Experience Spain's Awesome Party Scene
If you listen to a copy of Disco Estrella, Spain's annual compilation of the hottest music each summer, you'll quickly find out that Spaniards love dance music. Spaniards listen to all types of music, but the vast majority like a solid beat and a quality dance tune to party the night away with their friends.
In Europe, only Spain could be home to the epic clubs of Ibiza and the endless nights of Madrid. There are high-energy bars and clubs all over the country, but especially in the capital and on the coast. Spain has perfected the beach club, mastered the warehouse club, and satisfied the hungriest of techno enthusiasts with its world-class DJs. If you want to party, Spain is the place.
Partying Spanish Style
Most Americans find that Spain's nightlife is fairly easy to navigate. Unlike Paris, Los Angeles or New York, where the best clubs are hidden from newcomers, Spain has an open and accepting club culture. Especially in vacation towns such as Málaga, dance clubs and bars are all easy to find by casually chatting with the locals.
The scene itself varies from area to area, but tends to be inviting and fun. The party environment in Spain is less goal-oriented and more energetic than America, with a lot of folks coming to hang out with their friends rather than hook up with a stranger. Because Spain is all about fun, the music tends to be great and alcohol flows freely.
Finally, say goodbye to America's drinking age of 21 -- you'll find that Spaniards start owning the night at a very young age. But with this increased freedom comes increased control. You're more likely to find your housemate from your study-abroad program drinking too much and getting sick than a seasoned Spaniard. Spanish partiers know how to pace themselves so that they can stay awake until the Madrid metro system starts running at 6:00 am.
Adjusting to Spain's Extreme Schedule
The nightlife timetable in Spain will throw even the most nocturnal Americans for a loop. Nobody seems to go out or come home at any sort of reasonable hour by American standards. Leaving for a club at 1:30 a.m. and coming home at 5:00 is simply the norm, and visitors are expected to adjust or miss all the fun. Everything is shifted so late because of Spain's meal schedule, with lunch in the late afternoon and dinner delayed until 10 or 11. Naturally, after eating such a late dinner and enjoying some fine Spanish sherry, people don't make it out on the town until well after midnight. The quickest way to adapt to Spain time will be to adopt the Spanish tradition of a midday siesta. A little nap will extend your bedtime well into the morning.
What Doesn't Work in Spain
Young people in Spain tend to travel in groups of four or more. While this trend exists the world over, it seems a bit more pronounced in Spain. A typical bar or club in Spain just won't have many people who come alone. For a foreigner in Spain, this dynamic can make partying a bit awkward, especially just after arriving. Following the custom of arriving in a large group is easy when you have a large clan of fellow students to hit the clubs with. For this reason, traveling to Spain as a student can be much more fun and comfortable than as a tourist.
Making new acquaintances in a Spanish bar or club is also a bit mellower than in the U.S. Meeting new people in Spain has to be casual. Because many Spaniards are a bit more reserved than club-goers in New York, for instance, the whole scene is less culturally receptive to strong advances and pick-up lines. Spanish guys joke endlessly about picking up girls, but when it comes to game time, they are gentlemen.
The Party Cities of Spain
The king of Spanish nightlife is the capital, Madrid. Because Madrid is over twice the size of any other city in Spain, it houses the greatest variety of bars and clubs. Anything you want can be found there, and whatever it is you're looking for will be open very late.
If you don't need the variety of Madrid, and simply want a hot, energetic dance scene with hordes of beautiful people, your best bet is to head to the southern coast. The Costa del Sol, centered around the city of Málaga, attracts hip Spaniards and club-goers from all over Europe.
For another fashionable and eclectic scene, Barcelona maintains a vibrant nightlife that will keep you entertained any day of the week that you want to party.
If you're lucky enough to travel to Spain in April, May, or early June, you can catch a variety of city-wide parties across Spain. In addition to Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia and Seville both have spectacular spring celebrations that keep the music and drinks circulating long into the night.
Finally, if you're looking for clubbing at its largest and purest form, Spain's island of Ibiza is incomparable. We can't recommend trying to learn Spanish there, but it is a great place to visit.