Coffee Hunters

Those who know me, especially my friends at Tufts, know that I am a notorious café hunter. One of my favorite things to do early on a weekend morning is pack a backpack full of homework and seek out a cozy spot with good coffee and camp out for hours. While many coming to Madrid may be excited to explore the culinary scene, or the nightlife, I was excited to explore on an international level an institution I hold sacred: the coffee shop.

Coffee in España is notoriously excellent (a fact in which I will vouch for until my dying breath). That said, I learned very quickly that the dynamic in cafes here is very different than in the U.S. While it is extremely common to whip out your laptop and mooch off of free wifi to do homework in America, that is not always the case here. In Spain, the culture of “tomar algo” is prominent, meaning cafés are the type of place you sit and chat with a friend or group of friends and socialize. Not every coffee shop you enter in Madrid is okay with you planting yourself with a laptop to do work, and that took me awhile to get used to.

As as my Tufts-Skid friends know, final exams and projects are fast approaching and the workload is sneaking up on us. We have less than three weeks left in Spain (cue heavy sobbing), and lots of adventuring left to do. So without further ado, I present my semester-long research on the “best study cafés” in Madrid.

1. La Garriga
A list of favorite cafés in Madrid wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this Tufts-Skidmore favorite. In fact, Garriga has become like a second home for many of us, between the 1€ cafe con leche, homemade cookies, and delicious sandwiches. Located on Calle Genova, it is only about a three minute walk from the program center, making it great between-class spot to “tomar algo” and get some work done. The best part, however (like nearly everything in Spain) is the people. In our process of becoming local, Garriga has definitely become one of the spots that has become comfortable. We’ve come to know the waiters, Otto and Maria, by name. Whenever we stop in, they immediately ask us how our day is, what we are working on, or how late I finished that paper I was working on the previous day. María never fails to set a coffee down beside me within two minutes of walking in the door, and when he sees me with my sketchbook, Otto likes to compliment me on my mediocre drawing abilities. With just 15 days left, I’m counting days in Garriga coffees.

2. La Bicicleta– (Tribunal)
Definitely one of the most popular spots for international students to hang out and study, due to its large size and unique design, I’ve been wowed by the number of languages and dialects I can hear when observing the environment in Bici. The coffee is picturesque and the lemon loaf is delicious, but the wifi is occasionally very slow/crashes, and they are very strict about where you can and cannot have a laptop. Still a worthwhile place to check out.

3. La Ciudad Invisible (Opera)
Located off a side street in Ópera, this hole-in-the-wall library/café is cozy, comfortable, and has an excellent menu, highlighted by classic American-style sliders, and a house special coffee unlike anything I’ve ever seen (hint: They mix in alcoholic cream, a fun twist). What makes this place unique, in my opinion, is the fact that it is first and foremost a library. The focus of Ciudad Invisible is a massive collection of books about travel: to places, amongst people, individual journeys etc. The irony of this is not lost on me, as abroad has been a time of so much adventure both in the literal and figurative sense. Never one to mind being surrounded by books, this place holds a special place in my heart.

4. Cafe de la Luz (Malasaña)
Another adorabe and comfortable spot (sensing a theme here?), Cafe de la Luz is located in Malasaña, one of the most eclectic barrios in the city. On the one hand, it is rather small (if you aren’t paying attention you will walk right by), and the wifi is limited to two hours, which is always unfortunate. On the other hand, however, the food is yummy, the coffee comes in a large quantity (not common in Madrid), and the music selection is excellent.

5. 1000 Cups (Quevedo)
This, unfortunately, has been a recent find of mine. Had I found it sooner, I surely would have spent a lot more time there, given how close it is to my house and how cozy it is. 1000 cups offers one of the most extensive coffee menus that I have seen in Spain, including iced coffee and cold brew which is always a major draw, and the sandwiches/tortilla española do not disappoint. The wifi is unlimited and the seating is mostly couches and cozy chairs. All around, a lovely place to spend the afternoon.

(Unofficial addition to the list: The Starbucks near the Prado museum is quite nice. Although I’m not one to recommend Starbucks in a country known for coffee, in a pinch this one isn’t shabby. It’s huge inside and has plenty of tables for studying)

So there you have it! Happy studying!

Word of the week: “Acogedor” = cozy

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