Spain in-depth: practical information

Drinking age in Spain

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Drinking age in SPain

The drinking age differs from country to country and it when planning a trip to Spain it is important to understand what can and cannot be done. This becomes especially important in a country like Spain where 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 to 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. 

Table of Contents

What is the legal drinking age in Spain?

Spain has clear laws on this subject and a quick look at official statistics would show that teenagers start to drink alcohol at about 13 or 14 years of age.  Culturally, the drinking age seems to be much more permissive than 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 that make underage drinking very common but still frowned upon. 

For a long time, the drinking age in Spain was 16, then it changed in some regions to 18 but today and since 2009 THE DRINKING AGE IN SPAIN IS 18 IN ALL REGIONS. This change in law happened after a rash of incidents involving underage drinking. Despite some proposals that have been made to increase the legal drinking age to 21, it remains unchanged to 18, which some people argue is still pretty young.  It is important to mention at this stage that European Union is concerned about the practice of binge drinking and that regulations in member countries such as Spain follow the debate at Europen Union on this topic. 

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: 

Can alcohol be bought at shops and supermarkets in Spain?

Shops and supermarkets require a license to sell alcohol but they can do it with no problem once this license is in place. 

However, alcohol cannot be sold after 22:00.

In the case of petrol stations they should not be allowed to sell alcohol with more than 20 degrees of alcohol. 

At what age can I buy alcochol in Shops in Spain?

Ok, so as we have just described, 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. But you will need to be over 18 to buy alcohol in Spain (some people, even locals, believe they can buy at 16) . 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.

Some studies from the Spanish OCU (consumers organization)  large cities in Spain it is common to find shops and supermarkets that will sell alcohol to under 18s. In some cases, some shops were also found to sell 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.  

Age to order alcohol  at restaurants and bars in Spain

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.

Can I get fined being a minor and found drinking alcohol in the street?

Drinking alcohol in the streets is forbidden in Spain and you could get fined. Fines range from 500€ for under minors or above 600€ for people above 18.

These regulations are local and regional and may vary from region to region. We strongly recommend avoiding drinking alcohol in any public area. 

Drinking alcohol at home in Spain

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. 

Drinking and Driving in Spain

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. 

How does Spain compare to other countries when we consider the drinking age?

Spain has a similar regulation to most countries in the European Union where drinking is permitted at 18 (this is shared practice in the vast majority of countries around the world). Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and Austria are an exception in Europe, with below 18s being allowed to drink beer and wine but not spirits. This reality differs from the United States where the drinking age is 21 (this is the case in some 11 countries worldwide). Muslim countries do not permit alcohol consumption and some countries