It’s in Leon, Spain, a city of 120,000 give or take in the region of Castilla y Leon. It’s called Bar Madrid.
What makes this bar so great? El Mundo named it the greatest bar in Spain and that is a high compliment for a country that has the greatest number of bars to people per capita.
Spain takes bars very seriously. They are so much more than just bars, or at least the way much of the rest of the world thinks about bars.
As the great singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina once said:
“Sólo en Antón Martín hay más bares que en toda Noruega,”
“Only in Antón Martín (a metro stop and neighborhood in Madrid), there are more bars than in all of Norway.”
This is actually a true statement; there is research to back it up. Norway seems great, just not a winner in the bar department apparently.
So, why is Bar Madrid in Leon the best bar in the world?
It is on a side street, off of the pedestrian thorough-fair Calle Ancha that leads up to the Catedral de Leon. The doors and windows are usually open and people frequently spill out into the street. It is far from the only bar on this small street, as is generally the case in Spain, yet you can sense the energy and hear the chatter as you approach.
The tapas are excellent. You can usually choose between arroz, or a small portion of paella style rice, salmorejo, and a few other options, sopa de ajo, or patatas. The best salmorejo (a cold soup made from tomatoes and similar to gazpacho, only thicker, that is typical of Andalucia) that I’ve ever had is from Bar Madrid.
Bar Madrid is frequently packed, especially if the weather is not great and people don’t spill into the street while they enjoy their aperitif. It is a great place to watch locals, hear the typical Spanish bar noise, and get a sense of what bar culture in Spain is like.
Most of what makes Bar Madrid so good is very difficult to explain in writing, or even to tell someone else. You have to experience it, to live it in person. I highly recommend Leon as a destination in Spain and Bar Madrid is a great place to see the real bar culture of Spain, to people watch, and to enjoy an unbeatable ambiance, while having a great cana, corto, or vino along with a tapa.