Introduction to Spanish Tapas

Home Practical information Introduction to Spanish tapas

The Spanish custom to eat tapas is a great way to enjoy Spanish fare because it allows you to try lots of different typical dishes at once.

PaellaThe origin of the Tapa is a little unclear but seems to have come from an old custom of covering a glass of wine with a piece of bread or a flat card to protect it from insects. This may have evolved to include a slice of chacina (dried pork) or jamón (ham). Another speculation is that the owners of taverns in Castilla-La Mancha, around the 16th century, discovered that they could disguise the smell of cheap or bad wine by covering it with a slice of cheese and thus began to "cover" the wine when it was served.

Madrid's tapas bar hopping scene has garnered a reputation worldwide for being "a must" when visiting, or living in, Spain. Spending a weeknight, or weekend afternoon munching these tasty mouthfuls is an unbeatable way to absorb a little more Spanish culture.

Tapas are typically served with small bits of bread, and in Madrid, they represent the best imported foods from the distinct regions of Spain.

Jamón SerranoEach region has its own typical tapas. In the peninsular center they include queso manchengo (a cheese that is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain), in the north, tapas with la morcilla (blood sausage) are famous. In Cataluña bread with jamón serrano (cured ham) is the norm. Tapas with jamón (ham) or gambas (shrimp) are common in the region of Andalucia and frequently include aceitunas (olives). The price of tapas can vary anywhere from 50 centimos to 4 euros depending on the tapa. Prices can even vary for the same tapa depending on the quality of jamón (ham) you order.

In Madrid the culinary offerings are varied and you can find the best from through out the country in its restaurants.

For example, seafood restaurants get their seafood directly from Galicia and the tuna from the north. The restaurants that offer roasted meats demonstrate the finest techniques from the peninsular north. In Madrid you can find the cochinillo (piglet) of Segovia, el botillo (pig intestine) de Ponferrada (León), paella (dish with saffron rice, vegetables or meat) from Valencia, aceite de oliva (olive oil) from Jaén or boquerones (anchovies) from Málaga. You cannot overlook the products of Extremadura, chorizo (highly seasoned pork sausage), jamón serrano (cured ham), lomo (pork loin), All of these are just a small sample of the enormous culinary offering of Madrid.

Here are some well-known tapas bars listed by area within the city:

Alonso Martínez - Bilbao

Cardenal Cisneros 38
Tel. 914 454 385
Gral. Álvarez de Castro 24
Tel. 914 469 302


La Taberna del Sumiller
Víctor de la Serna 37
Tel. 913 598 595


Libertad 4
Tel. 915 215 331
El Pepinillo de Barquillo
Barquillo 42
Tel. 913 102 546

Cuatro Caminos

Reina Mercedes 12
Tel. 915 547 784
La Consentida
Hernani 53
Tel. 915 336 216
La Garriga
Plaza Castellana 153
Tel. 915 700 139
El Quinto Vino
Hernani 48
Tel. 915 536 600


Cervecería Alemana
Plaza Santa Ana 6
Tel. 914 297 033
La Dolores
Pl. Jesús 4
Tel. 914 292 243
La Trucha
Calle de Manuel Fernández y González 3
Tel. 915 320 882
La Venencia
Echegaray 7
Tel. 914 297 313

La Latina

El Bonano
Pl. Humilladero 4
Tel. 913 666 886
Ctlla. San Andrés 14
Tel. 913 645 450
El Almendro;
Almendro 13
Tel. 913 654 252
Cava Baja 38
Tel. 913 641 532
El Viajero
Plaza Cebada 11
Tel. 913 669 064
Taberna Matritum
Cava Alta 17
Tel. 913 658 237


Ave María 44
Tel. 91 527 50 54
La Taberna de A. Sánchez
Mesón de Paredes 13
Tel. 915 397 826

Malasaña - Conde Duque

Bodegas El Maño
Palma (Centro) 64
Tel. 915 215 057
El Pez Gordo
Pez 16
Tel. 915 223 208
El Cangrejero
Amaniel 25
Tel. 915 483 935
Bodegas La Ardosa
Colón 13
Tel. 914 151 346
La Huida
Colón 11
Tel. 915 229 107
Mesón Andino
Ruiz 16
Tel. 914 459 397
Manuela Malasaña 15
Tel. 915 942 733