © Café Iruña

Century-old cafés in Spain and their famous customers

Did you know there are cafés in Spain which have existed for over a hundred years? Here we reveal some of them, and their history, featuring artists of the stature of Picasso, Dalí, Buñuel, Lorca, Sorolla, Machado, Falla, and more. And many still boast the décor and Bohemian atmosphere of a bygone age. They have everything you need to enjoy a quiet coffee and good conversation, just as they did for the literary and artistic gatherings of yesteryear.

Café Gijón and Café Comercial, MadridThe Gran Café Gijón was probably the most popular literary café in Spain, hosting gatherings of such illustrious figures as Lorca, Pérez Galdós, Valle-Inclán, Dalí and Buñuel. It was also among the first to have women taking part in the discussions, including the famous spy Mata Hari. You can find it at 21 Paseo de Recoletos.Meanwhile, the Café Comercial is reputed to be the oldest in the city, opened in 1887. It reopened in 2017 after being closed for some time, and still retains many of its original fittings, including the bar and the lamps. It still conserves some of its charm, with many reminders of its history, featuring names like Antonio Machado and Jardiel Poncela, or more recent figures including Luis García Berlanga, Francisco Umbral, Forges, and Pérez Reverte. The café is at 7 Glorieta de Bilbao.

Els Quatre Gats, BarcelonaThis place is an icon of the Bohemian and Moderniste side of Barcelona. Picasso held his first exhibition here, and he and Rusiñol designed some of the signs. Its rooms were crucibles of art, frequented by Picasso, the Modernistes Antoni Gaudí, Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol, the musicians Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados… Even Woody Allen used it as a setting in his film “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona”. Today you can visit the reopened and restored café at 3 Carrer Montsió, on the ground floor of the beautiful Casa Martí.Café Novelty, SalamancaA statue of the writer Torrente Ballester, sitting inside, welcomes you into the city’s oldest café, founded in 1905. It was so famous that banquets were served here for historic figures such as King Alfonso XIII. It is reputed to be the birthplace of Spain’s National Radio, and was a meeting place for literary figures like Torrente Ballester, Carmen Martín Gaite and Unamuno. You can visit it on Plaza Mayor.

Dindurra, GijónFirst founded in 1898 as a theatre, some years later it became the legendary Dindurra, one of the most important cafés in Asturias, home to gatherings of artists and politicians. Later still it was redecorated in the Art Deco style, some elements of which still remain. It survived a war and was closed briefly, reopening in 2014. You can find it at 11 Paseo Begoña.Café Iruña, BilbaoA classic fixture of the city, one of those places where the coffee just seems to taste better. It was opened in 1903, and since then has been one of Bilbao’s cultural hotspots. Its customers have always included Basque poets and writers, including Pío Baroja and Miguel de Unamuno. It is next to the Albia Gardens, at 13 Colón de Larreategui.

Café Iruña, PamplonaErnest Hemingway had his own spot in this Pamplona café, opened in 1888 as the city’s first establishment with electric light. The American writer is still there, in the form of a statue, and they say this is where he began writing his books “Fiesta”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea”. The decoration of the café retains its Bohemian spirit with period lamps, high ceilings and large mirrors. You can find it at 44 Plaza del Castillo.Café Royalty in CádizWalking through its doors brings you into an early 20th century setting. Everything takes you back to the year it opened, 1912. You can see lovely ceiling paintings, gold-leafed plasterwork, period furniture… This was a meeting place for writers, politicians, and musicians, and the famous composer Manuel de Falla even gave concerts here. The café was forgotten for a while, but reopened in 2008, and can be found on Plaza Candelaria.

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