When I’m abroad, in between the jet-lag and the general desire to get acquainted with a new place, the first thing I tend to do is take a peek at the nightlife. That experience always seems to go as follows.

In my hippest attire, I set out to the nearest club expecting:

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But I arrive to find:

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And instead of bumping something like this:

They’re playing:

Whoops.

Having made my fair share of these mistakes (such as wandering unknowingly into my first “psytrance party” expecting a rave in New York, and a swinger’s lounge expecting a popular nightclub in Portland), I’ve learned the hard way that even a little research pays off before club hopping, or committing to going out in the first place.

With that in mind, here’s what you can expect from a dancefloor in Madrid.

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First and foremost, it’s no secret that Spain is one of the premier nightlife hubs in the world, and this directly impacts the everyday. Lunches, for example, are often in the mid-afternoon, dinner is seldom before 10pm, and 2am signals the time to start partying.

Though Madrid ranks third (just behind its cousin Barcelona, in turn behind the infamous Ibiza) as a world nightlife destination, all that means is the clubs will be marginally less crowded and touristy. They’re still going to be crowded and touristy, and that’s probably “what to expect” #1. Though, despite the fact that the drinks will be egregiously overpriced (what to expect #2), it should actually come as something of a comfort to be in the mix with a herd of people from around the world having fun, as opposed to being the only foreigner in a locals’ club, trying to figure out how everyone else seems to look like this:

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While you feel like you look like this:

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So, let’s look at a couple of the most popular big name clubs in Madrid, where you can still get a taste of la noche with the training-wheels on:

Teatro Kapital

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Now, when I said training wheels, I meant it relatively. When it comes to partying, the seven-floor multi-genre megaclub Kapital ain’t messin’ around. Armed with 20 TECNARE LA208 arrays as well as SW215 subwoofers, the house sound system ensures you will have no problem finding the club, since you’ll be able to hear the beats from several blocks away.

Yes, it’ll probably cost you about 20 euros to get in, but once inside, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a scene like this:

Or, if you’re lucky, a scene like this:

You’ll be subject to the absolute cutting edge of techno, RnB / hip hop, and electro / tech / progressive house. In fact, it’ll probably sound an awful lot like this:

Or anything from the club’s own SoundCloud:

If you’re like me, you’ll immediately wade through the fog of sweat and aerosolized deodorant and make a beeline for any of the three bars surrounding the main dancefloor. Sadly, the cocktail and beer offerings are pretty standard fare, and Kapital doesn’t have a signature drink (though if you pre-gamed with some Spanish sangria at dinner, you probably only need a vodka-Red Bull to keep the buzz going and the night alive).

Club Fabrik

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King of world-renowned house, techno, and trance acts, the 10,000-person-capacity, two-hangar Club Fabrik (complete with a three-tiered main stage) is bound to be hosting a huge party with artist names you may even recognize. It’s ranked the fourth best club in the world, complete with six dance areas, 15 bars, and a pulsing 60kW sound system (so you can expect to feel the bass rattle your ribcage, and walk away with tinnitus as a souvenir from your night out).

Another 20 euros and you’re in the club, which is bound to look like this:

(That pillar of smoke coming down in the middle of the dancefloor is actually cooling water vapor from the venue’s many ice machines, which they blast periodically throughout the evening.)

With a large space and an even larger following, the club appeals to a wide variety of tastes, depending on the night — so be sure to check the flyers before dropping in:

The beats tend to be a little heavier at Fabrik than at Kapital, with hard techno acts ranking as some of the most popular events.

Those would sound a bit like:

Again, it never hurts to visit the club’s SoundCloud:

With no signature drink, it’s in your best interest to pregame elsewhere, as the drinks are as expensive as they are generic.

Charada

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Fine, you want to take the training wheels off, you are the more adventurous, hip, and authentic clubgoer, and for that we’ll look at Charada. A relatively new, exceedingly hip(ster), and considerably smaller club, Charada is the place for electro house and funk music in their “Redbox” and “Blackbox” dance halls. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, the extremely fashionable clubhopping elite head to Charada for their Boombox, Zombie, and Pantera events.

After dropping another 15-20 euros to get in, you’ll find that Charada bumps like this:

And sounds like this:

How to dance

As for dancing at any of these locations, you’ll easily get away with the club classics — “jumping-up-and-down-fist-pumping” and/or grinding (partner permitting) — but you might just catch some of the kids dropping into their Spanish-style shuffling:

Note: Shuffling originated from hardstyle culture, and was flung forcibly into public consciousness thanks to the unfortunate global virality of this:

It’s now a worldwide and genre-nonspecific phenomenon. The US has over six different distinct styles, ranging from “classic” (or Melbourne, very tight and technique heavy) to “Cali style” (loose and wide, with a bit more b-boy top-rock flair). The differences are subtle, but what seems to characterize the Spanish style is a harder stomp, less out-flair, and a lot more jumping, as opposed to the glide-heavy and wide American Melbourne.

At 7am most of these clubs finally close, and if you did it right you might feel a bit like:

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And need a pick-me-up like:

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But walking back to your hostel, it’ll be just early / late enough to catch this:

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