Foodies, prepare to be enthused: 12 of Spain’s best tapas bar districts
You already know what tapas are, but do you know where to enjoy the most popular ones? We’re here to help with a list of some of the best-known areas in major tourist destinations. In most places tapas are provided free of charge with a drink, but not always. Sometimes there is a small supplement to pay, and occasionally the fanciest ones are listed on a menu.
La Latina district, Madrid
Start here to explore one of the city’s most traditional neighbourhoods. Streets like Cava Baja, Cava Alta and Humilladeros are home to some of the most historic tabernas, and are always brimming with people enjoying tapas, especially at the weekend. Madrid’s local specialities are patatas bravas, potato omelette, croquettes, olives, mature cheeses, and offal dishes. It’s usual to find them offered free to accompany your drink. You might be interested to know that this district was actually the original town of Madrid in the Middle Ages. More information from the Madrid Tourist Office
Passeig de Sant Joan, Barcelona
This is one of the city’s trendiest streets. While the traditional tapas districts of Barcelona are Poble Sec, and more recently Sant Antoni, it’s Passeig de Sant Joan where the latest and newest bite-sized snacks are to be found. Do you know what the popular tapas are? They range from the most traditional (often adapted to make modern creations) like potato salad, bombas (whole fried potatoes stuffed with meat) and little sandwiches, to haute cuisine in tapas thanks to the influence of Ferran Adrià and the avant-garde chefs of Barcelona.
Roba Estesa, Hotel Neri.
The old town centre of Donostia - San Sebastian
Lesson 1 if you’re out having tapas in San Sebastian: here they call them pintxos (pinchos). Lesson 2: visit the old town centre and streets like Calle Pescadería, Calle 31 de Agosto and Calle Fermín Calbeltón. Lesson 3: try as many different ones as you can, from the classic gilda (olive, hot pepper and anchovy) to more creative ideas. In this area, any pintxo-sampling route will be good, but you could start with the bars highlighted in the Donostia – San Sebastian Tourist Office guide: La Viña, La Cepa, Casa Gandarias, Dakara Bi, A Fuego Negro, Bartolo, Zumeltzegi, and Haizea. More information from the Donostia-San Sebastián Tourist Office
Bilbao old town
We’re still in the Basque Country, land of the pintxo. Although you can enjoy them anywhere in Bilbao, it’s traditional to go to the old town centre and streets like Calle Somerda, Calle del Perro and Plaza Nueva for pintxos of squid, mussels, mushrooms, cod, omelette, etc. The options here are practically unlimited. Some of the places recommended by the official Basque Country Tourist Office are Víctor Montes, Sorginzulo and Gure Toki (on Plaza Nueva); Santa María, Gatz and Irrintzi (Calle Santa María); Berton and Sasibil (Calle Jardines); and Askao Berri (Calle Askao). More information from the Basque Country Tourist Office
Granada, tapas city
Many people regard Granada as one of the best cities for wandering from bar to bar enjoying the tapas, which are often free with a drink. Local specialities include tiny fried fish, pinchos morunos (pork skewers), montaditos of sausage on bread, patatas bravas and potatoes with alioli. You can find them practically everywhere in Granada, but it’s lovely to snack and admire the sights at the same time, in the area around the Cathedral and streets like Calle Navas, Calle San Mateo, Calle Elvira, Plaza Nueva and Plaza Campillo.
Turismo de Granada.
The old town centre of Seville
The Andalusian capital prides itself on its tapas, and you can find them every few steps as you stroll around the sights. But, what to order? The Seville Tourist Office has a complete guide to the bars specialising in each of the most popular tapas dishes. Some of the essentials are gazpacho and papas aliñás (both are especially recommended in summer), huevos a la flamenca (a colourful egg dish), rabo de toro (oxtail stew, an Andalusian speciality), carrillada (tender braised Iberico pork), pringá (the locals dip bread in this meaty treat) and pescado en adobo (fried fish). More information from the Seville Tourist Office
Ruzafa district, Valencia
It’s one of the trendiest areas of the city, where people gather for tapas on bar terraces. There are plenty of tapas bars on Calle Burriana, Calle Ciscar and Calle Cádiz. The local specialities in Valencia come from the sea: grilled cuttlefish, boquerones (fresh anchovies) in vinegar, cod croquettes, shellfish like clams and mussels, and salted fish. Of course, small servings of rice dishes, such as the famous paella, are also popular. There are also several restaurants in the area serving signature cuisine. More information from the Valencian Community Tourist Office
The Barrio Húmedo district in León
Did you know León has more bars per inhabitant than any other city in Spain? It’s probably thanks to its famous tapas, and the Húmedo neighbourhood is the main area for enjoying them. Many places serve them for free to accompany drinks. The area is very close to essential sights like León Cathedral and the Casa Botines (designed by Gaudí). Some of the most classic bars and tapas are highlighted on the León Tourist Office website: Bar Miche and its battered squid, Bar La Bicha and its black pudding, and Bar Latino and its squid rings (all on Plaza de San Martín); Bar El Flechazo and its potatoes with paprika (Calle Platerías), Mesón La Patata (Calle Misericordia), Bar La Alpargata and its “cojonudos” (quail eggs) and pig’s ears (Calle Carnicerías) and Bar El Garbanzo Negro and its “tigres” or mussels (Cuesta de los Castañones). More information from the León Tourist Office
Valladolid, a tapas route in the city centre
The old town centre is easy to walk around from bar to bar enjoying the delicious tapas of Valladolid. Most restaurants are on the squares near the Cathedral: Plaza de Portugalete, Plaza Universidad, Plaza San Martín and Plaza Martí y Monsó. Tapas are so important to the city that every November it hosts the National Tapas Competition, when Michelin-starred chefs choose Spain’s best tapa. Here you can try a few of the winners, such as the “Lechazo Taj Mahal” (at Don Bacalao, Plaza de las Brigidas), “Bocata de calamares envuelto en obulato” and “Tigretostón” (at Los Zagales, Calle Pasión). More information from the Valladolid Tourist Office
On and around the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca
Salamanca is a top tourist attraction and a university town, so it’s hardly surprising to find going out for tapas is a tradition here. There are plenty of bars where a tapa is included with drinks for free or for a modest mark-up. You can see for yourself in the tabernas on Plaza Mayor and the immediate area, including Calle Prior, Calle Consuelo, Calle Concejo and Plaza del Peso. You can find all sorts of tapas here, but some traditional ones are hornazo (a bread roll usually filled with ham, chorizo and pork loin), black pudding and chorizo, pinchos morunos, tripe, fried pig snouts, chanfaina (a lamb stew with offal), palomas (potato salad on crispbreads)…
Calle Laurel in Logroño
A street with over 60 bars and restaurants where you can enjoy the culinary delights of La Rioja. This is Calle Laurel, where there is a bar every two metres and you can try local produce like asparagus, borage and peppers, in delicious dishes such as patatas a la riojana or chuletillas al sarmiento. And of course, the famous wine of La Rioja is the ideal accompaniment. As well as this street, Logroño’s tapas bars also cluster on the nearby Calle Albornoz, Calle San Agustín and Travesía de Laurel. More information from La Rioja Tourist Office
Turismo de la Rioja.
The Tubo neighbourhood, Zaragoza
Little narrow streets full of bars famous for their delicious tapas: croquettes, anchovies, migas (fried breadcrumbs), mushrooms, pasties… A quick look at the display in each bar will help you decide what to try. This area, on and around Calle Estébanes and Calle Libertad, is very busy at lunchtime and even more so in the evenings. As the custom is to wander from bar to bar trying a wide range of tapas, the area is always lively. There is another very popular area of Zaragoza for tapas: La Magdalena (on and around Calle Estudios), where bars have special offers every Thursday.
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