MADGuide

The Best Tapas Spots In Madrid

The top old-school joints, hidden wine bars, and high-end restaurants for tiny plates in Spain’s capital.
Slice of tortilla de patatas with side of bread and glass of red wine at Juana La Loca

photo credit: Juana La Loca

Nearly every restaurant in Madrid offers tapas. And in a city where the options feel especially endless, narrowing them down to find the best ones means wading through a sea of soggy patatas. We did that, so you don’t have to. This guide has our favorite places for classic Spanish tortilla, chunks of cured ham baguette slices, glistening triangles of manchego, and more. It all tastes even better with a caña, vino, or vermú.

And some pointers: Since Madrileños typically have a heartier, three-course lunch, tapas are usually eaten later in the day for merienda (light, mid-afternoon snack) or dinner. La Latina is where you should hop from spot to spot on a self-guided bar crawl, and Sunday afternoons and evenings are when tapas bars really come alive.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Juana La Loca

Spanish

Barrio de La Latina

$$$$Perfect For:Eating At The BarSmall PlatesLiterally Everyone
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Juana La Loca checks all the boxes of a perfect tortilla de patata—it's loaded with caramelized onions, and the egg is never overcooked, but not so drippy it feels raw. This tortilla is why everyone flocks to this trendy, always-packed neighborhood joint, especially on Sundays when friends meet up with friends for a ceremonial La Latina beer and tapas bar crawl. Definitely make a reservation for both the roomier seated section or try your luck walking into the standing area in the bar (just expect to go shoulder-to-shoulder with other diners).

Emma is one of the few places near the tourist-heavy Plaza Mayor and Mercado de San Miguel where you’ll find locals leisurely lunching or having quick tapas with friends alongside bewildered out-of-towners drawn in by the modest prices and hearty portions. Order a glass of wine from whatever’s on the daily chalkboard menu and pair it with some meatballs, stewed beef cheek, plates of cured lomo and chorizo, and platters of Spanish cheeses. This country takes jamón and queso as seriously as the French take Champagne (manchego has an official certification), and the owner Emma plates hers on top of pungent extra virgin olive oil alongside picos, bite-sized breadsticks.

This restaurant has been serving up delicious bacalaitos, fried codfish, since 1966. As one of Spain’s old-school bars, expect vintage photos on the walls, crowds of devoted regulars, and an atmosphere where anyone and everyone is welcome—yes, it’s all good to have your baby chilling at the bar, even late into the night. Bring your parents for lunch or coat your stomach with fried things (those codfish fritters, croquettes, and eggplant with melted honey) before hitting the nearby clubs in Sol. And ball up your used waxy napkins, a Spain bar staple, and toss them on the floor after eating—it’s not rude, just tradition.

Mayser doesn’t cater to the fanny-pack-wearing tourist. The bar is slightly out of the city center, and is perfect for eating tapas you won't typically find at most places. There are dozens of Spanish and international cheese varieties that you should build into a combination platter of three or five kinds, like a maxorata from the Canary Islands, a stinky cabrales—the country’s most beloved blue option—or an Italian pecorino with truffle. Pair them with an obscure wine from Cádiz and the flavor-packed tuna tartare drenched in kimchi salsa or the steaming hot garlic prawns.

A posh, more upscale crowd frequents this tavern for the perfectly seasoned raciones (any bar this close to Retiro Park attracts Madrileños wearing yuppie logos like Pedro del Hierro and Ralph Lauren). We love the mussels marinated in the Canary Islands’ mojo picon sauce, huevos rotos with tender panceta, and tortilla de patata with seasonal artichokes. If you make a reservation, you can have a more refined experience with white tablecloths and floral centerpieces upstairs in the restaurant’s sit-down area, but we much prefer grabbing a high-top table near the bar. Just get here early by 7pm to snag one before it gets too busy, and dress the part—expect stares if you show up in your Lululemon leggings.

Once a haunt for bullfight spectators (it’s just across the highway from the imposing Plaza de Toros, the city’s still-functioning bullring), La Manduca in Concepción now draws crowds to its outdoor terrace, which is one of the largest in the city. Though lodged between densely packed apartment towers in a random concrete square, it still feels like an oasis where you should spend hours drinking cañas and snacking on the bar’s perfectly crispy patatas bravas (La Manduca's specialty). Double dip with the patatas mixtas: one half is drenched in a mildly spicy bravas sauce, the other soaked in an extra-garlicky alioli. Another path to success is ordering a baguette smothered in brie and topped with grilled steak or smoked salmon.

Big-time chefs don’t often collab with tapas bars, which is one reason to put Vi Cool on your radar. This restaurant, located on the lively Calle Huertas, is ideal for those who want a little more creativity with those typical Spanish ingredients of potatoes, cheeses, and meats. The €22 per person set menu includes plates like a woody mushroom carpaccio, beetroot and burrata salad, stewed meatballs with manchego fondue, and a more minimalist take on patatas bravas: a line of eight stand-alone crispy potatoes, each shaped like cylinders and topped with a dollop of bravas sauce.

This family-run place focusing on pintxos has been on the scene since 1962, and it shows—the straightforward tapas bar is standing-room-only and usually crowded with retirees from upscale Salamanca. The tapas are as traditional as they come: crusty bread topped with salmon, ensaladilla Rusa, and more. The food is never precooked, and they use only fresh ingredients from Mercado de La Paz across the street. While there's outdoor seating, we like to stand at the long indoor bar (get there early if you wanna grab a stool), which is lined with glass cases full of their more original tapas: creamy spinach with quail egg, just-stinky-enough goat cheese with pear, or shrimp and filling hake gratin.

The Mercado de Antón Martín is where to walk to different food stalls (or learn to stomp and clap at the city's most famous flamenco school on the top floor). For tapas, Doppelgänger stands out for its Spanish dishes fused with spicy Asian and South American flavors, like ají, curries, and kimchi. Its concise menu only has about eight dishes—and about the same number of tables, including bar seating, so reserve ahead. You can't go wrong whether you go for the €40 per person tasting menu, or just order a few a la carte. Whatever you choose, don’t miss the tangy Adobix, a tempura catch of the day topped with fermented soy and anis jam—it’ll leave you wondering how they managed to perfectly mesh so many flavors into a single bite—or the tamale with codfish dripping in zesty yellow aji, lemon, and aioli.

Feel like wandering around and sampling homemade potato chips, empanadas, and anything else that screams “I’m in Spain”? The ground floor of the three-story Mercado de San Antón in Chueca is full of vendors where you can eat Iberian ham, cool off with a lime, yogurt, and cardamom popsicle, or sip gin tonics while admiring the city’s red roofs on the outdoor terrace. But you’re here for tapas, and this place is full of them, especially on the second floor. We love the variety of seafood tapas and tostas served up at La Casa del Bacalao, and the juicy grilled pork at La Manuela for a protein infusion. Just be prepared to eat while standing.

Can’t make it to Andalucía? Your next best option is a trip to El Rincón de Jaén I. There are a few other locations in Salamanca and Guindalera (even one with an inviting outdoor terrace across from the tree-filled Eva Perón Park), but we prefer this outpost for the bar. It's overflowing with locals gobbling up manchego and chatting neighborhood gossip underneath dangling legs of Iberian ham. Speaking of ham—you’ll want to grab a plate of the cured butter-like acorn-fed jamón de bellota. Also don’t pass on the adobo, a marinated, fried cazon fish, or the shrimp drenched in garlic. If it’s coquinas season (just ask), order a plate of these teeny-tiny buttery clams, too.

La Tienta’s recent renovation (it dates back to 1952) left this classic bar in tourist-free Fuente del Berro slightly chicer but still full of historic charm. Industrial lighting is mixed with vintage Spanish tile, and black-and-white flamenco and bullfighting photos—it's a block from Plaza de Toros. While several hidden dining rooms and the large downstairs area in this winding space are ideal for groups or sit-down dinners, the best La Tienta experience is squashing yourself at a high table by the bar between rowdy locals who might have had one too many, and making small talk over mini-calamari sandwiches and vinegared sardines.

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