MADRID – Nothing beats good food and a cosy atmosphere. And not too expensive food can also contribute significantly to the joy. Especially in times of inflation. How good is it to know that you can even eat free tapas at many locations in Spain?
In various places in the country, you get a free dish of food, a tapa, when you order a drink. Residents of those towns and villages are used to paying only for a beer or wine and receiving a tapa as a gift. In some bars, you can even choose the tapa. In others, they serve a different tapa every day and there are also bars that always offer a fixed dish that customers come back for.
Why free tapa with your drink?
Cities such as Granada or León are two well-known examples of the free tapas culture in Spain. There, catering establishments are fighting a real battle to attract the most customers with the best options. They don’t care about the profit as the margin is often low. The customer gets a drink and a tapa for €1 or €2. But if many people enter the building and leave with a good feeling after a drink, the clientele will remain at the same level. If people like the tapa, chances are they will come back at other times when they might actually want to order a meal.
In León and the surrounding cities, you get free tapas in almost every bar when you order a drink. In the centre of the provincial capital, bars and restaurants offer more extensive tapas, such as ‘Ajo Blanco’, stew meat, croquettes or a piece of bread with dry sausage. Here, a beer generally costs €1.20. The neighbourhoods to go here are the Húmedo and, increasingly, the Romantico. If you go to villages in the area that also offer free tapas, the price of the cheapest drink is even around €0.70 to €0.80. So for less than a euro, you get a glass of beer or wine and a generally delicious tapa.
Granada is probably more famous than León for its free tapas. The price of beer in this city is slightly higher than in León at around €2, but the tapas are usually also more extensive. For example, you get a bowl of salmorejo, a few montaditos or pieces of fried fish. In this Andalucian city, where you can visit the impressive Alhambra, it is customary to go from bar to bar with a group of friends. In each bar you order a drink and you get a tapas. After 4 or 5 ‘cañas’ (small glasses of beer) you have no room for dinner. The best streets to eat tapas in Granada are Calle Navas, Calle Elvira or around Plaza Nueva.
Salamanca, Segovia and Avila
In these cities in central Spain, not too far from Madrid, there is also a free tapa culture. Especially in the city centres. In Salamanca, the best places are in the old town and in the Van Dyckstraat north of the historic centre. However, you mainly get tapas here with pork, either in the form of ham, a skewer or the local sausage, farinato.
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In Segovia, a beer costs €1.20. Here you will find plenty of bars with free tapas on Plaza Mayor and Calle Infanta Isabel. Also, you will often get a Moorish skewer.
In Ávila, with a beautiful, intact old city wall, you will find very authentic, richly filled, good quality tapas, such as stewed boar (Gredos bar), or banderilla of kidneys with potatoes (Las Cancelas). And also try the patatas revolconas or patatas meneás, a kind of mashed potatoes mixed with broth, sometimes pork and paprika powder (pimentón).
Almeria and Jaen
Like Granada, these two Andalucian cities also have a tradition of offering a portion of food for free with a drink. The price in Almería is slightly higher (around €2 per caña with a tapa), while in Jaén you can, for example, taste the combination of beer with a tapa of ‘morcilla’ black pudding for less than €1.50. Furthermore, the portions are very generous, especially in Jaen. The best tapas in this city can be found in the traditional bars near the cathedral. The most typical are La Manchega, Tasca Los Amigos or La Barra.
Almería was chosen as the gastronomic capital of Europe in 2019 for a reason. Since then, the focus of the catering operators there has been even more on good food. The best streets for tapas here are Calle Real and Calle Jovellanos. As a suggestion, we recommend the Taberna Nuestra Tierra or the patatas bravas tapas from Bonillo.
Santiago de Compostela
Pilgrims and walkers who arrive tired after completing their Camino de Santiago can head to the beautiful arcaded streets around the cathedral. The most famous streets for tapas are Rúa do Franco, Rúa da Raíña and la Rúa de San Pedro. The most popular tapas here are pieces of tortilla and meat skewers. Often the bars serve their ‘tapa de la casa’ (snack of the house). These are often authentic dishes that contain more than a skewer or a piece of bread with toppings. Think of a small bowl of soup, a croquette and a meat skewer, all with a beer that costs €2.25.
Vigo and Lugo
In the historic centre of Vigo, Lugo and Santiago there are numerous bars that offer free tapas with a glass of Albariño (typical Galician wine from the Rías Baixas) or with a caña. In Vigo, you often get fish or shellfish. Logical given the location on the coast with an important port. In Lugo you order a beer and the waiter comes by with a tray full of free tapas so that you can choose yourself. Stroll around the Plaza del Campo and its surroundings, for example, Catro Rúas or Bar Las Cinco Vigas are a safe bet. And best of all is the more than varied offer.
Alcala de Henares
In this vibrant university city near Madrid, you will find a lot of youth and it is also common for bars to offer a tapa with your drink. The story goes that you can eat here with two colas. And then you are also in a city that is on the World Heritage List. Here you pay around €3 for a beer in most bars. But then you also receive a good portion of patatas bravas, fried eggs or even small burgers. The choice is often large and after a few beers, you also have your evening meal. The most famous bars with very nice tapas are Índalo, Quinto Tapón and Taberna de Rusty.
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