Excellent, so you’ve decided to explore the world-class range of flamenco in Madrid and enjoy a show. You googled the best shows in Madrid and ah, the tyranny of choice! I hear you, picking a flamenco show in Madrid can be very confusing. So let me give you a few tips to help you see the best flamenco Madrid has to offer!
What is flamenco?
But first things first – what is flamenco? I wrote a brief introduction to flamenco – for now, I’ll say it’s folk music from Andalusia in the south of Spain, which has grown into a full art form and that took its current form in the 19th century. It’s a combination of singing, guitar and dancing… in a flamenco manner, if you know what I mean.
Should I see flamenco in Madrid?
You read correctly above: flamenco doesn’t come from Madrid, but we are spoiled for excellent flamenco. In fact, Madrid is to flamenco artists what Holliwood is to actors in the US. The city hosts the best flamenco schools, teachers, tablaos (venues) and festivals. We’re lucky like that. So when you see a show in Madrid, most of the artists you’ll see on the stage will be people that were born in Andalusia, but that at some point in their lifes moved to Madrid to make a name for themselves.
Are tablaos just for tourists?
Ahhhhh “tablao” – that six-letter word. A tablao is a music venue specifically created to host flamenco shows. In my private flamenco tours in Madrid I get this question a lot: are flamenco shows touristy? The economic reality in Spain means that flamenco does need tourists who appreciate this art form to go to the tablaos, to support the industry and make it possible for flamenco artists to live on their artistic skills. The upshot? Flamenco shows that tourists attend are totally compatible with high-quality flamenco. And here is an interesting thought I read at a blog post at deflamenco.com – museums are also mainly attended by tourists, but you wouln’t try to find a museum not attended by tourists, right? Having said that, there are of course very touristy shows, and they would never appear in the selection I’m about to give you!
Should we eat at the show?
The tablaos I recommend have a delicious range of cheeses, cold meat platters and other finger foods that you can nibble on before the show. If you would like to maximize your time and have a full dinner at the venue, then the food offered at the venues I recommend below is fine – but please do get your order in at least one hour before the show starts to make sure that you can focus on the performance rather than your steak once the show begins! Having said this, my general recommendation is to have dinner somewhere else after the show (if your show starts at around 8pm) or before the show (if the show starts at 10.30 or 11pm). Madrid has an exciting and delicious food scene to explore, and the best flamenco venues are surrounded by excellent tapas bars and restaurants. See this YouTube playlist below with my husband and my favourite places in Madrid, by neighborhood. Bon appetit!
My favourite tablaos in Madrid
When it comes to choosing a tablao, remember this mantra: “A tablao is only as good as the artists that are performing that night”. But sure enough, there is a few tablaos you can trust to have great artists performing virtually every night, and which are handily smack-bang in the centre of Madrid’s gorgeous old town. Shows include flamenco dancing, guitar and singing, and last for 1 – 1.5 hours. I’ve listed below my four favourite flamenco venues to see flamenco in Madrid.
This tablao was founded in 2000 by three flamenco dancers, and you can tell! Their love of flamenco is apparent in their selection of artists, which changes every fortnight, and in the absolute respect shown for the artists while the performance is on. You can tell that the performers feel right at home here. They’re having a flamenco party and you’re lucky enough to be able to watch them celebrate! The show price is €39 and includes a drink.
Founded in 1956, this tablao is internationally-renowned and boasts a classy programme that changes weekly, if not daily. The cost is €50 with a drink, or if you’re in for a blowout, you can opt to have dinner before the show and then head for the main lounge to watch the show. The food is traditional with a twist – I’d kill to have their cocido madrileño broth topped with a perfectly runny egg yolk more often in my life. Don’t miss the fabulous floor to ceiling wall-of-fame, featuring photos of a wide range of celebs from Kiss to Justin Bieber to Harrison Ford – just a few of the greats who’ve received their flamenco baptism of fire within these white-washed walls.
Besides their daily shows with flamenco singing, dancing and guitar, some flamenco tablaos are running incredible flamenco programs with a focus on flamenco singing and/or guitar. These shows are usually cheaper, too. A few key flamenco recitals held in Madrid are those at Sala García Lorca (upstairs from Casa Patas) and the Círculo Flamenco de Madrid‘s recitals at Off Latina. Beware though: in most of these performances there is no dancing (to be an authentic flamenco performance, the show doesn’t have to include dance and this allows singers and guitarists to come to the fore).
Any other ways to experience flamenco in Madrid?
There sure is – let me take you on my private flamenco tour! Rather than just seeing a show on your own, by taking my tour you will truly appreciate this amazing art-form. It is fully private, and I will meet you in Madrid’s flamenco neighbourhood where you will first sit down for a glass of wine and a tapa in an atmospheric family-run bar where I explain the historical and cultural context that flamenco exists in (also using images and video). Then I’ll take you on a brief twilight stroll through Madrid’s paramount flamenco neighbourhood where you’ll visit artisan flamenco shops, meet the artisans and also get exclusive access to the world’s most famous flamenco school. Finally, armed with all that knowledge and appreciation of the art form, we’ll see the show that I have handpicked for that evening. I choose from a range of the best venues depending on who is performing (dance, singing and guitar) that night. The upshot? By the end of the evening, you’ll have a better understanding of flamenco than the average Spaniard. No kidding.