A traditional spanish tavern with various types of drinks like wine and beer on the counter

What Is the Drinking Age in Spain?

30th March 2024

Spain is known for its vibrant nightlife and lively drinking culture. If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country, you might be wondering what the drinking age is and how it differs from other countries. In this article, we will explore Spain’s drinking laws, cultural attitudes towards drinking, the consequences of underage drinking, and responsible drinking practices. So let’s dive in and discover more about the drinking age in Spain.

Understanding Spain’s Drinking Laws

In order to comprehend the drinking age in Spain, it is essential to have a grasp of the country’s drinking laws. These laws not only determine the legal drinking age but also regulate the selling of alcohol. Let’s take a closer look at both aspects.

Spain, known for its vibrant nightlife and rich wine culture, has a long history of alcohol consumption. The country’s drinking laws have evolved over time to strike a balance between enjoyment and responsibility. Understanding these laws is crucial for both locals and tourists to ensure a safe and enjoyable drinking experience.

The Legal Drinking Age in Spain

Unlike many other countries, Spain has a lower legal drinking age. In Spain, the legal drinking age is 18 years old. This means that individuals who are 18 years old or above are legally permitted to purchase and consume alcohol in Spain.

It is important to note that while the legal drinking age is 18, there are certain restrictions on the consumption of alcohol in public places. Some regions in Spain have specific laws regarding drinking in public, so it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the local regulations when exploring different areas of the country.

Regulations for Selling Alcohol in Spain

In addition to the legal drinking age, Spain has strict regulations when it comes to selling alcohol. It is illegal to sell alcohol to individuals below the age of 18. Furthermore, establishments that sell alcohol are required to check the identification of customers who appear to be younger than 25 years old.

These regulations aim to prevent underage drinking and ensure that alcohol is consumed responsibly in the country. By enforcing age verification checks and promoting responsible drinking practices, Spain strives to maintain a healthy and safe drinking environment for all its residents and visitors.

Cultural Attitudes Towards Drinking in Spain

Now that we have explored the drinking laws in Spain, let’s delve into the cultural attitudes towards drinking in the country. Understanding the cultural context helps in comprehending why Spain has a lower legal drinking age.

Spain, known for its vibrant culture and rich history, has a unique relationship with alcohol that is deeply intertwined with its social fabric. The country’s cultural attitudes towards drinking reflect a balance between enjoyment and responsibility, creating a nuanced approach to alcohol consumption.

Social Drinking Customs in Spain

Drinking in Spain is often viewed as a social activity. It is common for Spaniards to gather with friends and family at bars or local cafes to enjoy drinks and engage in lively conversations. This social aspect of drinking promotes moderation and responsible consumption. Additionally, the presence of strong family bonds and the concept of togetherness in Spanish culture reinforces responsible drinking behavior.

Furthermore, the tradition of “sobremesa,” which refers to the time spent lingering at the table after a meal, sipping drinks and engaging in discussions, highlights the importance of leisurely and mindful drinking in Spanish social interactions. This practice not only fosters camaraderie but also emphasizes the value of savoring the moment over excessive consumption.

The Role of Alcohol in Spanish Celebrations

Alcohol also plays a significant role in Spanish celebrations and traditions. From the joyful festivities of La Tomatina to the colorful Feria de Abril, alcohol is often consumed in moderation as part of these cultural celebrations. Such cultural norms contribute to the responsible enjoyment of alcohol among Spaniards.

Moreover, the concept of “botellón,” a popular Spanish custom where young people gather in public spaces to socialize and drink, reflects a communal approach to alcohol consumption. This practice, although sometimes controversial, underscores the emphasis on social connection and conviviality in Spanish drinking culture, reinforcing the idea that drinking is not just about the beverage itself but the shared experience it facilitates.

Comparing Spain’s Drinking Age to Other Countries

To better understand the drinking age in Spain, let’s compare it with that of other countries, both in Europe and globally.

Spain, known for its vibrant culture and rich history, has a legal drinking age of 18. This age requirement is in line with many other European countries, where the legal drinking age is also commonly set at 18. Countries like France, Italy, and Germany share this age restriction, fostering a similar approach to alcohol consumption among young adults. However, there are variations within Europe, as countries such as the United Kingdom have opted for a higher legal drinking age of 21, reflecting differing attitudes towards alcohol regulation.

Drinking Age in Other European Countries

Spain’s legal drinking age of 18 is consistent with many other European countries. Countries like France, Italy, and Germany also have a legal drinking age of 18, while some countries, like the United Kingdom, have a higher drinking age at 21.

Exploring the cultural nuances and historical contexts of each European nation can provide insights into the rationale behind their chosen drinking age limits. For instance, in countries where wine is deeply intertwined with culinary traditions, such as France and Italy, the legal drinking age may reflect a cultural acceptance of alcohol consumption from a younger age. On the other hand, countries like Sweden, with a legal drinking age of 18 for low-strength alcohol and 20 for spirits, showcase a more nuanced approach based on alcohol content and public health considerations.

How Spain’s Drinking Age Compares Globally

On a global scale, Spain’s drinking age is relatively lower. While some countries, such as China and Brazil, have no specified drinking age, others, like the United States, enforce a higher legal drinking age of 21. The variations in legal drinking ages reflect the diverse cultural norms and societal approaches to alcohol consumption worldwide.

Understanding the global landscape of drinking ages involves delving into a myriad of factors, including religious influences, public health policies, and societal attitudes towards alcohol. For example, in predominantly Muslim countries where alcohol consumption is prohibited by religious beliefs, the concept of a legal drinking age may not be applicable in the same way as in secular societies. Conversely, countries like Japan, known for their meticulous approach to regulations, have set the legal drinking age at 20, aligning with the age of majority and emphasizing responsibility in alcohol consumption.

Consequences of Underage Drinking in Spain

Despite Spain’s comparatively lower legal drinking age, there are still consequences for underage drinking.

Spain’s vibrant nightlife and cultural acceptance of alcohol consumption may contribute to a more relaxed attitude towards underage drinking. However, it is essential to recognize the potential risks and repercussions associated with young individuals consuming alcohol before they are legally allowed to do so.

Legal Penalties for Underage Drinking

Underage individuals who are caught drinking in Spain can face legal penalties, including fines, mandatory alcohol education programs, and the confiscation of alcohol. These penalties aim to discourage underage drinking and promote responsible behavior among young people.

Law enforcement agencies in Spain often conduct regular checks in bars, clubs, and public spaces to prevent underage drinking. Establishments found serving alcohol to minors may also face legal consequences, such as fines or temporary closure. These measures are in place to uphold the law and protect the well-being of young individuals.

Health Risks Associated with Underage Drinking

Aside from the legal consequences, underage drinking can have severe health risks. The developing brain of teenagers is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption at a young age can lead to impaired judgment, increased risk-taking behavior, and long-term health problems. Educating young people on the dangers of underage drinking is crucial.

Furthermore, underage drinking can contribute to a range of social issues, including academic problems, relationship difficulties, and mental health concerns. It is essential for parents, educators, and community members to work together to create a supportive environment that discourages underage drinking and promotes healthy lifestyle choices among young people.

Responsible Drinking in Spain

While understanding the legal framework and potential consequences of underage drinking is essential, it is equally important to promote responsible drinking practices. In Spain, where socializing often revolves around food and drinks, it’s crucial to be mindful of how alcohol is consumed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Tips for Safe Drinking in Spain

Here are a few tips for enjoying alcohol in Spain responsibly:

  1. Drink in moderation: Pace yourself and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  2. Stay hydrated: Alternate alcoholic beverages with water to stay hydrated.
  3. Eat well: Enjoy traditional Spanish tapas or a meal while drinking to slow down alcohol absorption.
  4. Plan your transportation: If you’re drinking, make arrangements for a designated driver or use public transportation to ensure your safety.

Additionally, when in Spain, it’s important to understand the cultural norms surrounding alcohol consumption. Spaniards often enjoy a leisurely pace of drinking, savoring each sip and engaging in lively conversations with friends and family. This social aspect of drinking is deeply ingrained in the Spanish culture, emphasizing the importance of building connections and fostering relationships over a glass of wine or a cold beer.

Resources for Alcohol Education and Support in Spain

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol-related issues, there are resources available in Spain to provide help and support. Organizaciones de Alcohólicos Anónimos (Alcoholics Anonymous) and Centro de Información y Prevención del Alcoholismo (CIPA) are two examples of organizations that offer assistance and information about alcohol education and recovery programs. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and these organizations are dedicated to helping individuals navigate their relationship with alcohol in a supportive and understanding environment.


In conclusion, the legal drinking age in Spain is 18. Spain’s drinking laws, cultural attitudes towards drinking, and consequences of underage drinking shape the country’s approach to alcohol consumption. With the aim of promoting responsible drinking practices, it is essential for individuals to understand the legal framework, cultural norms, and potential health risks associated with alcohol. By doing so, visitors to Spain can enjoy their time responsibly and immerse themselves in the vibrant drinking culture of the country.

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