The Best Tapas Spots in Madrid guide image


The Best Tapas Spots in Madrid

The top old-school joints, hidden wine bars, and gourmet restaurants for tiny plates in Spain’s capital.

Nearly every restaurant in Spain offers tapas. In the capital city of Madrid, where the options feel especially endless, narrowing them down means wading through a sea of soggy patatas to find the perfect bravas with just the right amount of crunch and a delicately zingy salsa. We did all of that, so you don’t have to.

Anytime is a good time for tapas, but since Madrileños typically have a heartier, three-course lunch, they eat them later in the day for a merienda (a light, mid-afternoon snack) or dinner. La Latina is the neighborhood to hop from spot to spot on a self-guided bar crawl, and Sunday afternoons and evenings are when tapas joints really come alive.

Check out our favorite places for classic Spanish tortilla, chunks of cured ham on a slice of baguette, glistening triangles of manchego, and more. It all tastes even better with a caña, vino, or vermú. 


Juana La Loca

Juana’s drippy tortilla de patata, loaded with caramelized onions, is locally famous for its perfect consistency—the egg is never overcooked, but not so moist it feels raw, which is the key to perfecting the dish. It gets packed in here, especially on Sundays, when locals head to the La Latina neighborhood to roam around, drink beers with friends, and tapas bar hop. Definitely make a reservation for both the comfy seated section or the standing area in the bar (where you’ll probably still be shoulder-to-shoulder with folks).

Emma is one of the few places near the tourist-heavy Plaza Mayor and Mercado de San Miguel that you’ll find locals having a leisurely lunch or some quick tapas and vino with friends, along with the occasional bewildered out-of-towner who just realized how lucky they are to have wandered into this particular joint with modest prices and legit home cooking. 

Order a glass of wine from whatever’s offered on the daily chalkboard and pair it with some meatballs, stewed beef cheek, heaping plates of cured lomo and chorizo, and platters of Spanish cheeses. Locals take jamón and queso as seriously as the French take Champagne—Spain’s Manchego cheese has an official certification, as it comes straight from the La Mancha region—and owner Emma plates hers on a bed of delicious olive oil alongside picos (crunchy, bite-sized breadsticks).

Madrid’s multicultural Lavapiés neighborhood has some cool under-the-radar bars and many types of food you can’t get elsewhere. The typical tourist wouldn’t have much reason to come here, but La Fisna is exactly why you should. 

Reserve a spot to vibe among all the cozy exposed brick while you kick back with a bottle or two of wine. Their list is 37 pages long, so you’ve got options to pair with strong Spanish cheeses, glazed meatballs, and the egg omelet with Catalonian sobrasada (a semi-spicy chorizo paste) and piparras, which are Basque sweet peppers.

This restaurant has been serving up bacalao frito tapas, delicious small plates of fried codfish, since 1966. This is one of Spain’s old-school, historic bars with vintage photos on the walls, and somewhere that anyone and everyone is welcome (and 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 goodness before hitting the clubs, and join the locals in balling up your used waxy napkins, which are typical at bars in Spain, and toss them on the floor after you’re done eating. It’s not rude, just tradition.

Not sure what you’re in the mood for, but feel like wandering around and sampling homemade potato chips, empanadas, and anything else that screams “I’m in Spain”? The ground floor of Mercado de San Antón has stands where you can taste freshly-sliced Iberian ham, cool off with a lime, yogurt, and cardamom popsicle, or pick up artisanal soaps or olive oil to take home in your suitcase. 

The market’s al fresco rooftop is a hip hangout when it’s warm, and overlooks the red rooftops of the city’s funky Chueca neighborhood. If you’re looking for a proper meal, skip the sit-down restaurant and head to the food stalls serving international and Spanish small plates on the second floor. We love the seafood tapas and tostas at the Casa Bacalao, and the fresh tiger mussels at Hevia.

Slightly out of the city center in a local Castizo neighborhood, Mayser is great for those seeking a more under-the-radar tapas experience. There are dozens of Spanish and international cheese varieties that you can build into a platter of three or five kinds, like a maxorata from the Canary Islands, a stinky cabrales—Spain’s most beloved blue option—or an Italian pecorino with truffle. Pair them with an obscure wine from Cádiz, and tapas like panko-breaded prawns in kimchi salsa or Spanish sausage tartare.

Frequented by an older and more upscale crowd, this is a sophisticated spot to dig into raciones with friends. These large plates of food are meant to be shared—we love the mussels marinated in the Canary Island’s mojo picon sauce, huevos rotos with panceta or Iberian ham, or tortilla de patata with artichokes. 

You can have a fancier experience with a reservation in the restaurant’s sit-down area, but we much prefer grabbing a high-top table in the bar area. Just get there earlyish (in Spain, that means 7pm) to snag one—and you may want to dress the part here, too.

Once a haunt for bullfight spectators (it’s near the Las Ventas bullring), today La Manduca draws crowds to its outdoor terrace that’s one of the largest in Madrid. Though lodged between densely-packed apartment towers in a random concrete square, it still feels like an oasis where you can easily spend hours snacking.

This bar’s claim to fame are its crispy, perfectly-cooked patatas bravas. Double dip with the patatas mixtas: one half is drenched in a mildly spicy bravas sauce, the other soaked in extra-garlicky alioli. Another popular order is a long baguette smothered in brie and topped with grilled steak or smoked salmon (while both are great, we happen to favor the former).

Michelin-star chefs don’t usually collab with tapas bars, which makes Vi Cool especially unique. This place is ideal for those who want a gourmet and creative take on tapas at an affordable price. The €22 per person set menu includes plates like mushroom carpaccio, foie gras with raspberries, stewed meatballs with manchego fondue, and a more minimalist take on patatas bravas: a line of eight stand-alone crispy potatoes, shaped like cylinders, topped with a dollop of sauce. 

This family establishment focuses on pinchos, small tapas on slices of Spanish baguette. On the scene since 1962, Jurucha is crowded with retirees from the neighborhood along with younger folks who come from other areas of town because they heard how good the tapas are. 

None of the food is precooked, and they use only fresh ingredients from the neighboring Mercado de La Paz. There’s outdoor seating, but 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 pinchos. Don’t leave without tasting some of the most original tapas creations available: cream spinach with quail egg, goat cheese and pear, or shrimp and hake gratin.

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photo credit: Kelly Hurd

The Best Tapas Spots in Madrid guide image