The Spanish bar

Brendan Boyle
7 min readDec 22, 2022
The simple things.

It’s the moment when Spain feels right.

Midday at the bar: when those who prefer a light or late breakfast and the early risers who fancy a tipple before lunch converge. Some sit outside on the terraza with the sun high overhead. Some sit at the counter reading Marca, El País, or El Mundo.

Choose whatever you fancy: freshly-squeezed orange juice; toasted bread slathered with olive oil and tomato pulp; churros and hot chocolate; coffee in a glass (so European!) with varying degrees of milk temperatures; a cold beer or coca cola; a glass of wine or vermouth. It’s all fair game – no judgements here. The Spanish bar is of the people and for the people, each one a miniature town square, an extension of the small flats that so many call home.

The noise is unmistakable: the clatter of cups and cutlery being flung into the sink; the hammering of the coffee portafilter and screeching of the machine; the hiss of steam. Then there’s the giddy pings of the fruit machine in the corner, and the chatter between those coming and going.

The TV shows a lively political debate with the sound down or MTV Hits on full blast — it’s hard not to be amused by the juxtaposition of elderly locals having a café con leche with the Pussycat Dolls or Backstreet Boys (it’s always early 00's for some reason) giving it large overhead.

In 2020, it was calculated that Spain had a total of 277,539 bars and restaurants — the most in the world per capita. The hospitality sector, however, was left devastated in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, and it once again bore the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inflation and energy costs have pulled the rug from under those who were slowly getting back to their feet. But the Spanish bar, the institution, will endure.

The midday sun outside the Spanish bar.

Familiarity breeds restraint

Since moving here in 2016, I’ve never lived more than 100 metres from a tavern. Spain’s urban living model is based on compactness — around 41 million people…



Brendan Boyle

Irish - living in Galicia. Write about Spain, its cities and culture; real people and places; current affairs. Supporter of real journalism.