Everyone who visits Spain wants to enjoy a tapas experience. The country's unique tapas culture, a sublime mixture of bar hopping and eating, has become the envy of the world.
Introduction to Tapas
Tapas is a plural term, meaning a group of small Spanish savory dishes. They are typically enjoyed with alcoholic beverages and are a popular part of Spanish culture. When immersing yourself in this culture, you will likely "tapear," meaning you will travel from bar to bar, or restaurant to restaurant, and enjoy tapas and drinks.
Where Can You Get Good Tapas in Spain?
Numerous cities in Spain are famous for tapas including Seville, Granada, and San Sebastian. Some bars or restaurants pride themselves on their unique, comprehensive tapas menu while others stay loyal to the tradition of giving a simple, free tapa with every drink.
Not sure where to find the best tapas while in Spain? Let's take a closer look at some of the most popular Spanish bars for tapas.
Logroño: Tapas in Wine Country
When visiting Logroño, you can explore two well-known streets dedicated to tapas and fine wine in the heart of Spain's most famous wine region. Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan have been revitalized over the past few years, replacing outdated tapas deals with distinctive and more memorable tapas experiences.
San Sebastian: City of Gourmet Tapas
San Sebastian is quickly building a reputation as the top European destination for foodies. The streets of this old town are packed with excellent tapas bars, known as pintxos, with Calle 31 de Agosto among the most popular.
Many bars in San Sebastian have cold tapas out on display. Some establishments will give you a plate in order to serve yourself, while other bars will have you point to what you want.
San Sebastian Tapas Tour Opportunities
If you don't speak Spanish or you find the process of ordering tapas in a busy bar a little daunting, you have two good alternatives.
One is to take a San Sebastian Tapas Tour, where a tour guide will take you from bar to bar and do all the ordering for you. They'll be able to advise you on what to order and can give you insights into the tapas culture of San Sebastian.
The other option is to get the San Sebastian Food Pintxo Passport. This gets you a little booklet, much like a standard travel passport, which provides you with a drink and pintxo/tapa in a series of bars. While you won't receive a comprehensive guide to show you around, and you still have to go to the bar yourself, the Pintxo Passport does the talking for you. You will also get a lot more food and drink for your dollar if you purchase the Passport.
San Sebastian's Most Popular Spanish Bars for Tapas
While there are many popular tapas bars in San Sebastian, Borda Berri is well-liked among residents and tourists. For the best bar-top selection, visit Zeruko, or stop by La Mejillonera for classic seafood and patatas bravas.
What Else Is There to Do in San Sebastian?
In addition to tapas bars, San Sebastian also has one of the best city beaches in Europe, with great surfing nearby. If water sports don't interest you, consider visiting the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Granada: The Best City for Free Tapas in Spain
Granada stands out as one of the best cities in Spain for tapas as the majority served to customers are free. Many bars will provide guests with a good-sized portion of tapas with the order of a drink. In some bars, tapas will consist of whatever food is currently on hand, while other establishments, particularly those that attract tourists, may serve low-quality burgers and fries with drink orders.
Visitors to tapas bars in Granada will quickly learn that the more drinks ordered typically translate into higher quality tapas being served. In addition, higher-end bars will often provide a tapas menu so customers can choose what they want.
Best Tapas Bars in Granada
Calle Elvira in the center is the most popular street for free tapas, with Bodegas Castañedas just off Elvira on Calle de Almireceros as one of the best in town. Avoid Calle Navas, where many bars are known for being stingy with their offerings. Up in the Albaicín, there are a few good tapas bars worth exploring.
What Else is There to Do in Granada?
In addition to a variety of hotels located in the Granada area, many visitors enjoy the Alhambra, a fortress constructed in AD 889.
Seville: The Best Tapas in Andalusia
Seville, along with San Sebastian, is one of the most popular places to find tapas bars in Spain. With an estimated 4,000 bars lining the streets of this capital city of Andalusia, there is no shortage of tapas for both residents and visitors.
Popular Spanish Bars for Tapas in Seville
Seville's tapas bars tend to be quite spread out around the city so a little research is needed in order to find the best places in town. Some of the most popular areas include Plaza los Terceros, Paseo Catalina, and the area between Avenida de la Constitucion and the bullring. Top-rated tapas bars in the area include El Rinconcillo, Maquila, La Azotea, and Catalina Bar de Tapas.
What Else is There to Do in Seville?
Known as one of Spain's most historic cities, Seville offers visitors a variety of attractions including Giralda Tower and The Seville Cathedral, bustling shopping centers, nature parks, and a number of breathtaking beaches.
Leon: Free Tapas in North-West Spain
Heading northwest from Madrid, visitors will find Leon, undoubtedly Spain's second best city for free tapas. Around the Barrio Humedo part of town, there are many bars and cafes with free tapas. Less touristy than Granada, you won't get hamburgers and fries here. You will, however, get to try local delicacies like cecina (beef-ham, much like a beef jerky) and morcilla (blood sausage).
Though the Barrio Humedo is the most famous area of town for tapas, you should also check out the Barrio Romantico and Barrio de Eras for additional tapas experiences.
Best Tapas Bars in Leon
Famous tapas bars in Barrio Humedo include Jamon Jamon, Cerveceria Las Tapas, Bar La Sachristia, and Bar Miche.
What Else is There to Do in Leon?
The Santa María de León Cathedral is a famous attraction in the area, in addition to The Casa Botines (designed by Antoni Gaudí). Adventurous types can spend the day exploring the Cave of Valporquero. You could also combine a short, combined trip to Leon and nearby Oviedo.
Malaga: Good, Cheap Tapas All Over the City
When searching for cuisine in Malaga, foodies can find free tapas in low-quality bars, and tapas with various price tags in nicer establishments. The center of Malaga, where bars are located, is quite compact, walkable, and ideal for pedestrians.
Best Tapas Bars in Malaga
With the main area of Malaga being full of tapas bars, it may be difficult determining which ones stand out. Favorite choices for both residents and visitors include Bodega Bar El Pimpi, La Taberna de Monroy, and La Tranca.
What Else Is There to Do in Malaga?
Malaga has beautiful yellow-sand beaches, an amusement park, golfing, and other exciting activities for visitors. Main attractions include Alcazaba of Malaga, a medieval palace on the sea, and the Castle of Gibralfaro.
Madrid: Tapas in the Capital
In addition to being the capital, Madrid is Spain's biggest city, so finding tapas bars is an easy feat. There are bars located throughout the city's barrios, some aimed squarely at tourists, some very much a place for locals. The most famous street for tapas is Cava Baja in the La Latina part of town. Another easy place to bar hop is between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ana.
Best Tapas Bars in Madrid
With the city being awash with tapas bars, it may be hard to discern those that truly stand out. Some popular Spanish bars for tapas in Madrid include Stop Madrid, Casa Gonzalez, and Malaspina.
What Else is There to Do in Madrid?
Madrid is an active city that offers plenty of attractions for residents and visitors. Be sure to check out the Royal Palace of Madrid, Plaza Mayor, and Museo Nacional Del Prado.
Barcelona: Catalan Tapas Bars
While the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is known for its architecture and art, it isn't known for being the go-to place for tapas bars. Finding tapas in Barcelona can actually prove to be frustrating, so it never hurts to use a guidebook, take a tapas tour, or get recommendations from locals.
Best Tapas Bars in Barcelona
Quimet & Quimet has developed quite a following in recent years, in addition to Bar Celta and Restaurant Palosanto.
What Else is There to Do in Barcelona?
Barcelona is packed with attractions and activities including Sagrada Família, the Gothic Quarter, and La Boqueria.
Jaen: Free Tapas in Olive Country
Like Granada, Jaen is a great place to get a tapa with your drink for free. You don't usually have a choice in what you're given, so order your wine or beer and look forward to a tasty surprise.
Best Tapas Bars in Jaen
Good tapas bars in Jaen include Restaurante Casa Córdoba and Alcaudon.