All cities have cycles, waves of people who populate different centers of the city depending on the time. Often the daytime cycle is full of office workers, the evening cycle shoppers, and the night cycle diners. Many cities also have a late night cycle, a wave of people who don’t even get started until most people have curled up in bed. We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Spain when talking about the late night cycle of cities.
It’s a well-known fact that the Spanish use the mid-day siesta to enable epically late nights. In the capital of Madrid, the lengths of these nights are dictated by the closure of the metro system at 1:30am. This seems pretty late but when you head out to dinner at 10pm, your night is just getting started at 1:30am, so many night owls in Madrid see to it that their weekends go all the way till the metro opens again at 6am.
What is there to do in Madrid during the night? Everything! This is a night culture: bars, clubs, and crowded squares remain bustling long after the sun has gone down. In fact, if you spent a day walking around Madrid, you wouldn’t think of it as a crowded city until the sun went down. The streets and squares are well lit and well populated; it feels like mid-day in most cities. Children and families are out eating ice cream watching clusters of friends drinking and dancing.
We spent a few nights out in Madrid, dodging the crowds and noise of the clubs, and the crowds and expense of restaurants. The trick is to find a bar. Bars in Spain serve great tapas, and, especially if you are spending money on plenty of drinks, it often comes free with a round. Of course,the usual best practices apply: be a good drinker, engage your bartender, and like anywhere else, they will take care of you. In Spain they take care of you with food, a necessity for soaking up a night’s worth of your favorite poison.
When you stay up late, you get to see a different side of a city. Some cities have a seedy, colorful nightlife. Others, like Madrid, have a vibrant night life not visible in the daylight. Learning all a city has to offer involves seeing it from all angles at all hours; limiting yourself to a narrow window of daylight robs you of all the experiences of the night life, and in Madrid, that would mean missing the best part of the city.