The drinking age differs greatly from country to country. Of course, Spain has clear laws on this subject, however the legal drinking age in Spain and the drinking culture in the country are two very different things. So, if you are planning on traveling Spain and enjoying the amazing bar and drinking culture that the country enjoys, it’s good to understand the ins and outs and avoid getting in trouble. In this post we are going to cover the drinking age in Spain so you can plan your trip with no surprises. You can also find more interesting tips to travel to Spain in our dedicated section.
The drinking age is much more permissive than the actual laws. Spain is one of the best places on earth to go and enjoy a cold drink. The country is famous for its bars, taverns and terrazas and enjoys countless festivals which makes underage drinking very common but still frowned upon.
For the longest time, the drinking age in Spain was 16. After a rash of incidents involving underage drinking, in 2009 it was changed to 18, which is still pretty young. The drinking age in Barcelona or in Madrid is the same as in the rest of Spain: 18.
Lets go over different situation you might find when purchasing alcohol:
If you want to stroll over to your local shop and pick up a bottle of your favorite spirit, you will have to do so before 10pm and be over 18. Shops are required to ask for ID if they believe you might be under age, and they are rather strict about it, so make sure that you have a valid ID on you.
Also, if you try purchasing alcohol at a store after 10pm in Spain you are going to be turned away. Selling alcohol after 10pm is illegal in Spain. It is possible to find shops that will sell you alcohol after 10, but this is 100% illegal and if you are caught you will be fined.
In large cities in Spain it is common to find small corner shops and bodegas that will sell you alcohol late into the night but always at a greater price and before they do so they will check to make sure the coast is clear.
Spain is home to some of the most amazing restaurants, bars and taverns you will find. Spain’s is known around the world for its terraces and tapas bars and its an intrinsic part of life in Spain. It is how Spaniards socialize. Sharing a cold drink and a bite to eat with friends is as Spanish as it gets.
When it comes to drinking at restaurants and bars, as long as you are supervised by older people, waiters will serve underage people without question. You might have to have them order for you, but, as long as you don’t over do it and put the establishment at risk of getting fined, you should be good to go.
To be clear, according to Spanish law, selling or serving alcohol to minors under the age of 18 will be fined with a minimum penalty of 30,000 Euros and a maximum penalty of 600,000 Euro, but this loophole is commonly exploited.
There isn’t technically an age restriction to drinking at home. As long as an adult purchased the beverage, minors can consume as long as they are home and safe. We do not recommend this, but it is very unlikely the police will control unless neighbours call due to noise, etc.
Spain has a rich tradition of producing excellent alcoholic beverages, in particular wine. Spain is home to several world renowned wine regions including Rioja (home of the famous wine battle in Spain in June) and Ribera del Duero, so it is incredibly common to allow minors to try wine or beer at home safely, so don’t be surprised if you come across this phenomenon.
There is no situation in which you should drink and drive. Period. The legal limit is 250 microgrammes of alcohol per litre for a breathalyzer test and 0,5 grams per litre in your bloodstream if you were required to do a blood test. If you have been driving for 2 years or less, the amount permitted in a breathalyzer test is 150 microgrammes of alcohol per litre of breath.
So, there you have it. If you are planning on visiting Spain and experience the countries rich drinking tradition, spectacular local festivals and bar culture make sure you do so responsibly and stay out of trouble.