Walk in the Footsteps of Don Ernesto: Hemingway’s Madrid
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This tour of Ernest Hemingway’s Madrid is a bit of a pub crawl but, hey, if you’re going to follow in the footsteps of Papa, you’re gonna get drunk.
I am a huge fan of getting to know a city by way of wandering and an even bigger fan of Ernest Hemingway (or Don Ernesto as he was known in Spain). So, on a trip to Madrid for the Mad Cool Festival with my friend Sarah, it was a no-brainer to design my very own walking tour of Hemingway’s Madrid.
Sarah was a trooper and followed along on this adventure where we matched Hemingway drink-for-drink on this fun and rather debaucherous way to explore Madrid.
Here’s where we are headed:
Tip: If you want to start with brunch instead of ending with dinner, start this tour at Botín and end at La Venencia. Either way, make sure to get a good food base!
Here we go!
Nights in Hemingway’s Madrid begin at Museo Chicote
We are starting at Museo Chicote, but this isn’t a museum; it’s a cocktail bar with as much history as a museum.
Museo Chicote first opened its revolving doors in 1931, and its cozy booths welcomed people like Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner alongside journalists like Hemingway who describes the bar in those pre-war days in his short story The Denunciation:
“In those days the snobs among the rich young men of Madrid hung out at something called the Nuevo Club and the good guys went to Chicote’s. A lot of people went there that I did not like, the same as at The Stork, say, but I was never in Chicote’s that it wasn’t pleasant. One reason was that you did not talk politics there. There were cafés where you went for politics and nothing else but you didn’t talk politics at Chicote’s. You talked plenty of the other five subjects though and in the evening the best-looking girls in the town showed up there and it was the place to start an evening from, all right, and we had all started some fine ones from there.”
The Denunciation takes place, however, in November 1937 as the Spanish Civil War is raging. Hemingway goes on to describe the bar like this:
“They were shelling up the Gran Via and I went into Chicote’s to wait it out. It was noisy and crowded and I sat at a little table in one corner against the sandbagged window with the meat on the bench beside me and drank a gin and tonic water. It was that week that we discovered they still had tonic water. No one had ordered any since the war started and it was still the same price as before the revolt.”
We had a much more light-hearted experience at Museo Chicote, but the gin was just as refreshing, and while we weren’t ducking shells, the cool, dark bar was a welcome place to escape the summertime heat of Madrid.
Address: Gran Vía 12
El Retiro Park is a peaceful place in Hemingway’s Madrid
El Retiro is a peaceful place in the mind of one of Hemingway’s most famous characters, so I imagine it was a place of repose for the man himself.
In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan tells Maria that he will take her to Madrid where they will walk in the park and row in the lake. He knows he is dreaming, or spending time in “unreality” as he calls it, but the daydream calms them both even as they know they will face a bloody fight against the Fascists the next morning.
Address: Plaza de la Independencia 7
Next up: Cervecería Alemana
A group of Germans opened this beer hall in 1904 and Hemingway came here often. He describes Cervecería Alemana as a “good cafe and beer place on the Plaza Santa Ana in Madrid” in a Life magazine article.
He came to La Alemana so often, in fact, that he has his very own table near the window looking out over the plaza.
I can see why he liked it. It’s unpretentious with cheap beer and a jolly atmosphere.
Address: Plaza Santa Ana 6
Sobrino de Botín: Dinner in Hemingway’s Madrid
If you want to eat like Hemingway, you must try the roasted suckling pig at Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world where Hemingway would often dine and write at an upstairs table.
In The Sun Also Rises, Jake and Brett experience Hemingway’s favorite Madrid meal: “We lunched upstairs at Botin’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta.”
We weren’t able to get a table upstairs, but we did follow the winding, spiral staircase downstairs where we found plenty of wine.
There were also plenty of plates of suckling pig and the paella that the owner says his grandfather tried to teach Hemingway to make (unsuccessfully).
Address: Calle de los Cucchilleros 17
A nightcap Hemingway style: La Venencia
A walking tour of Hemingway’s Madrid would be wildly incomplete without a stop at La Venencia. I have no photos of this place because none are allowed. The old Civil War rules still apply: no pictures, no spitting on the floor, and no tipping.
This was once a place for Republicans to sip sherry and swap war stories. To this day, no pictures should be taken because the wartime patrons wanted to drink sherry without being identified and marked by the Fascists.
This Hemingway haunt, where your tab is drawn in front of you in the form of white chalk tallies on the bar, takes the American equivalent of a “dive bar” to a whole new level.
I can definitely picture Hemingway here, drinking his sherry and soaking up all of the news from the front.
As for us, we stood at the bar (which is what you do here) despite the fact that we were barely standing after a day in Hemingway’s Madrid!
This was one of my favorite stops, but every one of Hemingway’s favorite places in Madrid is packed with history and good booze.
Address: Calle Echegaray 7
Where to stay near Hemingway’s Madrid Haunts
About the Author
Hi! I’m Jen!
I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.
I am here in Madrid right now near Praca Ana, not knowing this is an area he would hang out which is so cool because last time I was here I didn’t get to visit any of his bars and it was on my list. We did Cervecería Alemana yesterday and I also took a photo at his table imagining the people watching he did. Thanks for this list.PS can’t feel my legs today lol. So a Sherry it will be since it’s the closest one nearby.
I hope you loved the sherry! So glad you went on this tour. It is a fun one. I just re-did the tour myself last week! Enjoy, my friend.
I did, loved it there and so glad I found your blog post.
I love Madrid, and on my first visit I went to many of Don Ernesto’s haunts, including each you have named. A further one of Casa Alberto, just off of Plaza Santa Ana. I also remember a bar in Plaza Mayor which had a banner in the window stating “Hemingway Never Drank Here,” which I thought was quite funny.
I saw that banner and had a good laugh as well! I am putting Casa Alberto on the list, thank you! I’m returning to Madrid in July (pandemic permitting) and can’t wait to explore even more of his haunts! Thank you for reading!
I love this!! So very cool that you put this together yourself, what a fun adventure!
Enjoyed reading this post, Jen. I’ve always been a huge fan of the old grumpy man, even more so when I was a kid. I didn’t quite get the same sense of adventure out of any other author’s books. Pity I missed out on all the Hemingway spots in Madrid every time I visited.. my main memories of Madrid are rowing a boat in El Retiro and eating tapas and drinking wine until early mornings…
Now I am in suspense. What are the other 5 topics you can discuss in a bar? Are we limited to 5? This looks like a fun pub crawl and the last place sounds intriguing. Guess I’ll have to see it from the inside myself.
That was Hemingway for you. He loved the suspense! He doesn’t list his five topics, but I’m going to guess it is war, women, sex, booze, and…politics. Because that’s just how he was. If he says that it shouldn’t be talked about, he means that it should definitely be talked about.
Omg I absolutely love this!!!! Hemingway is one of my favorite writers. I will definitely have to recreate this itinerary in the future! ?
This sounds like a very fun take on a traditional food walking tour or bar crawl. Looks like Hemingway knew what he was doing! The Cervecería Alemana looks charming 😉
When it came to drinking…Hem knew what he was doing! ? Thanks for reading, Carina!
What a great tour! I’m not much of a drinker, so I might skip some of the booze, but I’d love to see these sights! Especially El Retiro, it looks so peaceful! Thanks for the great guide, I can’t wait to get to Madrid and try it out!
Yeah, if you’re not much of a drinker a Hemingway tour might not be your jam. But El Retiro is everybody’s jam. I hope you will go when you go to Madrid!
I love your style Jen. What a fun way to walk in the footsteps of Hemingway. I’d really like to try the roasted suckling pig at Sobrino de Botín. I’m definitely going to do this when we’re next in Madrid.
Botin is a really amazing experience. Oldest restaurant in the world! Thanks for reading, Wendy!
It seems Hemingway not only took Robert Jordan and Maria to Madrid, but also the rest of us, where we walk along the park, row in the lake, drink and get tipsy and end up guessing For Whom the Bell really Tolls.
It tolls for thee, Jan! Thanks for reading!
Suckling pig at Sobrino de Botin sounds wonderful! I also love that they named a German bar after the Germans! El Retiro is one of my favourites, this was a fun ‘crawl’!
Mmmmhmmm…that sucking pig is everything. Thanks for crawling with me, Lisa!
What a completely brilliant way to explore the city – and from such a unique perspective. We haven’t yet visited Madrid (although it’s most definitely on the list) and would absolutely love to explore it in this way. Cheers!
I hope you do visit and that you get a little tipsy with Hem! Cheers!
This sounds like so much fun! I fell in love with Madrid the first time I arrived, and the suckling pig at Botin was magical (somehow I missed the wine cellar!). Lately, I am more intrigued by Hemingways travels, so I will definitely do this tour next time I visit Madrid.
I can’t wait to follow YOUR Hem travels! Thanks for reading, Tiffany!
What a fun way to to follow his steps, learn about history and enjoy many, many cocktails! Hopefully no hangover the next day! Lol. I’d love to try the roasted suckling pig at Sobrino de Botín! I bet it’s delicious snd with that ambiance!
Always a hangover when Hemingway is involved! Thanks for reading Vanessa!
Sounds a great pub crawl, I might get the dog to take me.
The dog would love the park. And the German pub. Thanks for reading, RJ!
A pub crawl with history now this is my attention
What a great and creative idea for a fun day with a great insight into Hemingway
Right? I mean, you start to lose that attention on pub number four, but… Thanks for reading!
I am sure doing the tour this way will be even more uniquely memorable to you! I am assuming this is the same Hemingway that was in Key West.. I did not know that he was referred to as Don Ernesto.. I love learning new things!
That’s the same guy! And I do have SOME memory of this tour. ?
This is such a cool idea! I love that you created your own walking tour and that it took you to such cool places (and even that it included drinks, dinner and such a gorgeous wine cellar!) Sarah was really lucky to travel with you for this. 🙂
And I was lucky she came along on my crazy little booze-infused adventure! Thanks for reading, Josy!
This is such a great way to discover the city! I can’t believe I haven’t been to Madrid yet, I definitely need to go some time this year 🙂 I really want to explore Parque El Retiro.
Yes! Please do go to Madrid! It is truly one of the most beautiful places. Or, as Hem would say, the most Spanish of cities.
What a unique and beautiful way to experience Madrid! I love creative ways to travel like this. THank you for putting this together and sharing! – Linzey @thefamilyfuntour
Thanks for reading, Linzey! It’s always good to mix up a walking tour, right?!
What a cool journey of Hemingway! El Retiro looks beautiful and I could see how he would find peace here.
El Retiro is a beautiful place to find peace. Robert Jordan is my favorite literary character, so going to his place of peace was really meaningful.
This is such a fun alternative to a walking tour in Madrid! The next time I’m in Madrid I will definitely be doing this, it covers a lot of great spots!
Just get your liver ready!
What an appetising account. Joins my list of must-visit-places for sure. Relished reading about it.
Thank you for reading! Hem would have enjoyed the attention to his favorite haunts.
I miss Madrid so much 🙁 I lived there for a little while, and this is making me so homesick!!
Oh my goodness, I’m so jealous that you are able to be homesick for Madrid! Life goals!
OMG!! All this in a day? It looks like a great plan! I am not sure that I would make it all the way to La Venencia. No photos allowed?? That’s no fun. Are they trying to remain mysterious?
Since it was founded as a bar for the Republicans during the war, they were very secretive. (Being discovered could mean being shot.) They continue with the secrets!
What a fun idea, I learnt a lot about Hemingway when I was in Cuba actually. This definitely sounds like a great way to spend the day
I really need to follow in his footsteps in Cuba too. Do you have a post about it? I need to check that out!
I would love to take this tour of Ernesto Hemingway’s Madrid! I’ve visited his Key West home so this would be perfect!
I really want to do the Key West thing! Can’t wait to meet the cats.