Can You Drink Tap Water in Madrid? Everything You Need to Know

Wondering about drinking water in Madrid? We’ve got all the answers and the context behind them—plus tips for staying hydrated in Spain.

It’s a classic tourist question: “Can I drink the 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 bacteria. 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?

Can you drink the tap water in Madrid? Yes, but you won't always get it!

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?

Now that you know tap water in Madrid is safe, you might be wondering why so many people seem to be drinking bottled water. 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; we’ve all met someone who drinks only Évian. 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, you’ll be brought 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.

Glass bottles of water
If you order water, most bars and restaurants in Madrid will serve you bottled by default. Photo credit: srgpicker

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. Spaniards tend to be much more direct when it comes to this sort of thing, so they’ll expect you to be upfront about what you want!

People working at a table with water and coffee cups
You might have to insist a little bit, but most places will eventually serve you a glass of tap water if you ask. Photo credit: Alejandro Pinto

When to Drink Bottled Water

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—and even if you just want water, you may have to spend a few euros on a bottle. Likewise, if you’re ordering a menú del día, 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 water fountains in Madrid aren’t exactly ubiquitous, they do exist—some are even steeped in history. And of course you can always fill it up from a regular sink.

Drinking fountain in Madrid
Fill up your reusable water bottle at one of the prettiest fountains you’ll ever see. Photo credit: Daniel Lobo

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!

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2 Comment

  1. Patricia says
    March 24, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    We always order agua de grifo (even outside Madrid and on caminos), and am sure we are immediately pegged as estadounidenses. However, we always order a cana or a copa first!

    Reply
    1. Devour Tours says
      March 31, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      Way to order like a local!

      Reply

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