We took our first trip to Spain in 2006 and our first trip to Madrid in 2012. Since moving to Spain, though, we’ve started to research a lot more about Spanish cuisine and food culture. During a recent trip to Madrid, we decided to share the results of our research in our Madrid Food Guide.
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What To Eat In Madrid Spain
In this Madrid Food Blog, we share our insider tips on what is Madrid traditional food and what to eat when visiting this amazing city. This also includes some tips about Spanish food in general, including when to eat in Spain.
The first thing to know about Madrid, like its neighbor to the south, Barcelona, is that it is an international city. That means you can find international cuisine from Italy to Turkey to Korea. It also is a Spanish melting pot, meaning you can find cuisine influenced by every corner of Spain.
Spain’s cuisine is regional. This means that the food in the Basque Country is different from that in Catalonia and different from the food in Andalusia. The good news about traveling to Madrid for food is that you can try all these Spanish cuisines in one place. That also, though, makes it a little harder to identify what are true Madrid dishes. As a result, some of our recommended foods to try in Madrid you can find all over Spain, some are regional dishes, and a few are Madrid specialties.
In this Madrid food guide, you will learn:
- What are the top things to eat in Madrid
- What are Spanish tapas
- How to find the best tapas in Madrid Spain
Book A Madrid Food Tour
One of the best ways to learn about a city is through its food. And there is no better way to do that in Madrid than with a food tour. We are huge fans of Devour Tours. We’ve taken their tours all over Spain. Their tours are well-planned, thoughtful, and educational. Generally, you also finish a tour stuffed! We cannot speak highly enough about Devour!
Check out these Madrid Food Tours:
Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour
Held two times each day, this food tour is a crash course in all of Madrid’s top dishes. It includes over 10 dishes at seven locations. This was also one of Devour’s first tours and has been a favorite since then. The tour lasts four hours and is scheduled for mornings. Book here.
Gourmet Madrid Food Tour
One step up from their original tour, the gourmet tour includes some more trendy tapas and artisan wines. Instead of visiting several places for iconic Madrid dishes, it focuses on unique pairings of tapas and wine. The tour lasts three hours and takes place in the evenings. Book here.
Huertas Neighborhood Tapas Tour
This food tour explores one of the more off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods of Madrid in search of great tapas. It includes ten tastes over seven stops including a tour of a traditional Madrid market. This tour lasts three hours and is scheduled in the mornings. Book here.
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What Are Spanish Tapas In Madrid
Evenings in Madrid generally involve friends or groups eating tapas. Tapas are popular throughout much of Spain, but the culture of eating tapas is a little different depending on the region. In Granada, tapas come free with a beverage. Every new drink comes along with a small plate of food. In San Sebastian, Pamplona, and the Basque Country they eat pintxos, which are small bites of food, sometimes served on a skewer or stick.
In Madrid, tapas do not come free with a drink. Instead, they are served similarly to how they are in Sevilla and other areas of Andalusia. Generally, the tapas on offer are listed on a menu, or sometimes on a chalkboard behind the bar.
They come in two or three sizes, including a small tapas size, a larger racion size, and a size in the middle, a media racion. For two people, order two to three tapas at one bar, and then move on to the other. Make a night of it. And, don’t expect to sit down. More often than not, there is standing room only.
10 Dishes You Must Eat In Madrid
Here’s our list of dishes you must eat in Madrid. This includes some good tapas in Madrid, some larger dishes, as well as some desserts and snacks.
Tostada Con Tomate – Breakfast In Madrid
Unlike in the US, breakfast in Spain is normally a lighter meal often involving a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and a pastry. To eat breakfast like a local in Madrid, start your day with a tostada con tomate, a toasted piece of bread slathered in a bit of tomato puree. If staying at a hotel in Madrid, chances are this will be on the breakfast buffet. It also might come on the side of a tapa of tortilla as well.
Tortilla De Patatas
Tortilla is a Spanish omelet made of eggs and potatoes. Sometimes it includes onion, Jamon, or peppers as well. Tortilla is common throughout much of Spain, and is one of our favorite things to eat, particularly with a bit of warm bread and olive oil. Each Madrid tapas bar has its own recipe. Some are firmer and others are runny. I like the tortillas that are somewhere in between, a little firm on the outside and a little runny on the inside.
A seemingly simple dish that we simply love, and often make at home as well. Huevos Rotos or Huevos Estrellados is somewhat runny fried eggs topped with Jamon and potatoes. Rotos translates to broken eggs, so the eggs are sliced up a bit so that the yolk runs over the Jamon and potatoes. We’ve eaten this dish in Madrid as a breakfast tapa, the first of the day, around 11 am with a cold beer. A great way to start an afternoon hopping around the best tapas bars in Madrid.
Gazpacho And Salmorejo
Gazpacho is a classic Spanish dish of cold tomato soup, mostly served during spring and summer months. Salmorejo is an Andalusian version that is a little thicker. Both are commonly found at many Madrid tapas bars. It’s also a refreshing cheap food in Madrid in the summer, where a small bowl only costs a few Euros.
The complete opposite end of the spectrum from a summery, cold soup is Cocido Madrileño, a dense pork stew made with vegetables and garbanzo beans. It’s similar to cocido in Portugal and puchero, which is common in the Canary Islands. The soup hearty fare so be prepared! It’s most common to find this as a dish for lunch in Madrid because it is too heavy to eat at night.
Bocadillo de Calamares
The first time we had Bocadillo de Calamares was in San Sebastian and I just fell in love. We’ve tried to make it at home, but really it needs to be a dish to eat in Madrid and made by professionals to get it just right. Bocadillo means sandwich, and in this case, it is filled with crispy pieces of calamares fritos (fried calamari). Sometimes it is topped with salsa bravas, the same sauce used on patatas bravas, or it is topped with fresh aioli, a garlic, and olive oil spread with the consistency of good mayonnaise. Try it at La Campana but be prepared for a line.
Churros Con Chocolate
A classic Spanish snack that is often eaten at the end of a long night of hopping between Madrid tapas bars. But, it is also common to enjoy as an afternoon snack, called a merienda. We often eat a big tray of churros, topped with sugar, and dipped into fresh, hot chocolate as breakfast when traveling in Spain. We usually head out for churros rather than opting for the breakfast buffet at the hotel. In Madrid, also look for porras, which are thicker churros and commonly found in the city.
Other Classic Madrid Dishes
There are a few more traditional dishes to eat in Madrid for more adventurous food travelers. The first is Callos a la Madrilena, which is a common winter dish of beef tripe, chorizo, and morcilla, which is blood sausage. When looking at Madrid tapas menus, callos is the word for tripe if you want to seek it out (or avoid it). Another dish for more adventurous eaters is oreja a la plancha, or pan-seared ears often seasoned with salt, paprika, and lemon.
Other Madrid Local Food Tips – When To Eat In Spain
It’s important when eating in Spain to not only know what to eat in Madrid but when to eat in Madrid. Spanish eat and snack all day long.
Most locals in Madrid start the morning with a coffee and maybe a pastry or tostada con tomate. Then, they will eat a snack around 11 am, often a coffee or a small beer or glass of cava with a pastry or small bocadillo.
Lunch in Madrid is normally eaten late. Most restaurants in Madrid don’t open until 1 pm at the earliest. Prime lunchtime is usually around 2 or 3 pm. It’s the biggest meal of the day and might last for a few hours, particularly on the weekend. The afternoon snack, called a merienda, is normally eaten around 6 pm to tie you over until dinner, which is not very late.
Dinner in Madrid, and through much of Spain, is much later than almost anywhere else in the world. This is the one thing about living in Spain that we never really adjusted to. We lived in Catalonia, which is not really a tapas culture. So we generally eat dinner earlier at home.
In Madrid, dinner can mean eating some of the top tapas in Madrid, or it could mean dinner of typical food in Madrid. Either way, dinner in Madrid is not served until 9 or 10 pm. Restaurants won’t open until 8 pm or later, but some Madrid tapas bars will open earlier.
The Best Lunch In Madrid – Menu Del Dia
One of the be things about eating in Madrid is that it is possible to eat well for less than in other similar cities of its size in Europe. Madrid food prices vary. You can find tapas for as little as €4-5 or you can eat at Michelin Star Restaurants where meals could cost €200 a person or more. Of course, you can find meals and tapas at every price point in between.
One way to find some great cheap eats in Madrid is to look for the Menu del Dia for lunch in Madrid. The menu del dia is a set lunch menu served at most restaurants in Madrid during weekdays. Some restaurants offer a set menu on the weekend as well, often for a few Euros more. It’s normally a three course meal with starter, main, and dessert, along with beer or wine. Prices vary but hover around €10-15 per person. It’s a great way to eat local in Madrid at a good value.
The Tradition of Aperitivo In Madrid
Another Spanish tradition, which is common in Italy as well, is the aperitivo. Before lunch or dinner, many locals will enjoy a glass of vermouth, along with a tapas or pincho. Vermouth is a fortified wine, flavored with herbs and spices. It can be white or red vermouth and is often a blend of bitter and sweet flavors. It’s one of our favorite traditions in Spain. In Girona, we often had vermouth before lunch on Saturday or Sunday. It’s a way to help open up the appetite to prepare for a big meal.
Madrid Food Markets
I love visiting markets in Europe. Of course, my favorite local market was where we lived in Girona, Spain. There are also some great food markets in Madrid to visit as well. This is a great way to learn about the local food culture. And, many of the markets also have bars with some great local tapas. Each neighborhood has its own market selling meat, fish, and produce. Try the Mercado de la Paz near Retiro Park. Or, check out San Miguel Market close to the Opera Metro stop. San Miguel is more of a gastronomic market, with more prepared food stalls than a traditional market.
Looking to learn how to cook Spanish cuisine at home? Check out our recommendations for the best paella pan for your home.
FAQs – Madrid Food Guide And Blog
LATE! Don’t even think of eating dinner in Madrid until at least 10 pm. Many restaurants get busy though around 11 pm or midnight. That’s why eating tapas in Madrid, or taking a food tour, is a great option for food travelers.
Spanish people love all things pork. But, when it comes to finding the most popular thing to eat in Madrid, it has to be Jamon! It is eaten, seemingly, all day every day. Jamon is eaten as breakfast, as a snack, as a tapa, and it is snuck into all sorts of dishes served for lunch and dinner too.
Breakfast in Madrid is typically a light meal. Most Spaniards in Madrid will eat either a sweet roll or toast with either cheese or jam. No Spanish breakfast is complete without a cup of café con leche (coffee with milk).