Spanish breakfast differs substantially from its American, British or European counterpart. Out go the eggs, sausages, cheeses, yogurt and cereals (although, of course, there are plenty of places where these non-Spanish options can be found on the menu). In go the tostas (toasted bread of all varieties) with tomato puree and olive oil or with jamon (often both); croissants (yes, Spaniards seem to love them almost as much as their French neighbours) either on their own or with butter and marmalade (both fresh or “a la plancha” meaning lightly toasted), and all types of sweets, such as: napolitanas (baked goods with all types of fillings, most commonly chocolate), cookies, donuts, muffins or cakes of all varieties.
What follows is a selection of my 5 favourite breakfast places in Madrid which, based on my experience gained through numerous visits, shouldn’t disappoint.
Casa Gonzalez (Calle Leon, 12, Barrio de Las Letras)
One of the best selections of higher-end/gourmet jamon, typical Spanish cheeses, virgin olive oil and specialty breads in Madrid. A large selection of tostas with creative toppings typical of various parts of Spain. This place, in existence since, seemingly, forever, is also beloved by the Madrilenos and therefore a bit of patience might be required in order to find a table.
Brown Bear Bakery (Calle Leon, 10, Barrio de Las Letras)
Located next-door from Casa Gonzalez, is Brown Bear Bakery. Don’t let the name fool you, it is a very Madrileno bakery with a rather non-Madrileno name. They have one of the best selections of gourmet breads and baked goods, especially croissants and napolitanas. Their croissants are best served toasted and either sweet (with marmalade and butter) or savoury (tomato puree with oil and jamon). Their muffins and palmeras (crispy, thin baked goods in the shape of a heart covered either with chocolate or vanilla) are also highly recommended (might as well pack up on the calories early in the morning and burn them during the day while exploring Madrid on foot). This place has a loyal following among the Madrilenos, which is clearly a good sign.
Directly across from Brown Beak Bakery can be found Cafe/Restaurante Cervantes. Again, don’t be fooled by the signage outside, it is NOT just a pizzeria. If you come before noon, you will find arguably the best and most filling serving of bread with tomato/olive oil and jamon anywhere in the city. The local residents of the barrio love this place and know that the price/quality/quantity ratio cannot be beaten. In short, if you want to have a breakfast in a truly Madrileno style, don’t leave it off your itinerary.
Cafe de la Luz (Calle Puebla 8, Malasana)
One of the coziest and most established cafes in center of Madrid. Emblematic of the barrio Malasana, Cafe de la Luz offers one of the best selections of home-baked cakes (particularly their carrot cake) as well as croissants. In my opinion, it also serves one of the best cafes in the city (I usually order it with soya milk). The decor is warm and inviting and the service friendly and efficient. It also offers selection of less-Spanish breakfast options and is therefore quite popular with tourists who crave something that reminds them of home. If you have a sweet tooth or want a more filling breakfast, this is your place.
La Central Bistro (Calle del Postigo de San Martín, 8, Callao)
La Central has become somewhat of a chain with 2 locations, one in Barcelona and now also in the heart of Madrid, Callao. Principally a book store, it features a great Manhattan loft-style bistro/cafe with some good breakfast options. Their croissants and home-baked sweets definitely won’t disappoint and the decor, while very cool and industrial, features some interesting historical pieces seemingly saved or “rescued” during the renovations and now displayed as art. If you’re looking for a relatively light but tasty breakfast in an unbeatable central location, La Central is your pick.
Honourable mention: Pasteleria La Mallorquina (Calle Mayor, 2, Sol)
A visit to Madrid couldn’t be complete without a quick visit to this pasteleria “de siempre” (literally, “since forever”, according to Madrilenos). Located in Plaza Sol, the city’s soul (even if not the prettiest), it offers the greatest and tastiest selection of Napolitanas in the city, which the Madrilenos seem to eat up all times of day (while mysteriously maintaining their slim figure!). While there are a variety of fillings available, the best and most popular one is the chocolate Napolitana, served still warm and with sugar on top. For those with a sweet tooth, this sinful delight CANNOT be missed during a visit to Madrid.
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