In Spain, the bar is where you go for your morning coffee, your nightcap, and every meal and drink in between. So it’s no surprise that the bar is also where you go to sample the best of Spanish tapas. Tapas means different things throughout the country, so you’ll taste different flavours and eat varying amounts depending on where you go. Order a beer in Granada and you’ll more than likely get a small plate of nibbles; order one in Barcelona and you’ll probably not get anything.
All of this can make tapas confusing and daunting for outsiders, so we’re bringing you an insider’s guide to eating tapas like a local, with the best places to try tapas in each city. Plan a trip, book a great hotel in Spain and experience tapas for yourself.
La Pubilla del Taulat, Barcelona
If you want to eat tapas like a local you definitely have to visit Barcelona. La Pubilla del Taulat is the perfect place to enjoy traditional catalan cuisine. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive at the same time as the impromptu flamenco-jazz band, and just before the influx of locals. With music and laughter echoing off the terracotta tiles, this feels like taking a step back in time. Patatas bravas are the house speciality – they somehow manage to hit the sweet spot of being spicy enough for the locals, but not overpowering for newcomers to the tapas scene.
Los Gatos, Madrid
If you’re looking for tapas in Madrid, the best place to go is Los Gatos. This fantastic bar has remained unchanged for generations, with the possible exception of increasing their collection of decorative city memorabilia, ranging from bullfighting trophies to antique farm equipment. The braver visitors should order the Madrid tripe which is expertly prepared here, but for those with more conservative tastes, the fried calamari are also delicious. If you can order without Alberto, the owner, talking you into trying his local Vermouth, then you’re stronger than us!
El Cortijo de Pepe, Málaga
El Cortijo de Pepe is a hit with locals because this no nonsense bar serves outstanding tapas at reasonable prices. Its authenticity has endured since it first opened in 1971. It might be packed most of the time, but the staff remain calm and helpful, especially with ordering from the Spanish-only menu. All of the dishes will delight your taste buds, but the pepper and bean salad and the montadito de lomo or burger with pork chop are particularly recommended.
Casa Moreno, Seville
There are many swish, upmarket tapas places to try in vibrant Seville, but to really eat like a local, you will need to find Casa Moreno, a small shop tucked away in a side street. Make your way past their carefully displayed wares of cured and canned meats, and you will discover a tiny tapas bar at the back. Try the local cured meats, such as chorizo, salchicha, mojama and jamón ibérico. Open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, Casa Moreno also has an impressive wine list.
Terraza Bú, Toledo
While visiting the old Spanish capital, a trip to Terraza Bú is a must, if not for the tapas then for the stunning views over the city. The combination of scrumptious food in a beautiful setting draws consistent crowds of locals. Here they serve modern, elegant tapas, which can seem a world away from some of the more rustic offerings in town. The local dish of carcamusas, or stewed pork and vegetables, is given a delicious modern flair here, but they also have great stuffed squid.
Los Diamantes, Granada
When you’re in Granada, the best place to try tapas is Los Diamantes, a tiny white-tiled café very popular with locals. The twist is that you can’t order anything here; all the tapas are a ‘gift’ of the house, so you can’t choose the ones you want or send any back. This makes for a wild ride, as you savour and taste dishes that you might never have thought to try. Look out for the salt cod which is fried and then doused in local olive oil with chunks of crusty bread to mop up all the yummy flavours.