Ernest Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour, Madrid

Ernest Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour (Self Guided), Madrid

Amid the many writers who have expressed their love for Madrid, Ernest Hemingway is the one who did so quite famously. A recognized heavyweight of the 20th century literature - the author of The Sun Also Rises (1926), Death in the Afternoon (1932), The Fifth Column (1938), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) and The Old Man and the Sea (1952) - was a frequent visitor to the Spanish capital.

Here, Don Ernesto, as the Spaniards used to call him, found his muse, popular success, and critical acclaim, and is where he kept returning again and again. Hemingway's lifelong romance with Madrid, in his words ‘the most Spanish of all cities’, started when he was a correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War.

Hemingway was a welcomed regular in a number of places. As a member of foreign press he had an office in the Telefonica Building and often visited La Venencia, a popular hangout of Republican soldiers, to seek news from the front. The German Beerhouse, a favorite watering hole of Hemingway, still has the table that the writer used to sit and drink at.

On this self-guided walking tour you also get a chance to visit several of Hemingway's stomping grounds in Madrid, like the Westin Palace Hotel (formerly the Palace Hotel), the El Sobrino de Botín restaurant and some other of his favorite haunts.
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Ernest Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ernest Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant)
  • Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)
  • La Venencia
  • Westin Palace Hotel
  • Circulo de Bellas Artes (Circle of Fine Arts)
  • Bar Museo Chicote (Chicote Bar Museum)
  • Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)
Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant)

1) Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant) (must see)

Dating back to 1725, El Botín is Europe's oldest continuously operating restaurant, as recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. Originally known as Casa Botín, it was founded by Jean Botín, a Frenchman, and his wife. Initially functioning more as a tavern than a restaurant, it transitioned to Sobrino de Botín ("Botín's Nephew" in Spanish), after Mrs. Botín's passing when her nephew took over.

Set in rustic interconnected dining rooms, El Botín is renowned for its signature dishes of "cochinillo" (roast suckling pig) and "cordero lechal" (lamb). Original recipes have been faithfully preserved, and the oven has been kept continuously aflame, never to be extinguished.

Throughout its history, El Botín has attracted notable figures. Spanish painter Francisco de Goya worked as a waiter at Café Botín while awaiting acceptance into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Ernest Hemingway was a regular patron, mentioning the restaurant in the closing pages of his novel "The Sun Also Rises". He wrote, "We lunched upstairs at Botín's. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta".

Reservations in advance are highly recommended!
Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

2) Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

Sitting on the southern edge of Santa Ana Square, the German Beerhouse was once the favorite taproom of Ernest Hemingway and many other celebrities of the day, including American actress and singer Ava Gardner, who either lived in or visited Madrid quite often throughout the 20th century.

Established in 1904 by a group of German manufacturers (hence the name), the brewery is still "a good place to drink beer and coffee" – as Hemingway once put it in his article in Life magazine – to be shared, if lucky, with "the most beautiful woman in the world". Hemingway's regular table here still stands in the near right-hand corner, and it feels every bit as though the man himself might walk through the door at any moment. This classic Spanish beer hall prefers buckets of olives to preening pretensions of city life, with wooden beams, hat racks and black and white photographs from past bullfights.

The food fills, the beer range (German, Belgian and Spanish) is broad, and the service is efficient. As you indulge in a caña (draught beer), it's advisable to be mindful of the tapas, as the bill can quickly add up.
La Venencia

3) La Venencia

Clad in vintage posters and bearing the marks of cigarette stains, La Venencia sherry bar in the heart of Madrid gained its reputation during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, as a popular hangout of Republican soldiers and their supporters, among whom was Ernest Hemingway, who, as a war correspondent, sought news from the front and often frequented the establishment.

Nowadays, the sherry and tapas joint has managed to preserve much of its character. Although smoking has been banned, as in many public places, the old wooden barrels and sawdust floor are still in place, and they remember Hemingway used to pitch up for a glass of sherry, much as the top-shelf bottles, none of which seems to have been dusted since. All of this adds a great deal to the place's appeal.

Regularly crowded by locals, the bar still carries a sign from the Civil War era, saying "Don't spit on the floor". Moreover, in keeping with its Republican tradition, La Venencia still observes the strict rule, as was in Hemingway's time: no photography, as a precaution against potential Fascist spies, and no tipping. The latter may seem peculiar, but these old customers were, after all, socialists...

If you make the effort to fit in, you'll be fine. Don't expect advice on sherry choice; service is efficient but not effusive. They don't do flights or tastings, but a glass is so cheap (and good) that it doesn't matter. Show respect to the staff and be friendly, and you'll receive a nod of acknowledgement as you depart, indicating that you were welcomed.
Westin Palace Hotel

4) Westin Palace Hotel

A timeless Madrid classic, this former palace of the Duke of Lerma opened as a hotel in 1911, becoming Spain's second luxury hotel. Ever since, it has looked out across the Neptuno Square at its rival, the Ritz, like a lover unjustly scorned. While it may not have the world-famous cachet of the Ritz, its name, the Palace, speaks for itself.

When the snooty Ritz imposed a ban on actors and other public performers in the early 20th century, the Palace emerged as the preferred destination for celebrities. Mata Hari, the exotic princess from the East, resided here during World War I, and rumors suggest her ghost still roams the corridors. Hemingway, Dalí, and Lorca were regular patrons of the hotel's splendid cocktail bar, which remains a delightful spot to relax on plush couches and enjoy a glass of wine, a Mai Tai, or whatever your preferred libation may be.

For a satisfying lunch or dinner, the first-floor restaurant awaits, offering impeccable service and delectable cuisine. Don't miss the artwork adorning the ceiling of the rotunda, particularly the imagery of a gondola that evokes a dreamy sensation of floating in the sky.

You can buy tickets for the Prado at the concierge desk to avoid the museum's long lines.

Operation Hours [La Rotonda Restaurant]:
Daily: 7am–12am
Circulo de Bellas Artes (Circle of Fine Arts)

5) Circulo de Bellas Artes (Circle of Fine Arts)

Not far from the Cibeles Square, you'll find the Circle of Fine Arts, a private institution that first opened its doors in 1881, was designated as a Center for the Protection of Fine Arts in 1921, and gained recognition as a National Historic Building in 1981. The current building, boasting a grand ballroom, exhibition spaces, a theater, a library, and studios for artists and sculptors, has been the home of the institution since 1926.

While membership is required for full access to the foundation, visitors can explore certain areas of the building by paying a €5 admission fee. This includes access to the exhibition halls (check online for current displays), the rooftop terrace restaurant, and the café. Known as the Fishbowl ("La Pecera") due to its large windows, the café offers a delightful setting to enjoy breakfast or a drink while observing the bustling Calle de Alcalá and taking in the panoramic views of Madrid. Due to its popularity, it's advisable to make a reservation or arrive about an hour earlier to secure a spot.

Hemingway was a frequent guest at the Hotel Suecia, which was just around the corner, and often visited the Circle of Fine Arts. Several famous artists passed through the doors of this educational center that is a must see for any arts lover.
Bar Museo Chicote (Chicote Bar Museum)

6) Bar Museo Chicote (Chicote Bar Museum)

When considering your itinerary in Madrid, don't let the name deceive you – Museo Chicote on Gran Vía is not a museum but rather Madrid's classic cocktail bar. Opened back in 1931, Chicote was a popular meeting spot for foreign journalists during the Spanish Civil War, with Hemingway as one of its most regular patrons. While the bar maintains its authentic 1930s ambiance, it has incorporated modern lighting, acoustics, a dance floor, and top Spanish DJs to create an entertaining atmosphere that lasts late into the night.

The walls are festooned with the great and famous who have sipped refreshing cocktails in the heat of the Spanish summer nights. Here you can see – apart from the famous Ernest – photos of Dalí, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, and Orson Welles, among others.

The bar is popular with tourists nowadays, but even so, it's a civilized and calm place to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail. You won't find a lot of trendy concoctions, but you also won't find any artificial juices, mixers, extracts, or additives. Each classic cocktail is crafted by hand with extreme, almost obsessive care, and served just at the right temperature.
Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)

7) Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)

Designed by Spanish architect Ignacio de Cárdenas, who took inspiration from American architect Lewis Weeks, this 90-meter high, 14-story American-style skyscraper has nevertheless a Spanish Baroque facade adorned with intricately sculptured ornaments. Europe's tallest structure at the time of its inauguration in 1929, it has been a symbol of Madrid and its clock a famous landmark of what has become colloquially termed as the "Madrilenian Broadway".

An interesting aspect of the building's history is that, during the Spanish Civil War, it housed the offices of the foreign press. One of the foreign journalists at the time (late 1930s), Ernest Hemingway found inspiration for his famous novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" right here, while observing the conflict between the Nationalists and Republicans. As it happens, the building's height made it an ideal target for bombing raids by Franco's troops.

Today, Telefónica plays a more peaceful role in Spanish life. The first floor houses a serene café and a shop offering a wide range of communication equipment. Other floors are dedicated to the Museum of Telecommunication, the Technology Museum, and wonderful art exhibitions, providing visitors with a constant array of interesting things to see. Best of all, admission is free!

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