Madrid writer and resident James Ansell gives his take on the “Six of the Best” Hemingway Haunts
“Yet when you get to know [Madrid], it is the most Spanish of all cities, the best to live in, the finest people, month in and month out the finest climate” so said Ernest Hemingway of Madrid. He gave life to this city in his books – the streets, the parks and the buildings all became things of fictional beauty throughout his life. Madrid has changed a lot since Hemingway lived here, but you can still visit some of the bars and cafes that he frequented. Come with us on a journey as we explore “six of the best” Hemingway Haunts!
“The epicentre of intellectuals and celebrities”, this cocktail bar was frequented by Hemingway often where he would mix with fellow journalists. His legacy remains to this day as you can buy a “Papa Doble” cocktail invented by Hemingway himself. The story goes that he was convinced he needed to lower his sugar intake, and unhappy with all the cocktails on offer, he made this Rum based cocktail. Once, he drank 15 of them in the corner of Museo Chicote before spending the night writing! No trip to Madrid is complete before visiting this “haunt”. It is on Gran Via and is still one of the best cocktail bars in Madrid.
Calle Gran Vía, 12, 28013, Madrid
This was one of Hemingway’s favourite places to have a beer and watch the world go by. In Life Magazine he declared it as having “the best beer in Spain”. He visited so frequently that he even had his own designated table beside the entrance! This table remains there to this day with a picture of Hemingway sitting above it. When he wasn’t in the mood for the upper-class atmosphere of the cocktail bars, he would come and enjoy a standard beer or coffee. This German pub has survived to this day serving Spanish food, great alcohol and an outdoor terrace. It is quite central, and definitely worth visiting.
Plaza de Sta. Ana, 6, 28012, Madrid
Botin has the accolade of being the oldest restaurant in the world and proudly shows-off the pact they got from the Guinness World Book of Records. It also once employed world-famous artist Goya as a dishwasher before he became famous. If these aren’t enough to compel you to go, it was also a favourite spot of Ernest Hemingway! It was here that he tried his hand at learning how to make a famous Spanish Paella. He asked Emilio, the owner, to teach him. However, after many failed attempts, Hemingway concluded that “it will be better to stick to the writing”! He was so close to the workers that they let him go behind the bar to fix himself a Martini. He made many references to it throughout his literature. In “party” he refers to it as one of the best restaurants in the world. It is still around, and its roast suckling pig is to die for!
Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, 28005, Madrid
It is said that during the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway would come here to get news from the front line as he was reporting on the war for the North American Newspaper Alliance. It was a Republican bar, and to this day is brimming with history from the war. It hasn’t changed in 70 years. When you go in there today, you are entering practically the same pub as the young journalist Hemingway did all those years ago! It is decorated with wooden barrels and sawdust flooring and specialises in serving Sherry. Despite its claim to fame, it has remained a local pub, and you will be welcomed by Spanish people drinking their Sherry and reflecting on time’s past.
Calle de Echegaray, 7, 28014, Madrid
This is where Hemingway would stay when he came to visit Madrid, where he was frequently seen in the hotel bar sipping a Martini before making a trip around the corner to the Prado museum. He makes references to the “stuffy bar” in his novel “The sun also rises”. He describes almost giddily in the book “the wonderful gentility you can get in a bar of a big hotel”. He is also said to have enjoyed the jazz club in the basement of the hotel, where he drew literary inspiration. Nowadays it has become the Westin Palace Hotel, and is as beautiful as ever. If you are looking for a hotel in Madrid and want to explore Hemingway’s past as well, we recommend staying here!
Plaza de las Cortes, 7, 28014, Madrid
Today Matadero is an arts gallery, but back when Hemingway was a young man visiting Spain it was a slaughterhouse. He would visit early in the mornings and watch the apprentice bullfighters practice killing the bulls and watch as old women lined up to eat the blood which supposedly had nutritious qualities to help live longer. He was an avid bullfighting fan, which was one of the reasons he fell in love with Madrid, and this slaughterhouse proved to be just as interesting to Hemingway as going to the bullring. Today, it is one of the most thriving art galleries in Europe. For those who have already been to the ‘triangle of art’ and want an alternative gallery to visit, check out this Hemingway Haunt!
Plaza de Legazpi, 8, 28045, Madrid