Tapas are a type of aperitivo, or appetiser, usually enjoyed with beer, wine or another drink. They can be cold, hot, served on toast, or in clay pots, and many establishments have “house specials”. Although they are meant to whet the appetite before lunch or in the late afternoon, if you end up eating lots they can substitute a meal.In addition to the good old regular bars, in many cities you can try tapas in other more modern spaces, like gastrobars or old converted markets that are now gourmet markets. And if you are lucky, your trip will fall when a ruta de la tapa (tapa tour) is being organised, perfect for trying out different bars and deciding on your favourite tapa.
It is no coincidence that the word “tapas” is recognised in many languages outside Spain. These small portions of food served as an accompaniment to drinks delight anyone who tastes them. In Spain, “ir de tapas” is a must (going from bar to bar tasting tapas while having fun with friends). If you’ve already tried it, you’re bound to want to do it again – or maybe you’d like to learn to make some tapas yourself. If you haven’t yet, you should... you’re sure to love it.
Going out for tapas is a custom that exists all over the country, but certain cities have a special reputation for it. These include Granada, Salamanca, Valladolid, Logroño, Zaragoza, León, Alcalá de Henares... A curious fact, did you know that in the Basque Country they are known as “pintxos”? In places like the historic centres of Donostia-San Sebastian and Bilbao you will see why pintxos are so popular worldwide. There are various myths surrounding the origin of the tapa: from that in the seventeenth century King Alfonso X asked to be served small portions of food to accompany wine to that it was once customary to serve a drink tapada, or covered, with bread and cured meats so insects would not fall in. Whatever the truth may be, the tapa has won us over.