Madrid nightlife is a pretty serious phenomenon. This is one of the few cities in Europe where you can get caught in traffic jams at 4am, when the clubbers are either going home or moving on to the dance-past-dawn discos.
As with everything madrileño , there is a bewildering variety of nightlife venues - all of which are covered, to some degree, in the area reviews following. Most common are the discobares - bars of all musical and sexual persuasion, whose unifying feature is background (occasionally live) rock, dance or salsa music. These get going from around 11pm and will stay open routinely to 2am or 3am, as will the few quieter cocktail bars and pubs .
Discotecas - which we've separated in the listings - are rarely worth investigating until around 1am (the madrugada - early morning). Most of them pick their clientele through a dress code exclusivity and you may at times need to ingratiate yourself with the doorman. Being foreign, oddly enough, seems to make it easier to get in. Entry charges are quite common and quite hefty (¬3.50-18) at discotecas (and some of the more disco-like discobares ) but tend to cover you for a first drink. Free entries can sometimes be picked up from touts in the streets, in tourist offices or bars. Be aware that many discotecas in Spain are fairly ephemeral institutions and frequently only last a season before opening up somewhere else under a different name, so it's a good idea to consult La Guía del Ocio or Metrópoli for the very latest information.
Madrid listings and the madrugada
Listings information is in plentiful supply in Madrid. The newspapers El País and El Mundo have excellent daily listings, and on Fridays both publish sections devoted to events, bars and restaurants in the capital. Of the two, El Mundo 's Metrópoli is the better - a separate colour magazine, full of previews and details of the week's exhibitions, films, theatre and concerts, and with extensive listings of clubs, bars and restaurants (including opening hours and average prices - usually on the high side of what you'll spend).
If your time in Madrid doesn't coincide with the Friday Metrópoli supplement, or you want maximum info, pick up the weekly listings magazine Guía del Ocio ( www.guiadelocio.com ; ¬0.90) at any kiosk. It's not quite as clear or discriminating as Metrópoli , but it's functional enough. The ayuntamiento also publishes a monthly "What's On" pamphlet, En Madrid , which is free from any of the tourist offices and lists forthcoming events in the city. Alternatively, try calling the English-language telephone listings service on 914 811 248. In Madrid , meanwhile, is a free monthly magazine - available in many bars - which bills itself as "Madrid's English monthly for the Hip, Cool and Transient" and features useful reviews of clubs and bars.
One word that might perplex first-timers in Madrid - and which crops up in all the listings magazines - is madrugada . This refers to the hours between midnight and dawn and, in this supremely late-night/early-morning city, is a necessary adjunct to announcements of important events. Tres de la madrugada means an event is due to start at 3am.