Tapas are a way of life here in Spain. They are a very sociable way of eating as the conversation tends to flow along with the drinks. And with each drink, a new tapa is served. We look at the top ten tapas districts.
In just about every corner of Spain, you can find an tapas bar. Whether you prefer traditional style in an old barrio, or one of the smart up-and-coming cosmopolitan districts, you can be assured of excellent flavours and choices.
Let´s start with La Latina area in the capital. This is one of the city’s most traditional tapas districts and home to some of the oldest tapas bars. As such, the atmosphere here is fantastic and the streets are normally filled with people. Furthermore, local specialities are patatas bravas, tortilla, croquetas, olives, cheeses, and morcilla.
It is hard to think of a place in Madrid that can top La Latina when it comes to the incredible number and variety of tapas bars to choose from. Calle de la Cava Baja and Cava Alta are situated right in the centre of La Latina and run parallel to each other. However, Cava Baja is the livelier of the two and is home to over 50 restaurants in just a few metres.
Perhaps one of the oldest and most famous of restaurants here is Casa Lucio. The owner, Lucio Bláquez was born in 1933, and came to the area when he was just 12 years old. At that time, he worked with his father in the restaurant then Mesón El Segoviano. The owner treated Lucio like a son, and years later, she sold the restaurant to him. One of the specialties here is Huevos estrellados, which at €12.50 promises to be well worth trying.
Also, on a Sunday, just outside the Barrio de La Latina, you can find the local flea market. This is an excellent day to visit this area for some tapas. Try some snails if they are on a menu!
There are many areas to visit for tapas. However, the Gothic Quarter is one of the most famous districts in the centre of the city. Also, as you might guess from the name, you can still see some medieval remains. Bar La Plata is one of the oldest authentic tapas bars in the area. Opened in 1945, you can still order 4 of the original tapas from that time. As a result of its popularity, the bar can get very busy and always has a fantastic atmosphere.
For something more modern and trendier, visit Passeig de Sant Joan. Situated in the Eixample and Gràcia districts of Barcelona it is an up-and-coming area selling the most popular tapas. You can find traditional tapas as well as more haute cuisine versions of the old classics.
Bilbao and San Sebastian
In these areas, tapas are referred to as pintxos. Both old town districts are the best places to visit. You can´t go wrong here! Calle 31 de Agosto, Calle Pescaderia and Calle Fermin Calbelto in Donostia, San Sebastian and Calle del Perro and Plaza Nueva in Bilbao are not to be missed out on your tapas journey. There are plenty of menu options, but particularly fish and seafood are worth trying. Many of these bars have been established a long time. For example, La Espiga in the centre of Donosita has followed the same family traditions since 1928. San Sebastian legends say that the women of La Espiga invented the Pintxos.
Basaras in the old quarter of Bilbao has the most basic of tapas, but somehow, they have a magic touch and taste very special. Bar Fermin also serves traditional tapas with the Gilda high up on their list of favourites. Gildas were created in the Basque Country in 1946 and were named in honour of a film starring Rita Hayworth. The tapa is a combination of olives, pickled gherkin, green chillies, and anchovies. They are said to be green, sweet, salty and spicy – a bit like the character in the movie.
Granada is often regarded as one of the best cities for meandering from bar to bar enjoying the tapas and soaking up the atmosphere. Often these tapas are free with a drink. Some bars are even known to offer more than one. However, it is the waiter who decides what to offer. If you prefer to choose, most places will have an extensive range available. It is such a special place to relax while steeped in history and enjoying the sights at the same time.
Among the many places to eat is the Albaicin district, the old Jewish quarter, and the area around the cathedral. They all offer excellent possibilities. Bodegas Castañeda is an amazingly busy and atmospheric bar which is famous for its choice of jamon hung all over the place. Reina Monica is a very friendly, welcoming bar with a selection of tasty tapas. Bar Pibe is well worth a visit. Here you can sit all day sipping and eating and viewing the majestic sight of the Alhambra Palace.
The old town centre of Seville
The Andalucian capital prides itself on its tapas, and you can find them everywhere you look as you wander around. The districts are packed full of gastronomic delights, from ancient old taverns to cutting-edge restaurants with creative and innovative cuisine. You will be spoiled for choice.
The very traditional include Las Teresas with its amazing selection of jamon, sausages, black pudding, and cheese. Try the secreto de cerdo ibérico a la plancha! Or if you prefer something more modern, try Vineria San Telmo with their creative twist and amazing presentation of tapas. You will eat these with your eyes before even tasting.
The Ruzafa district is one of the trendiest areas in Valencia. And as such it´s a popular point for people to gather and enjoy an evening together. There are plenty of tapas bars in this area, El Camerino to name one. This modern tapas bar aims to make clients feel like they are performers involved in a set or in a private dressing room. They have over 30 items on the menu and can cater for allergies, vegan, and vegetarian preferences.
By contrast, in Carrer de Josep Benlliure, Casa Montaña was established in 1836 and has had many owners over the years. However, since 1994 the same owners have been behind this beautiful venue, with Alejandro García, son of the current owner Emiliano joining the team. Alejandro brings everything together as a project, where modernity lives in perfect harmony with tradition.
Alternatively, if you want to enjoy tapas with friends while keeping up to date with the latest football, try Bocadella Tapas in Calle Escultar with its unique interior and fantastic range of tapas. Great atmosphere and amazing prices.
The Húmedo district in the old quarter is the main area for enjoying a drink and a tapa or two. You will find well over 100 bars in this area which spread out from Plaza de San Martin at its heart. This is a fantastic area to “get lost in” with a maze of narrow streets and an abundance of tapas bars, what´s not to like?
If you love croquetas, then start your tapas journey with Rebote. They have a variety of typical and interesting croquetas for you to choose from.
Second on your list, and still in the Plaza is La Bicha. This time, it is famed for its sausages. In particular, the morcilla (black pudding).
If you love narrow streets full of authentic tapas bars, look no further. The Tubo district in Zaragoza is the place to be. Meli Melo del Tubo offers “creative tapas for the intrepid diner who wants to go beyond the usual”.
This area, on and around Calle Estébanes and Calle Libertad, is very busy at lunchtime and even more so in the evenings. Therefore, it is perfect to wander from bar to bar while trying a wide range of tapas. The area is always lively and full of atmosphere.
Close by, still in the Tubo district, you can try Bula Tapas, at Calle Mártires. This is a hip and trendy, laid-back tapa joint. Opened 15 years ago by Iván Beltrán and Juan Carlos Loras. A mix of traditional and modern tapas creatively served and beautifully presented.
Jaen is the biggest producer of olive oil. It is no wonder that this beautiful oil features on so many tapas dishes. Close to the Cathedral is La Manchega. Try some of the squid or Iberian pork tapas. La Manchega is a simple but friendly bar, with excellent service and a charming atmosphere.
Traditional Jaén cuisine exquisitely served in a contemporary style. Tapas are ideal for sharing and enjoying time together. And these are exactly the sentiments from the owners of Bomborombillos. They believe “Share emotions and flavors, moments and encounters. Enjoy the flavors of Jaén … and forget”. Situated on Pintor Carmelo Paolmino.
Salamanca is known for its architecture and university which brings history, vibrancy and culture together and can be seen and felt everywhere you go. One product, typically associated with tapas is Ibérico ham and all products made from this native variety of pig, especially those produced in DO Guijuelo.
El meson de Gonzalo in Plaza del Poeta Iglesias is a very smart up market tapas restaurant with a bar section where they serve delicious tapas and of course, Jamón Ibérico de bellota Gran Reserva Carrasco Guijuelo Añada 2016
As you can imagine, there are many more than ten amazing tapas bars in every corner of this beautiful country. To narrow it down to a total of ten has been incredibly difficult. Feel free to comment on some of the fantastic areas and favourite tapas we have missed out. Or if you are yet to visit Spain, check out our tapas in the UK article.