Big Night Out: Madrid

The sweetest hangover cure
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The Independent Travel

Introducing our new fortnightly column, in which party animal Ian McCurrach tells you how to get to grips with global nightlife.

Introducing our new fortnightly column, in which party animal Ian McCurrach tells you how to get to grips with global nightlife.

The vibe

The fun-loving Madrilenos party like there's no tomorrow: you'll find more people on the streets here at 6am than at 6pm, dressed to impress and living life to the full. Socialising is always a public affair, played out in the city's bustling bars, clubs and cafés. It is essential to adjust to Madrid time. When you land at the airport and the pilot tells you to put your watch forward an hour, ignore this and move it back by a couple of hours. That way you'll quickly acclimatise to everything happening so much later than it does at home. And don't worry about how little sleep you are getting – the Madrilenos don't. Seeking out the nightlife is simple – just flag down one of the white cabs with a red diagonal stripe. No journey should cost more than €5 (£3).

Liquid

Early evening drinks are a lively affair in leafy Plaza Santa Ana, where you can't really go wrong. The locals love Cerveceria Alemana at Plaza de Santa Ana 6. Expect hams hanging from the ceiling and jostle for standing room in this fun smoke-filled salon. After dinner, head for Los Gabrieles at Calle de Echegaray 17, where the stunning tiled interior (it used to be a sherry warehouse) is a warren of chambers, each playing different types of Latin sounds to sway to. Be prepared for serious lounging at Garamond, Calle de Claudio Coello, where they serve huge "shorts" in goldfish bowl-sized goblets to get you going.

Refuelling

If you have a long lunch mid-afternoon and eat dinner after 11pm, you've got it sorted. That way you are free to toy with tapas in the bars around 9pm. Cerveceria Santa Ana, Plaza de Santa Ana 10, serves up great trays of tapas and raciones (under £10). Ribeira do Mino, Calle de Santa Brigida 1 (00 34 91 521 9854), offers fine Galician dining with superbly fresh seafood (£10-20/€6-12). Teatriz, Calle de Hermosilla 15 (00 34 91 577 5379), has fabulous modern Spanish fare in the stunning interior of an old theatre (less than £30/€20).

Go native

Talking and tapas are the mainstays of cultural Madrid, although in season you could check out a corrida (bullfight), which is undergoing a revival in popularity. The season runs from March to October and corridas take place on Sundays at 7pm. Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (00 34 91 726 4800). The Madrilenos are also football mad. Admire the fancy tackling of the hunky boys of Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (00 34 91 344 0052).

Party

Don't even think of going dancing until well after 2am. Clubs come and go but the mainstays are Joy Eslava, Calle de Arenal 11, a stunning old theatre, plushly refurbished and home to a glitzy crowd straight off the pages of !Hola!. Kapital, Calle de Atocha 125, has seven dance floors playing everything from trance to techno. Berlin Cabaret, Costanilla de San Pedro 11, is a former dance hall turned disco and a hangover from Franco's day. Expect everyone from tourists to transvestites – in general, the later it gets the gayer it gets. Still going strong? Mother of all the after-hours clubs is Space, Plaza de la Estacion de Charmartin. This über-club on top of the Charmartin station building gets going around 9am and rocks until well after midday.

Munchies

For hangover damage-limitation and to soak up the alcohol, chew on some chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and batter fingers) on your way home at Chocolateria San Gines, Pasadiozo de San Gines 5. Founded in 1894, the elegant pale-green salon soothes the heaviest headache.

Chill

Next day, join the smart set in a slow turn around Madrid's main public park, the Retiro, to walk off that hangover. Shades are de rigueur in summer, fur coats fashionable in winter. Paella is a Sunday lunch tradition and the best platefuls are found at La Barraca, Calle de Reina 29 (00 34 91 532 7154). Booking essential.

Magic of Spain (020 8241 5135; www.magictravelgroup.co.uk) offers three nights' b&b at the three-star Melia Confort Ingles Hotel from £330 per person, including return flights from London.

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