As soon as the warm weather arrives, Madrileños rush outdoors to their beloved 'terrazas' (outdoor cafés). Lounging in the sun with a drink is extremely popular in Madrid and is a wonderful way of meeting friends, reading newspapers, watching people and having a lazy great time. Suggestions: try 'horchata', a uniquely Spanish drink made from 'chufas' (tiger nuts, don't worry if you don't know what they are, just try it!) and try a few terraces for familiarising yourself with the 'barrios' of the 'real' city: Las Letras (touristy), Salamanca (posh), Chueca (the gay scene), Malasaña (alternative & funky), La Latina (new-bohemian), Lavapiés (multicultural & multiethnic), Chamberi (neighbourhood atmosphere). Some of the more representative terraces are:
* Cervecería Alemana. Plaza de Santa Ana 6. This terrace is located on the touristic track and is a must for first-timers to Madrid. Beer is the thing here. Suggested time frame: 1pm to closetime. Nearby metro stations: Antón Martín/Sevilla.
* Piazzetta. Plaza de Chueca 8. Piazetta is one of the terrace bars located at the central spot of the cool gay scene, where every one is welcome. Pizza and rolls. Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & also 1pm to 3pm on weekend. Metro station: Chueca.
* Café de Oriente. Plaza de Oriente. Elegant terrace in the stunning Plaza de Oriente in front of the Palacio Real. Indoor dining room in a cellar. Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & also noon to 3pm on weekend. Nearby metro station: Opera.
* El Espejo. Paseo de Recoletos between Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de Colón. Art-decó glass pavilion and pavement tables on a nice boulevard with a view to the National Library. Suggested time frame: late morning to 3pm & late afternoon to closetime. Often there's a pianist in the evenings. Nearby metro stations: Colón/Banco de España.
* Círculo de Bellas Artes. Calle Alcalá between Puerta del Sol and Cibeles, where Gran Vía meets calle Alcalá. This terrace is in front of outstanding buildings like Metrópolis and Instituto Cervantes. Suggested time frame: noon to 3pm & dusk to closetime. Nearby metro stations: Sevilla/Banco de España.
* Retiro Park. After strolling the park try any terrace close to the Estanque (artificial lake) to have a beer with crisps, a 'horchata' or a 'granizado de limón' (iced-lemon drink). Around the lake are puppet shows, fortune tellers and all kind of street performers. Suggested time frame: late morning to 3pm & late afternoon. Nearby metro station: Retiro.
* Café Comercial. This café with revolving doors was established in the 19th century and is a haunt of bohemian writers. The outside tables face the lively Glorieta de Bilbao. Local and foreign crowd. Suggested time frame: 1pm to 3pm & late afternoon to closetime. Metro station: Bilbao.
* Los Galayos. The Plaza Mayor is usually a trap set for hunting fresh tourists, but as this plaza is so charming I've chosen 'Los Galayos' at calle Botoneras and Plaza Mayor 1. Good tapas. Suggested time frame: 1pm to 3pm & dusk to closetime. Nearby metro station: Sol.
* El Viajero. Plaza de la Cebada 11. Three floors from the pavement tables until the impossible-to-get tables at the cosy rooftop. Beer and barbecued Argentine meat. Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & also 1pm to 3pm on weekend. Nearby metro station: La Latina.
* Cervecería Santa Bárbara. At a colourful tiled corner where calle Goya meets calle Alcalá. Lively shopping area in front of one branch of El Corte Inglés. Suggested time frame: noon to 3pm & late afternoon to evening. Beer and prawns. Metro: Goya.
* Casa Puebla. Plaza de Olavide 8. The Olavide circus is a place for getting the neighbourhood feel. Beer and 'tortilla de patatas y ensalada' (potato omelette and lettuce salad). Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & also 1pm to 3 pm on weekend. Nearby metro stations: Iglesia/Quevedo.
* Café de Las Comendadoras. Plaza de Las Comendadoras 1. Chill out 'terraza', close to a nuns convent, in a nice traffic-free square at the cool Conde Duque neighbourhood that holds some hidden bars for people-in-the-known. Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & 1pm to 3pm on weekend. Nearby metro station: Noviciado.
* La Casa de las Tostas. Calle Argumosa is the 'sidewalk tables' street of Lavapiés, a multicultural and multiethnic neighbourhood with alternative bars, moorish tea rooms and latin-american or chinese food to take-away. Good value drinks. Suggested time frame: dusk to closetime & 1pm to 4pm on weekend. Nearby metro: Lavapiés.