The Spanish brought the vice to Europe, courtesy of Columbus. Today, the nation's pleasurable trinity is a cafecito, a good drink, and a puro (cigar) . Though Europe is now a place of health-conscious authorities and regulations that restrict smoking in public places, Spaniards and particularly Madrileños are traditionally flexible and tolerant, and this, along with King Juan Carlos' renowned enjoyment of a good cigar - never in public - makes the country and its capital a good place for all those people who like these 'revolutionary pleasures.'
Puro Placer Club (a play on words, as Puro Placer means 'pure pleasure' as well as 'cigar pleasure') is an example of smoking has managed to survive in Madrid notwithstanding EU regulations. The club has an attractive white and orange colour scheme, and the menu features wine, cocktails and champagnes. More importantly, there is a walk-in humidor where you can choose your preferred puro. The owner also runs Barquillo, a smoke shop a few steps away. C/ Prim 1, Madrid. Tel. +34 91 5214 480, www.clubpuroplacer.com. Open from 4 p.m. until the early hours. Closed Sundays.
The Royal Smoking Club in Madrid is actually a private association, located adjacent to the Kerala gin club. Its objective is to make it possible to savour a fine smoke and a well-made cocktail. Kerala in fact claims the best gin and tonic in Madrid, and it has a wide selection of other cocktails and spirits. The membership fee is not much greater than the price of a drink. It is in the city's business district, not far from some of the best restaurants in the city. Calle del Nardo 6, 28029 Madrid. Tel. +34 91 5790 103.
Dry Martini is a classic, sophisticated bar, with a very high quality wine list and an excellent selection of cigars. They also make the best Mojito in Barcelona. The restaurant behind the bar, Speakeasy, is also well worth a visit. C/Aribau 162-166, Eixample, Barcelona. Tel. +34 93 2175 072, www.speakeasy-bcn.com
Gimeno is a famous cigar store, located opposite the market La Boqueria, at Ramblas 100. The store stocks virtually all the lines of Cuban cigars imported by Altadis. There are fine display cabinets on the ground floor, and a walk-in humidor in the basement. Ramblas 100, 08002 Barcelona. Tel. +(34) 933 020 983, www.gimenocigars.com
Barcelona Pipa Club, in the Gothic quarter, is an interesting venue, cigar club during the day and a bar by night. Pipe smoking courses are held regularly and are open to anyone interested in learning the art of pipe smoking. Plaça Reial 3, Barcelona. Tel. +34 93 3011 165, www.bpipaclub.com
A final note: the Prado in Madrid provides historical proof that the capital city has been tolerant to cigar smokers for hundreds of years. Goya's paintings frequently include cigars. The name of the painter is also the name of a local product, Goya cigars, made in the Canary Islands.