Local Laws and Customs
It's always best to know your Ps and Qs when arriving in a new place, so brush up on your Spanish Dos and Don'ts!
Let's get one of the most asked questions out of the way first: Madrid law prohibits drinking on the streets and shops aren’t allowed to sell alcohol after 22:00. Up until the introduction of this law, “botellon” culture (drinking in public places) was very popular amongst Madrid’s youth. The madrileños have, to an extent, rebelled against the new law and in many of Madrid’s plazas, botellons continue, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
In addition, as of 2011, smoking is prohibited by law in enclosed public places, including bars, restaurants and clubs. It is also illegal to smoke near children´s play areas, enclosed or open.
Meal times in Spain are different to most other countries. Spanish people often have two breakfasts; the first is a light snack at the start of the day, followed by something slightly heavier at 11.00. Lunch time is around 15.00 and is the most important meal of the day. Dinner starts at around 21.00 or 22.00 and often lasts past midnight during the summer months.
Giving that dinner time is so late in Madrid, the “tapas” culture is very common. There are masses of tapas bars all over Madrid and it is normal for people to have a glass of wine or a beer with their tapas during the day. Many of the restaurants and bars have terraces as well as seating areas inside, but generally the prices are different depending on where you sit. The cheapest place to sit is at the bar, whilst the most expensive areas are the terraces.
The people in Madrid are very sociable and do not spend a lot of time at home. Even in winter the bars and cafes are full of people chatting and enjoying the company of their friends. There are many different types of bars and restaurants in Madrid and it has been said that the nightlife is one of the best in Europe. The night starts quite late with clubs getting busy at around 2 or 3am and people dancing and having a good time until 6 or 7am. If you want to experience the nightlife like a true Madrileño you should finish the night with “churros con chocolate" before catching the metro home!
Family life in Spain is very important. At the weekend the city is full of children's laughter as they spend time with their family: in the parks, streets, shops, cinemas etc. Also, if you go to a restaurant, you will most likely see families with children having dinner quite late.
In August life in Madrid is much different. Many madrileños go on holiday to the beautiful beaches of Spain. If you are here in August you will be able to enjoy the broad cultural offered by Madrid without the normal hustle and bustle of the big city.
Tip: Don't be surprised if people greet you with two kisses on the cheek, this is the normal way to greet people in Madrid.