It usually takes most Europeans a little time to get used to the fact that at 10.00 or 11.00 in the evening Spaniards are only just coming out to play.
The pace of life is different here, Spanish Nightlife is only just starting when many of us would be in our pyjamas in our home country. In this article we explore the differences and how you can make the most of ‘la vida loca’.
You can’t be in Spain long before you begin to realise that everything slips down an hour or two. From lunch time at 3.00pm to dinner time at 9.00, 10.00 or even 11.00pm the Spanish day revolves around the fact that in the summer mid-afternoon is far too hot for most activities. The result, making the most of the cool night time and a Spanish Nightlife that drifts through into the dawn.
There are other important differences too. When first arriving in Spain to live we became aware that babysitters are almost unheard of. Adults take their children with them on a night out. Not to nightclubs. But most bars and restaurants will have children present in the late evening. It is curious because at a time most northern Europeans would expect them to be tucked up in bed.
Spanish Nightlife is very much an event for mixed generations. And why not? Everyone can enjoy the relatively cool summer evenings when you have respite from the heat of the day and the family is out enjoying a stroll or ‘paseo’ after their evening meal.
The atmosphere in some Spanish towns during summer months is electric. The noise of chatting and socialising in an unusually harmonious way and in contrast to the rowdy and aggressive nature of city centre nightlife in some other countries.
Spanish nightlife: Bars and restaurants
If you travel out for your usual evening meal at 7.00pm you’ll find that some bars and restaurants’ kitchens will still be closed. The usual evening mealtime is, at the earliest 8.00pm and in the summer you can expect it to be anything up to 12.00pm. With good reason. When the sun goes down in the summer Spanish nightlife begins and people who’ve been dodging the sun in the day are out and socialising.
You can make this work to your advantage. If you are prepared to sweat a little and your favourite eating establishment is open, you can sneak in your evening meal before the locals are out. However, do take our advice and at least once try eating a little later to avoid feeling as sticky during your desert as you did before your shower.
Generally, bars and restaurants in Spain are much more relaxed and generationally friendly locations. In some of its towns and cities you can meander from one bar to another. Take a drink and a tapas before wandering down to your next. You’ll see families with pushchairs, friends and neighbours all stopping to chat with one another. This is not a drinking culture. But a socialising culture where drink is an accompaniment rather than the reason for being.
Spanish nightlife: Nightclubs
Spanish people know how to party. The clubs of Ibiza may not be found in every town here but you can guarantee that there will be at least one venue where you can see in the dawn and continue to party. It’s not uncommon for nightclubs to open at midnight or even later and some bars have set themselves up as the ‘pre-nightclub’ alternative. Restrictions still apply in terms of age, dress and behaviour so don’t expect Spanish Nightlife to transcend all rules. However, you will find a whole variety of pubs, clubs and outside venues where you can enjoy the early hours.
Afterwards why not stop by a ‘churros’ bar. Get to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and hot fritters or ‘churros’, sprinkled with sugar. The perfect breakfast to top up your energy levels while you chat about your night out.
A spot of Flamenco in the Spanish nights
Flamenco is a display of the best in Spanish colour, energy and passion. You can take a trip to a dedicated flamenco show. But be aware that these can be lengthy and the musical accompaniment isn’t to everyone’s liking. However, if you want an authentic taste of the real flamenco then be ready for an intense experience.
A recommendation for those who are not yet ‘into’ it and just want a sample, it might be best to dine out at a venue where flamenco is also on offer. Alternatively, if you are in Spain during May, then some areas have a May fair. This includes a celebration of the sevillanas tradition. This is the perfect opportunity to visit different marquees and watch as clubs and associations show off their best flamenco dancing.
Fiestas and celebrations
We can’t include an article on Spanish Nightlife without mentioning Spain’s vast array of fiestas. Throughout the year there are days and even weeks when a specific holiday is celebrated, or a stage in history or the town’s saint is honoured. These are events for the whole family and often begin with a procession through the town that is then followed by a trip to the fair with a chaser of late night dancing.
Be warned, fireworks are usually involved at some point and you can expect firework displays at intervals throughout the year. Some of these are phenomenal such as the Elche Nit de l’Albá or Las Fallas in Valencia. Others are your after-party mix of firecrackers and rockets.
The Spanish love to dress up. You’ll be amazed at the colour and detail of the outfits for carnival and, more recently adopted, Halloween. It’s fine here to really dress up for a night out. You won’t feel out of place in your best frock for even the most modest of events. You have to celebrate and embrace this occasions, so join in and enjoy.
Nocturnal activities for all the family
Finally, Spanish Nightlife is about making the most of life. It feels as though never a moment or opportunity is lost for sharing with family and friends. This doesn’t mean that Spanish people don’t work hard. Far from it. It’s a constant source of amazement that secondary schools in Spain start at 8.00 am and that people are up and about when they’ve scarcely been in from the night before. Hence, the need for a siesta. And, how sensible, to withdraw at 2.00pm to pull down the shutters. And also take the opportunity to recharge your batteries ready for the evening again.