Legal Drinking Age in Spain


Welcome to Spain, the country of sun-soaked siestas and fiestas packed with liquid treasures. Wait! This tale has a twist – Spain’s legal drinking age, which may stop you from raising your glass.

Join us as we reveal important information about when and where you can drink or purchase Spain’s finest beverages and join the party in 2024.

Whether you’re a seasoned local, an eager traveler, or a parent with teenage kids, understanding the ins and outs of legal drinking age laws in Spain will enrich your experience and save you from trouble.

Hi, we’re Timon & Filipa!

We travel across Spain in our motorhome, Speedy, and update TravelSpain24 with fresh content, practical tips, and personal stories from the road. Our goal is to help you experience Spain beyond the typical tourist trails.

How does the Legal Drinking Age in Spain Work

The legal drinking age in Spain is governed by a law that applies nationwide. This law suggests that individuals 18 or older can legally purchase and consume alcohol in bars, clubs, restaurants, and similar places.  

There are specific situations and legal loopholes that may override this rule. For instance, youth 16-17 years old can purchase and drink beer, cider, wine, or Sangria if they are accompanied by their parents, older adults or legal guardians. It’s absolutely fine until they know the limits and don’t put the establishments at risk of being fined.

Yet, the law doesn’t mention anything about drinking inside their homes. So if the parents allow a minimal amount of alcohol for those under 16 years old to try, they might not face de jure issues. Still, be careful, as the legal drinking age remains 18.

Alcohol is a part of Spain’s gastronomy, experiences, and lifestyle, and they aim to promote responsible drinking, even among young adults. Still, there are some occasional concerns related to excessive consumption.

According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), Spain ranks among the 10 countries in Europe in terms of per capita alcohol consumption at an average of 10 liters of alcohol per person annually. 

Cultural Attitude Toward Drinking in Spain

Close up of a mojito at bar counter in a bar

Alcohol consumption is an integrated aspect of Spain’s vibrant culture. No surprise, Spain has a legacy of producing some of the world’s finest wines, including the best Spanish white wines like Albariño, as well as Rioja, Crianza, Sherry, and sparkling wines like Cava. It enhances the taste of food and complements conversations. It makes every sip a celebration of local flavors, whether you are a resident or on a visit.

Talking about celebrations. Wine festivals in Spain, and others like Fiesta de San Fermín (6th-14th July, Pamplona) and Semana Santa (24th-30th March, All Spain, Andalucía-Sevilla, Málaga) may call friends and family together with another thousands of people across the globe to celebrate these special occasions. You will meet traditions, religion, local taste, breathtaking fireworks, and amazing people here.

While for some teens, this might mean an opportunity to make a toast with a drink in hand. However, the culture usually promotes responsible drinking habits without intoxication or binge drinking.

Let’s not forget about Spain’s electric nightlife, which influences alcohol consumption, too. The vibrant hotspots like Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Ibiza can be a tempting draw for young party-goers, even if they’re not of legal drinking age!

Drinking alcohol in Spain is also influenced by regional traditions and preferences. For example:

  • In Andalusia, people often drink Fino or Manzanilla (dry sherry) with Tapas (small dishes) or Pescaíto Frito (fried fish)
  • In Asturias, people often drink Sidra (cider) poured from a height to create bubbles and served with cheese or Chorizo (spicy sausage).
  • In Catalonia, the go-to drink is Cava (sparkling wine) or ratafia (herbal liqueur) with Pa Amb Tomàquet (bread with tomato) or Fideuà (noodle paella).
  • In Galicia, people often drink Albariño (white wine) or Queimada (flaming punch) with pulpo a La Gallega (octopus with paprika) or Empanada Gallega (savory pie).
  • In Madrid, people often drink white Vermú (vermouth) or calimocho (wine mixed with cola) with bocadillo de calamares (squid sandwich) or tortilla de patatas (potato omelet).
  • In Valencia, people often drink Agua de Valencia (a cocktail made with orange juice, Cava (sparkling wine), vodka and gin or Mistela (sweet wine) with Paella Valenciana (rice dish with meat and seafood) or buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin fritters).

Spain’s food facts reveal that these quality alcoholic beverages, paired with flavorful domestic foods, are enjoyed all across the country as part of its energetic and endless culture. It also hugely influences the habits of young individuals, confusing culture with legal terms.

Comparing Spain’s Legal Drinking With Other Countries

Group of friends toasting cocktail at bar counter in bar

Spain’s legal drinking age is 18, middle ground compared to the US (21) and some European countries (16-17). This variance in the legal drinking age may reflect the difference in cultural attitudes towards alcohol. Spain recognizes that responsible consumption can be integrated into the cultural fabric of daily life, even for youth.

Well, you might disagree.

According to a study by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), the numbers may be surprising for some. 

Spanish students between the ages of 15-16 reported rates of lifetime alcohol use (77%) and recent alcohol consumption within the month (48%). This is compared to their counterparts in France (85% and 62%), Italy (82% and 59%) or Germany (88% and 64%).

The study further revealed that Spanish students were more likely to consume alcohol at home with their parents 40%) when compared to students in France (23%), Italy (24%) or Germany (19%).

Still, Spain’s decision to set the legal drinking age at 18 strikes a sweet balance. It lets young adults (accompanied by parents) join Spain’s lively social scene while keeping things mature and responsible. Cheers to that!

Implications of Underage Drinking in Spain

girl drink wine on nature background

Underage drinking not only poses risks to health and safety, but it also has substantial legal consequences for both the minors involved and the establishments that serve them. As we learned from research, underage drinking in Spain is not uncommon. There have been discussions about enacting laws to hold parents accountable for their underage children. 

These consequences may include fines, mandatory participation in educational programs highlighting the hazards of alcohol, or community service. But it can vary depending on the seriousness of the offense. 

Penalties for street or underage drinking may include a first-time warning, community service, minimum fines of 600€, or program participation. This is to teach young teens about responsible drinking and drive awareness of its harmful effects.

In Spain, there are laws regarding the sale and service of alcohol to individuals under the age of 18, too. Businesses such as nightclubs, supermarkets, and stores are responsible for complying with these laws. Violations can result in fines ranging from a minimum of 30,000€ to a maximum of 600,000€. 

Moreover, businesses and individuals need to be aware that they might face consequences if a minor gets harmed or causes harm to others after consuming alcohol purchased from their establishment. 

If you drive, stick to the legally allowed 0.5 mg/ml or less to avoid fines and prison in worse cases. This means one 5% beer, one glass of wine, or 70 ml Vermut. Please note this may vary depending on how much you ate, how much your weight, and your gender. So be responsible.

If you are caught behind the wheel with an alcohol level of 0.5mg/ml and over, you will get a penalty of 1,000€ and six points on your license. While if your alcohol level goes above 0.6mg/ml, things get more serious. You could be looking at three to six months of “me-time” in prison, a year of community service, and a potential license timeout ranging from one to four years. 

If you choose to drink, have a ride with Uber for your safety. Uber in Spain is reliable and affordable at the same time.

These penalties exist to protect people from the harmful effects of underage drinking and ensure public safety and order. This is why the Balearic areas went under all-inclusive restrictions and limitations on alcohol, pub crawls, or party boats. Breaking these regulations can result in a fine of up to 600,000€. 

It is the responsibility of both businesses and individuals to comply with Spain’s laws on drinking. By doing so, they not only safeguard young individuals from the various risks associated with drinking but also maintain a culture of responsible and enjoyable alcohol consumption among legal adults.

Spain’s Alcohol Purchasing Rules

Bottles of wine in shop

It’s important to understand the details about buying alcohol in Spain to fully enjoy your experience, whether you’re a local or a visitor. 

Generally, you can find alcohol for purchase at grocery stores in Spain, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and other licensed venues. It’s worth noting that some places may check ID cards, licenses, or passports for verification before purchase. Particularly if the person appears younger than age 25, that’s to avoid fines and violation of the law that I mentioned above.

Even if they don’t, you better be safe than sorry!

Moreover, it is important to follow the specific sales hours. So don’t leave your purchase too late if you are planning to party, as from 2021, it’s illegal to sell alcohol after 10 pm in most shops.

This regulation aims to prevent “botellón,” which refers to street gatherings involving drinking that can lead to noise, littering, and public disturbances. These types of street ‘parties’ are illegal all across Spain. 

In Barcelona, alcohol can be bought until 11 pm, whereas in Madrid, it is available until either 10 pm or midnight, depending on the establishment type. However, It’s worth mentioning that certain regions, including Barcelona, Andalusia, or Galicia, might make adjustments to their sales hours during summer or winter seasons. In the case of petrol stations, they can’t sell alcohol with more than 20%.

Different regions within the country have also developed their own rules and policies, like some parts of the Balearic Islands, including Magaluf, El Arenal, Palma Nova, Playa de Palma, Sant Antonio, and Ibiza. 

Even legal-age adults are limited to three alcoholic beverages during the lunch timetable and three during the evening timetable. They are very strict on sales and consumption rules, too. That’s to keep party tourism safe and avoid uncivil behavior like jumping from balconies and getting intoxicated as an underage. 

Experiencing Spain Beyond Alcohol

Seafood paella freshly prepared on a street food market

Spain has more to offer than just alcohol, which can suit families with underage kids and young adults. Dive into the past, enjoy tasty food and local non-alcoholic drinks, and let your soul be stirred by art, Flamenco, and nature’s wonders.

The best part? You get to soak it all in with a crystal-clear mind. Here are some of the activities you can experience in Spain:

Visit and experience civilizations that have shaped this land with Moorish monuments and architecture in Spain, such as the Alhambra in Granada or the historic Mezquita in Cordoba. The awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the majestic Royal Palace in Madrid.

The vibrant cities and charming towns of Spain, like Madrid, Seville, Valencia, San Sebastián, and Salamanca, will keep you on your tiptoes, too. At the same time, the stunning beaches and enchanting islands like Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Tenerife, and Gran Canaria will bathe you in the sunshine.

Then, prepare for the symphony of Spanish flavors with dishes like paella, tapas variations, or tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet). And for the sweetest finale, Churros are a must. 

Or are you craving for something with a Madrid kick? Try Patatas bravas or Gambas al ajillo. These dishes may cast a delicious spell on you. But here’s the good news – you can recreate the magic at home and impress your loved ones/parents with your newly gained steering power, all thanks to Madrid’s top-notch cooking classes

Now it’s time for an evening binge of Flamenco in Madrid. It’s a must, as it’s one of the most famous styles of music and dance in Europe with an emerging culture of Romani and Andalusian.

FAQ: Drinking in Spain

Now, let’s clarify any questions you may have left regarding legal age drinking in Spain.

Can teens drink with their parents in Spain?

Minors can have wine, beer, or cider in a restaurant or tapas bar when accompanied by their parents or guardians. This, of course, with responsible limits. 

What drinks are minors allowed to consume?

Minors are allowed to consume beverages that contain no or shallow levels of alcohol, like non-alcoholic beer, juices, and sodas. They can also be served low-alcoholic drinks like cider, beer, or wine in restaurants when supervised by adults or parents.

Public Drinking: What’s Allowed?

Public drinking is not allowed in any cases for minors in Spain. The legal drinking age is 18 years, and so is the purchase age. Although, for adults, some parts of Spain may tolerate public drinking. However, shops legally must stop selling alcohol after 10 pm. 

It’s important to check drinking regulations for each city and county in Spain you are visiting.

Clubbing and Nightlife in Spain for the Youth

bar man making a cocktail in a bar

The age restriction for entering clubs and bars in Spain is 18 years and older. However, it’s not uncommon for underage people to enter nightclubs. That’s because certain places do not religiously check IDs, especially when some individuals look older than their age.

Still, it’s considered a validation of law for both parties and can result in fines or other legal consequences.

Rounding It Up: Spain’s Drinking Laws and Culture

The legal drinking age in Spain is 18 years or older, without exceptions. However, minors can responsibly drink alcohol in restaurants when accompanied by their parents. 

Shops and other licensed permits should not, in any case, sell alcohol to underage individuals. They must confirm eligibility to purchase alcohol with a valid ID card or license. 

Failing to do so may result in fines or other legal consequences for both parties. These laws were also regulated to prevent young adults or underage people from gathering together to drink publicly. Leading to noise, disturbance, intoxication, and littering. 

Therefore Spain takes these laws very seriously.

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