The Best Tapas Bars in Madrid

By Briana Seftel

You can’t talk about Madrid without mentioning tapas. Derived from the word tapar meaning “to cover," tapas originally served the purpose of covering a bottle or glass of wine from pesky fruit flies. Over time, bread and cold cuts turned into small shareable plates served hot or cold.

Tapas are a must-try in Spain’s capital and eating them is truly a social experience. Do as madrileños do and embark on a tapas crawl in the early evening, trying as many tapas bars as you can. Paired with Spanish wine, you can’t go wrong. Buen provecho!

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Photo via Instagram user @devourmadrid

La Casa del Abuelo

Opened since 1906, La Casa del Abuelo (Grandfather’s House) is a traditional, family-run taberna serving authentic tapas to madrileños and tourists. Located in the center of Madrid, La Casa del Abuelo was the first taberna to sell chorizo and anchovies, and often broke records for how much they could sell in a day. The most popular dish here is gambas al ajillo, or shrimp cooked with garlic. Paired with a glass of chilled vermouth and you have the quintessential Madrid snack! Calle de la Victoria, 12, 28012 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Gambas al ajillo

Mercado de San Miguel

For endless tapas choices in a historic setting, make a beeline for Mercado de San Miguel. This wrought-iron covered market was originally built in 1915, but reopened as a gourmet food hall in 2009. Just a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel has over 30 different vendors selling everything from croquettes to chocolate to bocarones - whole anchovies that are lightly breaded, fried, and served in a paper cone. In addition to tapas, visitors can also pick up fresh produce, meat and fish. Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Bocarones at El Señor Martín

Photo via Instagram user

Bar La Campana

A hybrid of fast food and tapas, Bar La Campana specializes in one of Madrid’s signature and extremely popular eats: bocadillo de calamares. About a dozen places surrounding Plaza Mayor sell this delectable sandwich made up of a fresh bread roll stuffed with just-fried, crispy calamari. The best part? These delicious sammies will only set you back a cool $3 USD. Calle Botoneras, 6, 28012 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Bocadillo de calamares

Photo via Instagram user @paulovischi

El Tempranillo

Located on the most famous street for tapas - Cava Baja - in the La Latina neighborhood, El Tempranillo is named for the Spanish red wine of the same name. As it happens, only Spanish wine is served here (and lots of it). Pair your glass with any of the addictive tapas and sit back and relax. This is a place you could stay for a while. Calle Cava Baja, 38, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Revuelto de champiñones salvajes (wild mushroom omelette)

Photo via Instagram user @casagonzalezmad

Casa Gonzáles

Another classic, Casa González dates back to 1931 when Vicente González Ambit decided to open his own business specializing in Murcian cold meats, Manchego cheese and groceries. This tapas bar and shop still sells those high-quality meats and cheeses, as well as over 210 wines from Spain. Located in Madrid’s literary quarter, Casa Gonzalez was once the meeting place for socialists during Spain’s Civil War. Calle del León, 12, 28014 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Jamón ibérico

Taberna La Tia Cebolla

When the weather is warm, head for the terrace of Taberna la Tia Cebolla, a popular tapas haunt in the heart of the city. Emphasizing home cooking, specialties here include oxtail, paella, tortilla de patatas (a Spanish omelette with potatoes) and cocido madrileño, a hearty chickpea stew with meat and vegetables. The menu changes seasonally, so you’ll always be getting the freshest of tapas any time of the year. Calle de la Cruz, 27, 28012 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Tortilla de patatas

Photo by Instagram user @michaelephotographer

Taberna La Concha

Opening its doors in 1996, Taberna La Concha seems to be a perfect blend of old and new. Located in Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood, this tapas bar serves all the classics as well as international and gluten-free options. Order a tosta, hearty toasts topped with everything from steak to shrimp, and wash it all down with the bar’s homemade vermouth. Calle Cava Baja, 7, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Tostas

Photo via La Castela

La Castela

Located near Retiro Park, the Michelin-rated La Castela is a classic yet modern tapas bar specializing in fresh seafood and fish. Saddle up to the marble bar and order seafood croquettes and a glass of cava, or Spanish champagne. In the back, hearty Madrid classics are served in a more formal setting. On a budget? You’ll get a free tapa with every drink! Calle Dr. Castelo, 22, 28009 Madrid, Spain

Must try dish: Any seafood-based tapas

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