On a hot summer evening in Spain, many Spaniards like to eat, drink and socialize as a way to end their day or start their night out. As the sweltering Spanish streets cool off with the sunset, the sidewalks are transformed into hotspots filled with restaurants and bars reopening post-siesta. Tables are quickly set up, menus are hung and both locals and travelers pour out onto the streets.
Tapas are a staple in Spanish culture and an evening tradition. The experience varies with each place but the concept is the same: drinks, bites of food and having a good time. In Madrid these bars are around every corner and anyone visiting the bustling city may have no idea where to start. Here are five tapas experiences for the lost traveler:
Calle de la Luna, 9
Tucked away on a quiet street of Malasaña, VEGA attracts a large crowd. Specializing in vegan cuisine, it appeals to environmentally conscious eaters. The cozy, relaxed atmosphere of the small restaurant contrasts from the hustle and bustle of Gran Via—equivalent to New York City’s Broadway—a couple streets over.
Reservations are recommended due to both the size of the restaurant and the popularity. Once a neighborhood with a seedy reputation, Malasaña is undergoing gentrification and bringing in locals and tourists interested in what it has to offer.
Appetizers, salads, fries, entrees, desserts and tapas are all offered alongside the drink menu and range anywhere from 4.50 to 11.50 euros. The drink menu focuses mainly on beer and wine but also serves liquor and non-alcoholic beverages.
2. La Playa de Lavapiés
Calle de Argumosa, 9
If you’re hoping to get some sand on your feet in the land-locked city of Madrid, La Playa de Lavapiés (translated to “the beach of Lavapiés”) is the place for you. Lavapiés was once the Jewish quarter of Madrid and is now known for it’s bohemian vibe and large immigrant population. With a beach themed décor, including sand on the floor inside, you feel transported to a coastal town.
The full bar, variety of dishes and quick service provides an experience worth having again. Hours are from 1 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. Monday through Friday. Dishes range anywhere from eleven to 20 euros. Be sure to get there before 10 p.m. though if you want to snag a seat without a reservation, because once evening hits, the indoor and outdoor seating quickly fills.
3. Bar La Rosa
Ronda de Atocha, 30
If you’re looking for an authentic Spanish tapas experience, look no further. For less than three euros you can get beer or wine and receive a portion of a tortilla (classic Spanish egg and potato omelet) topped with caramelized onions or Jamón Serrano (cured ham) alongside it. The tortillas are made fresh and you can see the servers cut the jamón off of the hams hanging from the walls.
Bar La Rosa provides everything you need for a traditional tapas affair. Also located in Lavapiés, and open from 7 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., it is the ideal place for an afternoon stop.
Calle Valencia, 14
Lovers of seafood race to Bar el Boqueron in the busy Lavapiés streets for their fix. Serving fresh hake, shrimp, oysters, prawns, lobster, clams and more, this is the perfect stop for anyone looking for a coastal meal.
For 20 euros, two people can be full of tapas along with their beer or wine of choice. The atmosphere is bright, clean and welcoming with food and service that does not disappoint. The hours are 12 – 4 p.m. and 7 – 11 p.m. every day except Wednesdays.
5. Café Alma
Calle de Santa Isabel, 42
Café Alma is the place for anyone looking for a Spanish take on American cuisine. Serving burgers, sandwiches and dessert—alongside beers, a small collection of cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages—Café Alma provides a spot for a local seeking something new or an American craving a taste of home.
Providing a vibe different from most tapas bars, the same principle is present: small portions, good drinks and a nice atmosphere. Each burger comes with hand-cut fries and homemade ketchup and mustard. Prices vary anywhere from 11 to 20 euros and the hours of operation are 9 -12 a.m., with an extension to 2 a.m. on the weekend.