Flamenco Tablaos

THE Place to Experience Flamenco

What is a Tablao in Flamenco?

You can see flamenco performances in theaters, bars, big parties and even on the street. However, seeing a show at a historic flamenco tablao is something that shouldn’t be missed. These traditional venues are dedicated to preserving the roots of pure flamenco, especially cante jondo, which is a flamenco style known for it’s deep, raw emotion.

Typically, tablaos are small intimate venues where the audience sits close to a wooden stage (the tablao) and feels the intense pounding of the dancers’ footwork (zapateado), the passionate cries of the singer, and each pluck of the guitar string – all without any use of amplification. This is pure flamenco at its best. Continue reading to find out more about why tablaos are so special and important for flamenco.

Patricia Palacios, co-founder of España Guide
España Guide Co-Founder
Patricia is an engineer turned content creator who for over a decade has been helping travelers navigate her native Spain. In addition to her own website, her tips and recommendations have been featured on BBC Travel, CNN, El País & Lonely Planet, just to name a few.

This article might include affiliate links, allowing us to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Check our disclosure page for more info.

Patricia Palacios, co-founder of España Guide
España Guide Co-Founder
Patricia is an engineer turned content creator who for over a decade has been helping travelers navigate her native Spain. In addition to her own website, her tips and recommendations have been featured on BBC Travel, CNN, El País & Lonely Planet, just to name a few.

This article might include affiliate links, allowing us to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Check our disclosure page for more info.

Historical Origins: How Did Flamenco Tablaos Emerge?

The word tablao literally means floor made up of joined wooden boards. In this case, it’s the stage traditionally used for flamenco performances. The use of wood is important for the quality of the sound of the zapateado (footwork) and to protect the joints of the dancers.

Male dancer in a traditional tablao in Madrid
Male dancer in a traditional tablao

However, the venues that we refer to today as flamenco tablaos have their origins in the so called singing cafes (“cafés cantantes”) of the 19th century. These cafes were actually more like bars or cabarets where patrons could drink while enjoying nightly shows of singing and dancing.

Flamenco Tablaos Icon - The first café cantante    Did you know? The first café cantante opened in Seville in 1842 under the name Café sin Nombre (No Name Café).

Before the existence of the singing cafés, flamenco was only heard in family celebrations and spontaneous performances in fiestas and taverns. It’s because of these café cantantes that flamenco became more popular and gave rise to the first professional flamenco performers.

Cafés cantantes were first described by foreign travelers and writers such as Ernest Hemingway. They were also known under many other names such as garitos flamencos (flamenco bars), tabernas flamencas (flamenco taverns), templos flamencos (flamenco temples) and, my favorite, catedrales del duende (duende cathedrals).

Flamenco Tablaos Icon - Duende    Duende is a mysterious and creative force that all flamenco artists search for. Find out more in our article Duende in Flamenco.
Café Cantante in Seville in 1885, Spain
Café Cantante in Seville in 1885

The golden age of the cafés cantantes is said to have been between 1850-1910. Due to a number of factors – the largest of them being Spain’s civil war – cafés cantantes saw a decline in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The 1950’s and 60’s saw a return to flamenco roots and with the arrival of tourism, many cafes cantantes transformed into the tablaos that we know today.

Flamenco has continued to evolve over the years, however, the classic tablao has remained a bastion for purists seeking to preserve the art form.

What Characterizes a Flamenco Tablao?

Intimate setting at Teatro Tablao Flamenco Torero in Madrid
Intimate setting at Teatro Tablao Flamenco Torero in Madrid

Small Size

One of the main characteristics of tablaos are their small size and intimate feeling. To give you a better idea, it isn’t uncommon for a tablao to have under 50 seats. This allows for the audience to sit very close to the stage and truly experience flamenco first hand.

Expect for the space to be tight and the seats to be close to each other. It’s part of the charm and it creates a strong connection between the performers and the audience.

No Amplification

Acoustics are also extremely important. Traditional flamenco tablaos do not use any type of amplification (no microphones or speakers). As a result, you get to feel the vibrations of the music and the zapateado on the wooden stage.


The décor of a tablao is usually related to southern Spain’s Andalusian culture where flamenco was born. You’ll see Moorish influences such as tiles or plasterwork like those that are found in the Alhambra. And you will also find plenty of flamenco and bullfighting memorabilia (old posters & costumes, etc.).

Authentic flamenco show at Tablao Cordobés in Barcelona
Authentic flamenco show at Tablao Cordobés in Barcelona

Authentic Performance

Very few flamenco tablaos have a permanent group of artists. Instead, most artists will make a round to several different tablaos in the city. And occasionally that circle is extended to other popular tablaos throughout the country. These artists are professional and have a deep respect of the flamenco traditions.

You will find that compared to other flamenco venues such as theater shows, tablaos tend to have a more authentic and primal feel.

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What are Some Iconic Flamenco Tablaos in Spain?

Cueva de la Rocío, Granada

Founded in 1951, Cueva de la Rocío is one of the oldest gypsy caves to become a flamenco venue in the Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada. It was open and is to this day owned by the Maya family, one of the most important in the flamenco world. Its audience includes celebrities such as Michelle Obama.

Seeing a live flamenco show in the intimate and cozy cave of Cueva de la Rocío is a soul-stirring experience even for the most seasoned flamenco fan.

Intense flamenco dance at Corral de la Morería in Madrid, Spain
Intense flamenco dance at Corral de la Morería
C. Lucas Abreu © Madrid Destino

Corral de la Morería, Madrid

Open since 1956, Corral de la Morería is another one of the most famous flamenco tablaos in the world. In its almost seven decades of history, its stage has been witness to milestones such as the presentation of 'Entre dos aguas' by Paco de Lucía and the debut and professional take-off of Isabel Pantoja.

Moreover, Corral de la Morería is well known not only for its flamenco but also for the quality of its food. Currently, its restaurant holds one Michelin star.

Throughout its history, Corral de la Morería has been visited by a huge list of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, Salvador Dalí, Harrison Ford and Nicole Kidman.

Flamenco Tablaos Icon - UNESCO    Did you know? Tablaos have contributed to the recovery and maintenance of the art of flamenco, whose universal relevance was recognized in 2010 when UNESCO inscribed it on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

El Patio Sevillano, Sevilla

El Patio Sevillano is considered the oldest tablao in Seville. Although it has occupied several locations and changed name a couple of times, it’s been open since 1952. The show at this tablao lasts 90 minutes and, contrary to most small intimate tablaos, it features a large stage with up to 20 artists.

Live Show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobés

Tablao Flamenco Cordobés, Barcelona

Open since 1970, Tablao Flamenco Cordobés is the most renowned tablao in Barcelona. Over the decades, it has attracted legendary artists – such as Camarón de la Isla and Farruco – establishing itself as a reference in the flamenco world.

Personally, we really enjoyed the show at this historic venue. If you want to learn more about our experience, check out our full Tablao Cordobés show review.

Cordobés also features a gorgeous Moorish inspired interior décor that resembles Granada’s Alhambra.

What to Know Before Attending a Flamenco Tablao?

How long does a flamenco show at a tablao last?

The vast majority of flamenco shows last 1 hour, but some might be a bit longer or shorter. In any case, we recommend to arrive at least 15 minutes before the show is set to begin. That way you can get your drinks or even begin with your meal.

In some venues, seats are given on a first come, first serve basis. This means that arriving early will also help you get better seats.

Are photos and videos allowed at tablaos?

Some flamenco tablaos allow for photos and/or short videos during the performance. Others don’t. They will let you know before the show starts.

Make sure you follow the rules and never ever use flash as it would be a huge distraction to both the performers and the audience.

Can you eat dinner or have a drink at a flamenco tablao?

Some tablaos only serve drinks, some drinks and food, and some nothing at all (to keep the audience’s focus 100% on the performance). The Teatro Tablao Flamenco Torero in Madrid is a great example of the latter. You can have a drink at the bar before the show and even take it into the tablao with you, but once you are in the room, there aren’t any waiters or bar service.

Even though food in tablaos is known to be somewhat mediocre, this is not the case in all of them. There are even tablaos with Michelin starred restaurants such as the iconic Corral de la Morería in Madrid.

How much does it cost to visit a flamenco tablao?

Usually there is a set fee to enter a tablao and attend a flamenco show. You can expect to pay between 15 to 50€ for a basic ticket (just for the show or show + one drink).

If the tablao offers food, normally there are several types of tickets to choose from (e.g. show + tapas, show + dinner). Prices including food start at around 50€.

Note that in some venues the food is served before the show (e.g. Tablao Flamenco Cordobés in Barcelona), while in other venues it’s done during the show (e.g. Tablao Flamenco Torres Bermejas in Madrid).

Flamenco Audience Etiquette

You will notice during the show that the performers use clapping as an instrument. This clapping is varied and complex and is often based on a 12 beat compas. Do not attempt to join in. The performers and rest of the audience will thank you.

Be courteous to the performers and audience and only applaud at the end of each dance or song.

What are Other Flamenco Venue Types?

Flamenco Theater

If you aren’t going to see a show at a traditional tablao then the other main type of venue is a flamenco theater. This is also a great place to see flamenco but the experience is quite a bit different, mainly due to the room size.

With larger venues comes a larger stage with gives way to having more artists at once. For example you are more likely to see multiple artists dancing and the same time. In addition, the lighting, costumes and overall production of these shows is much more advanced. The seating is more spaced out like you would expect in a normal theater making for a more comfortable experience.

However, in any theater you will lose the intimacy and up-close connection that comes with a flamenco tablao. Our recommendation? See a show at both kinds of venues!

Three dancers at the stage of Teatro Flamenco Madrid
Three dancers at the stage of Teatro Flamenco Madrid

Flamenco Bar

Flamenco bars don’t usually have a regular show schedule. If it does, it’s probably just once or twice per week and it might just be one singer and/or guitar player. As its name indicates, it’s first of all a bar: an establishment selling drinks.

Flamenco bars are where locals, aficionados and novice artists hang out. Here flamenco mostly happens in a more spontaneous way. They rely almost entirely on improvisation. Also, flamenco bars usually don’t have an entrance fee.

Peña Flamenca

A peña flamenca is a cultural association dedicated to flamenco. They are private clubs whose members are flamenco aficionados dedicated to preserving the art.

Peñas are always organizing events (concerts, classes, open mic nights, etc.) but these are usually more spread in time (maybe one concert per month instead of 3 or 4 daily flamenco shows like many tablaos) and more thought for the local audience.

Is visiting a tablao the best way to experience flamenco?

Flamenco purists will tell you that you haven’t experienced a real flamenco show until you see one at a tablao. We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s definitely the most authentic and traditional way to experience flamenco.

The truth is, flamenco is an art form that you want to be up close and personal with. You want to be next to the stage and become completely immersed. That’s exactly what you get at a tablao.

Of course some tablaos put on better shows than others. They aren’t all the same. Make sure to check out our “best flamenco shows” lists where we guide you in finding the top flamenco shows throughout Spain.

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