It could be translated as 'pre-drinking' but in some cases, people, often students, will just go to a park or plaza to drink with no intention of going anywhere else afterwards.
The word literally means 'big bottle' (and still does in Latin America, where botellón isn't a part of their culture). The term supposedly originates from the 80s when people would save money by drinking in plazas and parks. It blew up in the 90s among students and young people, so much so that it's now widely considered an accepted custom.
Let's see some examples:
- Este viernes se organiza un macro botellón en el centro de Madrid.
This Friday a massive street party is being held across the city centre of Madrid.
- Los estudiantes se fueron de botellón después de la graduación.
The students went pre-drinking on the street after their graduation.
More about botellón
Botellón is a divisive issue. Many believe that the noise, mess and anti-social behaviour that comes from drinking in the street means that it's not compatible with built-up town and city centres. Others, however, feel that botellón provides a cool place to socialise in the hot summers of Spain, as well as a cheap alternative to bars and clubs.
To overcome this divide, many areas have set up designated botellón sites away from built-up areas, that are called 'botellódromos'.
Botellón now carries a fine when carried out in areas where it is prohibited, so make sure to check before cracking open a bottle of wine in the park.
This word of the day has been contributed by LAE Madrid, the leading Spanish academy in Madrid. Accredited by the Insitituto Cervantes, it offers Spanish courses for all levels and also has Spanish classes for kids and families. Read their blog for more Spanish!