Can you drink tap water in Madrid? And if so, how can you order it? What if you do want a bottle?
We’ve got all the answers and the context behind them—plus tips for staying hydrated in Spain.
It’s a classic tourist question, both for those headed to Madrid and elsewhere: “Can I drink the tap water?” But while it may sound cliché, this is serious stuff.
When traveling abroad, the last thing you want is to be sidelined by an easily avoidable virus or bacterial infection. In some places, it’s better to be safe than sorry; in others, buying bottled water is totally unnecessary. So where does tap water in Madrid fit into the equation?
Is It Safe to Drink Tap Water in Madrid?
Here’s the short answer: yes.
In fact, Madrid has some of the best tap water in Spain. There is absolutely nothing dangerous, risky or even unpleasant about it. Madrid’s tap water is totally clean and uncontaminated, and you should have no qualms at all about drinking it.
If you’re the (understandably) paranoid type, you’ll be happy to know that according to the CDC, tap water is safe to drink in all major Spanish cities. And if you’re really curious, consult this infographic to get a quick answer for any country in the world. Notice how nearly all of Europe is blue, meaning there’s nothing to worry about.
So What’s With All the Bottled Water in Spain?
Now that you know tap water in Madrid is safe, you might be wondering why so many people seem to be drinking bottled.
Some people might swear that they “don’t trust tap water,” and insist on only drinking the bottled kind. This is not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon (after all, we’ve all met someone who drinks only Evian). To each their own, but don’t let those people intimidate you—drink your tap water with pride!
This brings us to a whole other issue: drinking water in Madrid’s restaurants and bars. If you’re from the United States, you probably take it for granted that as soon as you sit down to eat, your server will bring you a tall glass of water, or even a pitcher of it.
This is not the case here. You certainly won’t be served tap water in Spain without asking, and even if you ask, you might not get it.
How to Order Tap Water in Madrid
Imagine that you’re in a Spanish café, restaurant or bar. You want a glass of water: nothing fancy, just some basic hydration.
You ask the waiter or bartender for agua…and they hand you a bottle. Now you have a choice: do you surrender, or stand your ground?
Don’t be afraid to send that bottle back. Ask instead for un vaso de agua (a glass of water) or agua de grifo (water from the tap)—or avoid this altogether by asking for that to begin with.
Usually they’ll give in, but sometimes they’ll resist. They might say they don’t serve tap water, or that they only have bottles.
Here’s the thing: every food service establishment has a faucet. The only reason not to serve tap water in Madrid is that it’s not as profitable as selling a bottle. It’s up to you how far you’ll go to get it, but as long as you’re confident, you’ll probably have success.
Even if you’re not the confrontational type, trust us on this one. Spaniards tend to be much more direct when it comes to this sort of thing, so they’ll expect you to be up front about what you want!
When to Drink Bottled Water in Madrid
In most cases, bottled water in Madrid is unnecessary, overpriced and environmentally unfriendly. But sometimes it’s easier to swallow your pride and just drink it. So when is it acceptable or necessary to go for the bottled stuff?
If you’re in a nicer restaurant, they’ll probably expect you to order a drink. Even if all you want is water, you may have to spend a few euros on a bottle.
Likewise, if you’re ordering a menú del día, bottled water usually counts for the included drink. You can plead your case, but if you’d rather just go with the flow, we’ll forgive you.
What about the plastic bottles of water that are sold on the street? If you’re walking around in the sun, it’s preferable to pay for one than to faint from dehydration. Just make sure you recycle it, and next time, bring a reusable bottle!
Although (working) public drinking fountains in Madrid aren’t exactly ubiquitous, they do exist—some are even steeped in history. And of course, you can always fill your bottle up from a regular sink.
Overall, tap water in Madrid is nothing to worry about. Drink it to your heart’s content, stay hydrated, and don’t be afraid to ask for a glass of water if that’s what you want. You might get a funny look, but if you ask us, it’s way better than wasting money and materials on something you don’t need!
Spanish Tap Water FAQs
All water in Spain is considered safe to drink. That said, if you’re not used to it, it can taste a bit off in some areas (mainly coastal cities like Malaga and Barcelona). If that’s where you’re headed, go for bottled—the water won’t make you ill, but the taste can be off-putting.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on March 16, 2020 and was updated with new text and photos on June 3, 2021.
Melissa first moved to Madrid to explore her interests in linguistics and communication, and quickly fell in love with the city’s culture and cuisine. She’s particularly passionate about Spanish vermouth and canned seafood, and makes it a point to drench absolutely everything in olive oil.