Tradional Shops in Madrid: Centuries-Old Family Businesses
As a small local business, we love traditional shops in Madrid that keep their traditions intact from generation to generation. Family businesses that have formed part of daily life for madrileños for decades: bakeries, bars, pharmacies, bookstores… Madrid would be a different city without these businesses, full of history, soul and passion for artisanal work.
Despite being a big city ruled by all sorts of corporations and franchises, Madrid fortunately has retained a large number of family businesses in the city center, some of which have more than 100 years of history.
Traditional Shops in Madrid: Centuries-old businesses
Madrid has more than 150 centuries-old businesses, small museums that contain the history of Madrid and keep tradition alive. The locals know these centenario establishments very well, and luckily, tourists can also find them very easily. Since 2006, the local government has granted them commemorative plaques, which are located at the entrance to the business (on the floor).
IMPORTANT: If the business closes after reaching one hundred years, the plaque is not taken down. Because of this, to know if you are dealing with the original business, you should read the name of the business that appears on the commemorative plaque.
In this post, we have prepared a small selection of our famous centenario businesses. On our Madrid Free Walking Tour, we visit some of these centuries-old businesses that, in some way or another, form a part of the history of our city.
We begin our list of traditional shops in Madrid with the oldest centenario business in the city: the Farmacia de la Reina Madre pharmacy. It can be difficult to see its façade among the many groups of tourists who crowd around to admire it.
This pharmacy opened its doors in 1578, and it wasn’t just any pharmacy, since it supplied medicines to the nearby Palacio Real. Even though the royal palace had its own pharmacy, King Phillip V (18th century) ordered his confidants to purchase his medicines form this pharmacy for fear that he would be poisoned.
Since its opening, all sorts of people have passed through this pharmacy, from kings to esteemed writers to ordinary madrileños. For example, one regular customer of this pharmacy was the writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the most important literary work in the Spanish language. As proof, they have preserved several prescriptions signed by Cervantes himself.
The inside of the pharmacy is a veritable museum. Of note is the gorgeous mahogany counter decorated with angels and geometric shapes. In the display cases, you can still see the old jars were they used to store ingredients to prepare their formulas. Some of the stranger ingredients you will find include mummy powder (a very common remedy in Europe for centuries), snake meat and rhinoceros horn.
But the surprises don’t end there—a secret underground passage connects the Palacio Real with this pharmacy so that the officials of the Royal House could come to buy medicines without starting any rumors or raising suspicions about the king’s health.
-Address: Calle Mayor, 68 -Year opened: 1578
Restaurante Sobrino de Botín, 1725
included in our Madrid Free Walking Tour
Although many people don’t know it, Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world. Don’t believe us? Come on our Free Walking Tour and you can see it for yourself. For the skeptics, a glass case in the restaurant displays the Guinness World Record certificate as the oldest restaurant in the world.
The structure of the building is practically the original one, except for some small modifications. You can still see the original woodburning oven where they roast suckling pig and lamb to this day. On the floor below, the original 18th-century wine cellar is preserved. And on the upper floors, you can even admire the original walls made from baked mud. All of this along with the excellent food makes dinner at Botín a complete experience.
The restaurant was opened in 1725 by Jean Botín, a French cook who married a Spanish woman. For more than 200 years, the restaurant was owned by the Botín family. However, in the early 20th century, the Botín family sold it to the González family, who continue to run it today.
Throughout its history, all sorts of famous people have passed through this centuries-old restaurant. From Ernest Hemingway, who they say would always eat an entire roast suckling pig along with several bottles of Rioja wine, to actors, athletes, presidents and even the King of Spain.
Without a doubt, the specialty of this distinguished restaurant is Castilian-style roast suckling pig or cochinillo asado and roast lamb. They serve dozens of them every day, making them one of the leaders in the city. So, if you are a meat lover, this restaurant is a must-visit.
-Address: Calle de Cuchilleros, 17 -Year opened: 1725
Sobrinos de Pérez (religious items), 1867
Spain has always been a country with a long religious tradition, and this is still reflected in the streets of Madrid. Apart from the numerous churches, monasteries and convents, the city center has a sprinkling of small shops of religious items where they sell images of the Virgin, candles, paintings, etc.
It was ages ago that its founders, Basilio Pérez and Leoncio Pérez, came to Madrid looking for opportunity in the capital city. To get started, the Pérez family, originally from La Rioja (a small region in northern Spain), decided to open a small fabric shop (1867) near the Puerta del Sol. In one part of the shop, they sold fabrics for religious communities. Seeing the success of that branch of the business, the Pérez family decided to specialize in religious items. The years went by, the business grew and grew, and today, the business is run by the sixth generation of the Pérez family—always maintaining respect for tradition.
Despite the fact that religious fervor in Spain has decreased noticeably in recent decades, the shop has retained its loyal clientele. During Semana Santa (Easter week), the demand for religious items is very high (candles, fabrics, religious prints). And at Christmas, many people come to the shop to buy the beautiful handmade Belén (Nativity Scene) figures that are sold there, true works of art.
The shop is tiny, but you can find any type of religious item imaginable. In spite of its small size, the shop has 4 additional floors that are used as a warehouse.
-Address: Calle Postas, 6 -Year opened: 1867
Alpargatería Casa Hernanz (espadrilles), 1845
included in our Madrid Free Walking Tour
On the iconic Calle Toledo, one of the most traditional streets in Madrid, is the most famous alpargatas or espadrilles shop in Madrid: Casa Hernanz. It’s not at all unusual to see long lines of customers who wait for more than 50 minutes to buy espadrilles.
This shop opened its doors in 1845, and since then it has become an icon in the city. When Casa Hernanz opened, they originally sold esparto grass products, especially those related to agricultural tasks. Today, the business is run by the fourth generation of the Hernanz family, who continue to keep their traditions intact.
This type of shoe, once associated with the lower classes and peasants, became fashionable in the late 20th century. It was then that the Hernanz family decided to position their business as the best alpargatería in Madrid. These days, in Casa Hernanz, you’ll find dozens of different styles and sizes of espadrilles.
In addition to the star product, the alpargatas, this shop sells a wide variety of handmade esparto grass products like ropes, nets, etc. But the fame of Casa Hernanz has surpassed the city limits of Madrid, and they now work for prestigious fashion brands all over the world. The small madrileño business has even caught the eye of Hollywood; in the movie Gladiator, the “tents” where the slaves stayed, including the star, Russell Crowe, were made of materials from Casa Hernanz.
-Address: Calle de Toledo, 18 -Year opened: 1845
Casa Alberto (tavern), 1827
Casa Alberto, with nearly 200 years of history, is one of our favorite taverns in Madrid. Formerly, this traditional tavern was a meeting place for bull aficionados. Even today, the décor retains a fair part of this taurino aesthetic. It was also frequented by audience members at the nearby Teatro Español (Plaza Santa Ana). Discount tickets were even sold in Casa Alberto for people to attend the theater as clá (viewers paid to applaud).
As is often the case with these centenario businesses, when you set foot inside, it feels like time has stood still for centuries. The inside of the tavern maintains the essence of the traditional Madrid taverns of the 19th century, from the beautiful wooden counter to the antique beer taps to the lamps that hang from the ceiling.
The red color of the façade was not an accident. Back then, the vast majority of people couldn’t read or write. Because of this, tavern owners would paint their storefronts red so that people would know that it was a tavern. This code was widely used in Madrid.
Among the specialties of Casa Alberto, we would highlight “callos a la Madrileña” (stew with tripe), “albóndigas de ternera” (beef meatballs) and “caracoles en salsa” (snails in sauce). We recommend trying the vermouth on tap, which is absolutely delicious. Probably one of the best in Madrid.
-Address: Calle de las Huertas, 18 -Year opened: 1827
Capas Seseña (cape makers), 1901
Our list of traditional shops in Madrid continues with Capas Seseña. Capas or capes have formed a part of everyday life for Madrilenians for hundreds of years. For those who aren’t familiar with traditional Spanish capes, they are a garment worn for warmth, draped over the shoulders and held at the neck with a brooch.
Madrid’s devotion to their capes reached such an extreme that, in the 18th century, there was a popular uprising because of a law that required the length of capes to be shortened. The revolt forced Minister Esquilache himself to resign, and even King Charles III had to leave Madrid because his life was in serious danger. Fortunately, after being forgotten for most of the 20th century, capes are coming back into style. The designs have been adapted to current fashion, and some of the world’s most prestigious designers have released capes adapted to modern tastes.
But if we’re talking about capes in Madrid, we have to mention Seseña, the most famous cape maker in the city. Plus, Capas Seseña has the distinction of being the only shop in Madrid to sell capes and nothing but capes.
The manufacturing process is completely artisanal. They only make a couple of capes each day, which, logically, is reflected in the price. The quality of the fabrics is exceptional, since they use 100% wool from Bejar (Salamanca), an area traditionally associated with raising sheep. One handmade cape will run around €500 to €900.
-Address: Calle de la Cruz, 23 -Year opened: 1901
Barbería El Kinze de Cuchilleros (barbershop), 1900
included in our Madrid Free Walking Tour
Old reclining chairs, moustache wax, straight razors… the old-time barbershops have returned with a vengeance. The Barbería El Kinze de Cuchilleros, which opened on January 2, 1900, is one of those barbershops where the barber becomes both confidant and friend. A barbershop where the customers, apart from getting a haircut or a shave, come to discuss football or politics.
Over the course of its more than 100 years, the list of notable clients who have passed through here is endless. Among them, the prestigious Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte and Antonio Banderas when he lived in Madrid in the 1980s.
Rafael, one of the owners, started to work here in 1964. Later, he became an owner of the barbershop. A lot has happened since then, but the kindness and good work of Rafael and the rest of the employees have turned this small family business into the most legendary barbershop in Madrid.
Despite fierce competition, it’s smooth sailing for this business, and it isn’t unusual to see customers waiting there for their turn each day. One thing that we love about this barbershop is the wonderful symbiosis between the lifelong customers and the young men who come in thanks to the rise in hipster fashion.
-Address: Calle de Cuchilleros, 15 -Year opened: 1900
Restaurante Lhardy, 1839
This prestigious restaurant has the honor of being the first luxury restaurant to open in Madrid. Unlike other restaurants of its time, Lhardy had separated tables, fixed prices, white tablecloths and written menus, something completely novel in Madrid in the 19th century.
Emilio Huguenin Lhardy opened his establishment in 1839 as a pastry shop. French by birth, Huguenin Lhardy introduced then-unknown pastries to Madrid like cream puffs and éclairs. It was a resounding success, and it wasn’t long before Lhardy began serving meals on the floor above the shop. From its opening, Lhardy revolutionized the culinary panorama of Madrid, and it became a popular place among the city’s high society: aristocrats, businessmen, intellectuals, politicians and people close to the Crown. Even Queen Isabel II herself frequented Lhardy to eat “cocido Madrileño”, the house specialty.
Despite the passing years, Lhardy has wisely been able to maintain the aristocratic, courtly atmosphere of the 19th century. The décor in the dining rooms retains the original wallpaper, antique lamps and Cuban mahogany façade that transport us to another time. They have even preserved the original 19th-century samovars that to this day are used to serve hot broth and cold water. Of special note is the famous Lhardy mirror, which has reflected the faces of famous people since 1839. A connection to the past that Spanish writer Azorín described beautifully: “To look into the Lhardy mirror is to vanish into eternity.”
-Address: Calle Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8 -Year opened: 1839
Posada del Peine (hotel), 1610
included in our Madrid Free Walking Tour
In an unbeatable location between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol is the oldest hotel in Madrid, La Posada del Peine.
This iconic hotel was opened by Juan Posada in 1610 on Calle de Postas. But Juan Posada didn’t choose this location by chance. In the 17th century, this street was where the Casa de Postas was located, the first post office in Madrid. Each day, stagecoaches loaded with correspondence and travelers arrived at that place, many of whom needed lodging in Madrid.
However, Juan Posada was determined to make his establishment different from the competition. To do this, he placed a peine or comb in each room as a courtesy, something never seen before in Madrid. In those days, combs were not accessible to just anyone because they were made from materials like silver, bronze, ivory, mother-of-pearl, etc. But there was another small detail: each comb was tethered with a string so that no one would be tempted to steal it.
Currently, this centenario hotel has 67 rooms, the most famous of which is room 126. They say that this room had a secret door concealed behind a wardrobe that led to a mysterious room where secret meetings were held and where fugitives were hidden.
-Address: Calle Postas, 17 -Year opened: 1610
Guitarras Ramírez (guitar makers), 1882
If there is one sound that the mind associates with Spain, it’s the sound of a Spanish guitar. Despite globalization and competition among the major brands, in Madrid there are still some authentic luthiers whose workshops have survived, where they craft artisanal guitars of an exceptional quality.
But this isn’t just any workshop; Guitarras Ramírez has the honor of being the oldest guitar workshop in Madrid, opened in 1882 by Jose Ramírez. Since then, thanks to the hard work and love of the Ramírez family for the Spanish guitar, the workshop has gained prestige in the world of flamenco. Today, their guitars are considered some of the best in the world. Among their customers are international artists like Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Mark Knopfler.
The luthiers who work here carefully choose the woods (cedar, ebony, fir, cypress and lignum vitae), which are left to dry for years. Once dried, an intensive, months-long artisanal process begins. At all times, the relative humidity inside the workshop is controlled and set around 55%, which is the recommended humidity for storing guitars. Because the process is completely artisanal, each guitar is different, which grants them a variety of unique nuances.
Today, the workshop is run by the fourth and fifth generations of the Ramírez family, continuing the tradition. Without a doubt, if you are a music lover, Guitarras Ramírez is a must-see during your stay in Madrid.
-Address: Calle de la Paz, 8 -Year opened: 1882
Sombrerería Medrano (hatmakers), 1832
If you like traditional shops like us, you have to visit this business. This sombrerería was opened in 1832. It was a good time for hat shops then, since wearing a hat was common among men and women of all social classes. This hatmaker even produced its own styles, making it tremendously popular in Madrid.
Almost 200 years have passed since its opening, and the demand for hats isn’t what it used to be. And yet, the Sombrerería Medrano has been able to adapt to the changing times. Their catalogue of men’s and women’s hats is quite varied. From the traditional “parpusas” (traditional boina caps in Madrid) to hats from the most prestigious European firms. In total, they offer more than 500 different hats for men and women. They even craft artisanal hats for movie productions, theatrical works and historical reenactments.
This hatmaker has the distinction of being the oldest in Spain. Today, they continue to make their own styles according to a completely artisanal process. Luckily, thanks to new technology, this small business has broadened its horizons and they now sell hats on all five continents.
-Address: Calle Imperial, 12 -Year opened: 1832
We hope these businesses remain open for many years and continue to enrich Madrid with their artisanl work and love for the tradition. For this reason it is important to support local businesses and this is our humble contribution.
Hola! My name is Javier Redondo, tour guide in Madrid for more than 6 years. Me and my wife, Tatiana, opened OgoTours in 2013 to share our passion for our city. I studied Tourism but my true calling was always history. From a young age I collected old coins and read history books. Fortunately, fate has allowed me to make a living from my true passion. As a good Spaniard, I love football (I support Atlético de Madrid), eating tapas and walk the cobblestone streets of old Madrid 🙂 This Madrid blog is where I share tips on popular attractions, local food and off-beat spots. At the same time, through our tours we want to show the Madrid you never knew and make you feel a local experience. Do you have any question? You can contact me by clicking the icons below (Facebook or Twitter) or if you prefer, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
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