Bars and cafés in every city have little by little become places to chat and have good conversations, a place to talk with both friends and strangers about heaven and earth, politics, relationships and philosophy… and as the famous song Al Calor del Amor en un Bar (The Warmth of Love in a Bar) of the Spanish group Gabinete Caligari says: Bares, qué lugares / Tan gratos para conversar / No hay como el calor del amor en un bar. (Bars, what great places / So pleasant to talk there / There is nothing like the warmth of love in a bar)
Today, this article by ShMadrid will tell you more about the famous Café Gijón, one of the most characteristic cafes in the capital, and, as the song says, the location where many intellectual conversations by great writers have taken place.
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Café Gijón, cafeteria for Madrid’s intellectuals
In the nineteenth century cafes were pretty common in Madrid. These were the places where they held intellectual gatherings and ordinary meetings, always accompanied by pleasant drinks and talking partners of their level.
Today, many old cafes have become versatile spaces, where they sell books and organise events, such as musical performances. And this can all be enjoyed by sitting comfortably at a table while having a coffee or a drink.
Some examples of cafes are: Tipos Infames, in Carrer de San Joaquín, 3, Café Fugitiva Librería, in Carrer de Santa Isabel, 7 or Central de Callao, in Carrer de Postigo de San Martín, 8.
The legendary Café Gijón, which first opened its doors in 1888, still is a reference point for literary gatherings today, and they are frequented by many writers and intellectuals. The Premio Café Gijón is an annual Spanish literary award, and its first competition took place in 1949. The competition was originally promoted by Fernando Fernán Gómez, who was one of Café Gijón’s most loyal customers.
Perhaps the most special characteristic element of Café Gijón is, that it is located outside the area where literary gatherings in Madrid normally take place, like for example the cafés near Puerta del Sol. Café Gijón was established by Gumersindo García, an Asturian Indian who made his fortune in Cuba.
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Café Gijón was divided into two parts: one side served coffee to clients arriving at the door in carriages, the other side were garages. Eventually the great Café de Gijón would become an institution. It was not only Spain’s most famous café, but also one of the most prestigious cafés in the whole world.
The exterior façade is made of brown marble with wood finishes, and three large windows look out over the narrow sidewalk of Paseo de Recoletos. The restaurant has a capacity of 35 to 40 tables, and it has partially been renovated to turn it into a restaurant. Nowadays, Café Gijón offers meals and tasting menus, but they also still serve their always delicious coffees.
Enjoying Madrid’s good weather is not a problem, as there is a lovely terrace outside. The location of this emblematic place is Paseo Recoletos number 21.
The tables are made of black marble, and the decorative elements are traditional to literary cafes, with wooden-lined walls and paintings that were donated to the cafe after artist gatherings. The floor in the cafe consists of a chessboard of tiles in maroon and light ivory.
*Main photo by Florentino Sánchez via Visualhunt
Do you know Café Gijón? Why do you like to go there?