updated 9/18/2006 2:26:13 PM ET 2006-09-18T18:26:13

Best Cocktail Bar: Try the daiquiris at Del Diego's (tel. 91-523-31-06) and you'll have to agree they're the best in town. Cool decor, low-key atmosphere, and smooth attentive service add to the charm of this discreet locale, tucked away in a quiet street just below the Gran Vía.

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Best Literary Cafe: Once there were several distinguished old-world cafes in the city where intellectuals, artists, and lesser mortals would gather to enjoy a leisurely chat or stimulating tertulia (social gathering). Today, practically the sole survivor of these legendary watering holes is the 117-year-old Gran Café de Gijón (tel. 91-521-54-25), with its wrought iron columns and check tabletops. Get a window seat if you want to enjoy the ever-changing scene on the Paseo outside.

Best Tiles: Los Gabrieles (tel. 91-429-62-61). Formerly a gypsy-run bordello, this alcove-filled retreat lined with artist Enrique Guijo's colorful ceramic illustrations of everything from the grim reaper to bullfights. Basically a wine and tapas bar, but as an added attraction, flamenco dancers perform once a week.

Best Taberna: La Taberna de Antonio Sánchez (tel. 91-539-78-26). You can't get more traditional than this much copied 200-year-old original, a vintage example of Old Madrid complete with zinc counter, carved wooden bar top, barrels, honest wines, and a genial bartender. Formerly patronized by painters and playwrights, this small cavelike locale has also had long associations with the bullfight world. (The bull's head on the wall is not there just for decoration.)

Best Place for Sherry: La Venencia (tel. 91-429-62-61). This cavernous bar sells sherry and nothing else, from ultradry manzanillas to hearty olorosos, are in an uncompromisingly preserved rundown, untampered look. This means flaking tobacco-brown walls with tattered sherry posters, old barrels, and a basic wooden bar top where the barman chalks up your tab as you go along. Olives, manchego cheese, and mountain ham are on the concise no-nonsense tapas list. Check out the sitting area with tables and chairs at the back, too.

Best Wine Bar: Aloque (tel. 91-528-36-62). No less than 200 vinos are on offer at this understated modern bodega-taberna hidden away in a narrow lane in medieval multiethnic Lavapiés. In addition to the inevitable Riojas and Penedes, you'll find some exciting new wines from hitherto undervalued areas like Yecla and Toro. Sit at the bar or at tables in a small alcove. Good inventive: a la carte raciones if you get peckish.

Best Tapas: El Bocaíto (tel. 91-532-12-19). Cited as a favorite snack 'n' wine locale by Oscar-winning cineaste Pedro Almodóvar, the stylish little Bocaíto, set in the heart of bohemian Chueca, will usually serve a free mini portion of cecina (smoked beef) or something similar with your vino before offering a wealth of marine delights that ranges from salmonetes (red mullet) to pescaítos (small fried fish).

Best "Celebrity" Bar: La Bardemcilla (tel. 91-521-42-56). The "Bardem" bit comes from the name of Spain's number-one movie family, the equivalent of the Baldwins to the States and the Redgraves to the U.K. Actress mother Pilar's son Javier -- Oscar nominated for his performance as a homosexual Cuban writer in Before Night Falls in 2001 -- is co-owner with his sister Monica; and tapas and raciones are accordingly named after other movies he's made: croquetas "Jamón, Jamón" and tortilla "Perdita Durango," for example. It's a warm, stylish bar with an ever-so-slightly pretentious ambience. Comfortable restaurant at the back.

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