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Food In Madrid–Where and What You Should Eat In Spain’s Capital

The Madrid food scene was the highlight of our recent trip to Spain. This city, and this country, sure know how to eat!

When you take into account the reasonable prices along with the tasty adult beverages, you soon realize that a visit to Spain’s capital city could be all about eating. Fortunately, there are several great museums here to break-up the food fest, but be sure to come here very hungry.

And if you’re headed to Catalonia, don’t worry, we have plenty of great suggestions for What To Eat In Barcelona as well.

Pastry case at El Riojana, a famous bakery in Madrid
Pastry case at El Riojana, a famous bakery in Madrid

Secret Food Tours Madrid

Our family loves food tours. (Check out our previous food tours in New York's Chelsea Market and Venice Beach Los Angeles). A good food tour will offer not only delicious, local food, but also some history and perspective of a city that’s hard to get on your own--especially for a first time visitor. Afterall, food is a critical part of any culture.

For our Madrid food tour, we selected Secret Food Tours, a company run by locals with a passion for their city and it’s food. Jason and I, along with our daughter, Jessica, met our guides, Jorge and María José, in Puerta del Sol and began our three hour feast.

Wendy and Jason sampling cheese, bread and olive oil on a Secret Food Tour
Wendy and Jason sampling cheese, bread and olive oil on a Secret Food Tour

We started with cake and coffee at a bakery founded in 1855 and rumored to provide sweets to the Spanish royal family. Next we found ourselves at a deli where we learned about the famous jamon iberico. This highly prized ham comes from black pigs fed acorns for the final weeks of their lives. We sampled two types of  jamon, manchego cheese, bread and organic olive oil. 

After a stop in Plaza Mayur for a quick Spanish history lesson, we then moved on to La Campana for Madrid’s most famous food, boccadillo de calamares. These fried calamari sandwiches were originally the food of Madrid’s poor, working class families, but today are wildly popular with all locals. These delicious sandwiches typically cost just 3 Euros or about 3.25 USD.

Boccadillos de calamares, popular sandwich in Madrid
Boccadillo de calamares, a popular sandwich in Madrid

A popular stop for many tours in Madrid, including ours, is Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in Madrid. And according to the Guiness Book of World Records, this is actually the oldest, continually operating restaurant in the world. We did not eat here, but had the opportunity to hear about its history and most famous patrons. Ernest Heminway was a regular here and it’s said he preferred a table in the corner with his back to the wall due to his increasing paranoia later in life.

Next up was a fun lesson about Spanish sidra, or cider. This popular alcoholic beverage made from apples originated in Northern Spain, but today can be found anywhere in the country. We had the opportunity to add carbonation to a bottle of cider and then enjoy drinking it while snacking on cheese.

Servings of tortilla on our Secret Food Tour in Madrid
Servings of tortilla on our Secret Food Tour in Madrid

We ended our tour at a restaurant specializing in la tortilla española, or Spanish omelette. This traditional Spanish food is made of potatoes, eggs and onions, and can be found in any tapas bar or restaurant. Our guide, Jorge, was kind enough to send us a recipe for this dish after the tour.

Jason, Jessica and I all enjoyed this experience with Secret Food Tours immensely and hope that when you visit Madrid, you’ll be sure to add this to your itinerary.

Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid Spain
Mercado de San Miguel

Food Markets in Madrid

There are many food markets in Madrid serving typical Spanish food, but the most famous is Mercado de San Miguel. This upscale market was originally built in 1916 and after a major renovation re-opened in 2009. Today it’s packed with locals and tourists enjoying a wide variety of food and beverages. 

We spent an afternoon here and enjoyed both browsing and eating. We began with a selection of cheeses, moved on to fried sardines with cava, and ended with a selection of croquettes. There’s a nice selection of sweets here as well, but we were too full after all the savory items to sample them.

Jamon vendor in the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid Spain
Jamon vendor in Mercado de San Miguel
Fruit vendor in Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid Spain
Fruit vendor in Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel gets very crowded around the lunch and dinner hours, so come early. We were fortunate enough to snag a few stools at a table, but most people stand along the counters ringing the exterior windows. And it is true that food here is more expensive than other markets, but it’s worth the experience at least once.

If time permits, try to visit another market in Madrid. We were staying in the Huertas neighborhood, so the closest one to us was Mercado Antón Martín. Clearly this is a market for the locals, which we appreciated. In addition to the many butcher counters and produce stands, there are also many small restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. After browsing we opted for some ramen and sushi from Yokaloka.

Tapas--cheese, jamon and bread
A perfect tapas assortment, cheese, jamon and bread

Where to eat in Madrid–its all about tapas

Any conversation about where to eat in Madrid must start with a tapas restaurant or bar. If you’ve never been to Spain, you may be wondering, “What is a tapas bar?” It’s a place that serves ‘tapa’ or appetizers to accompany drinks. 

You’ll know you’ve entered a tapas bar if most people are standing at the bar or nearby counters enjoying their appetizers and drinks--people rarely sit at tables here. Tapas (also known as pinxtos) are some combination of meat, seafood, cheese or pickled vegetables on a slice of bread and all held in place with a toothpick (large plates of these will be in glass cases on the bar). Ordering plates of jamon and cheese, or sardines in olive oil, is also popular. The most common drinks to accompany tapas include beer, wine and cava--cocktails are pretty uncommon during this time.

Tapas and beer at a neighborhood bar
Tapas and beer at a neighborhood bar

You may be wondering where to get the best tapas in Madrid, and the answer is whatever place is within walking distance of your accommodations. Enjoying the tapas experience should include wandering around your neighborhood in the evening and popping into any place that looks busy and lively. Have a drink and a tapa and then repeat at another bar. 

I love to research restaurants in advance when I travel, but I encourage you not to do this when it comes to tapas. Instead, follow the locals in the neighborhood into their favorite spots. Even if you don’t know Spanish, ordering at a tapas bar can take place by pointing, so go ahead and be brave.

Churros con chocolat
Churros con chocolat

Other Traditional foods in Madrid

I’ve covered some of the traditional foods in previous sections, but I want to add a few more. First, don’t leave Madrid without a few rounds of churros con chocolat. If you are from the U.S., you’ve likely eaten the Mexican version of a churro which is thicker and rolled in sugar. However, in Madrid, the churro is served plain and the sweetness is added through a cup of rich, dark chocolate. Sometimes this is enjoyed for breakfast, but more often as a late morning or afternoon snack. No matter when you eat it, it’s delicious!

We were fortunate that our AirBnB was around the corner from an excellent restaurant called Chocolat Madrid which is renowned for their churros con chocolat. Made fresh several times a day, this is a popular stop for some Madrid food tour companies.

A popular food in Madrid, broken eggs
A popular food in Madrid, broken eggs

Broken eggs or huevos rotos is a classic comfort dish in Madrid. Typically it’s fried eggs over potatoes. Variations of the dish may include the addition of jamon or chorizo. I tried this once, and wasn’t too excited about it, but I certainly understand how this would be an easy, filling and inexpensive meal to feed a hungry family in Spain.

A popular concept in Madrid is the “menu del dia.” This price fixed menu, often available for lunch or dinner, is an ideal way to enjoy a reasonably priced meal that includes three courses and a beverage.

Paella from La Reina de Paella
Paella from La Reina de Paella

Best Paella in Madrid

It’s important to start with the fact that paella is originally from Valencia, Spain, not, Madrid. However, this dish has become synonymous with Spain, and is definitely worth enjoying on a visit to the capital city.

After doing some online research about the best paella in Madrid, we selected the restaurant, La Paella de la Reina, which means paella of the queen. How could we go wrong with such a worthy name? This place offers several different versions of the dish, but we ordered the house specialty which included crawfish, prawns, fish, squid and chicken. To be fully Spanish, we ordered a pitcher of sangria. The food was delicious and the service excellent.

Jessica pouring sangria
Jessica pouring sangria

What To Drink In Madrid

What to drink in Madrid is almost as important as what to eat. This country takes its adult beverages seriously. 

At home I’m a Chardonnay drinker, but after two trips here, I’ve really learned to love Spanish white wine. Albariño has become my personal favorite. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of Spanish wines. For wine lovers I recommend the wine tasting tour offered by Secret Food Tours. One of our guides, Maria Jose (Joe) will be leading these tours and is a level three sommelier. 

An assortment of Spanish wines
An assortment of Spanish wines

Spanish cava is another popular beverage here. Similar to French champagne or Italian prosecco, cava is a sparkling wine. I described sidra or cider, early, but I should mention that in Spain this beverage is far less sweet than versions commonly served in the U.S. 

In the U.S., Vermouth is commonly thought of as an addition to other cocktails, but Spanish Vermouth, is usually served on its own. Essentially its a fortified wine, often served over ice with a slice of orange or lemon. Be sure to give this beverage a try at least once while in Madrid.

Finally, there is beer, or cerveza, which is served everywhere. However, in Spain, most restaurants will serve only one beer. So no need to ask for the beer menu, or check out what’s on tap--there will be just one.

Wendy, Jason and Jessica at a rooftop bar in Madrid
Wendy, Jason and Jessica at a rooftop bar in Madrid

An increasingly popular way to enjoy your drinks in the capital city is at a Madrid rooftop bar. Our daughter, Jessica, had done research about this and came with a list of options for us to consider.

If you have time for just one rooftop bar then I highly recommend Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes. This bar overlooks the iconic Metropolis Building and Gran Vía. There is a fee of 5 Euros to enter, but the stunning views are well worth it. If possible, arrive shortly before sunset and you’ll be rewarded with great light in addition to lovely views of Madrid’s downtown.

Sunset view of Madrid from a rooftop bar
Sunset view of Madrid from a rooftop bar

The Madrid Food Scene

Even with a full week in Madrid, we barely scraped the surface of the food scene. In fact TripAdvisor lists 8,000 Madrid restaurants! That could take a lifetime of foodie exploration. So when you get to Madrid, be sure to allow plenty of time to eat and drink your way through this gorgeous and tasty city. I hope we’ve given you some ideas of where to get started.

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Angela

    Great Article. I haven’t been to Madrid yet but I will definitely try the secret food tour when I go. I went to Seville this year and did a tapas tour there with a local which was great. They really no the right places to take you don’t they.

    1. Wendy

      So true, local led food tours really are the way to try authentic food. Hope you get to visit Madrid soon–I hope to get to Seville one day.

  2. Jay Artale

    Madrid took us by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to like this city as much as I did. We kept returning to La Latina neighbourhood in Centro – and loved the local feel to the tapas bars there. Spanish cuisine is definitely in my top five.

    1. Wendy

      After visiting Barcelona, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy Madrid as much, but I did. And like you I love local tapas bars–we visited many.

  3. Susan Pazera

    Oh my goodness – a food tour! We must partake of that on our next trip to Madrid. I love this post, and it’s bringing back all kinds of great memories of our trip. Plus lots of new ideas for the next one 🙂

    1. Wendy

      Glad we could bring back great memories! Isn’t that one of the best parts of travel?

  4. Slavka

    Sangria, tapas and paella…just yum! Will need to try Spain’s cheese.

    1. Wendy

      I recommend all Spanish food!

  5. Carrie Ann

    The food in Spain is definitely among my favorites, and this looks like an amazingly yummy tour. That paella looks delicious! Sampling around the food market sounds like it must have been a fun way to try a little bit of everything. So fun!

    1. Wendy

      Isn’t Spanish food awesome? I loved the markets and wish I had something like it near me at home.

  6. Ann

    Oh Madrid sure is one of my favorite cities in Europe, we did a weekend of food there last year. Loved it 😀

    1. Wendy

      Its one of my favorite cities in Europe as well!

      1. Ann

        I am really not that into the sweets, but the paella and tapas, count me in! And if there’s sangria, Im there! 😀

        1. Wendy

          Paella, tapas and sangria sound like a perfect combination!

  7. Nicky

    What a great article! I was literally salivating as I was reading. I love tapas and the Spanish culture of ordering a drink, a tapa and then moving to the next bar to repeat. It’s so sophisticated! We head to Spain this summer so I’ll definitely be looking out for some of these treats ?

    1. Wendy

      You are going to have a wonderful time in Spain, enjoy all the delicious food!

  8. Jan

    Madrid is a great city for food! Jamon iberico is literally everywhere. They incorporate it in so many of their food items. I love the concept of Churros con chocolat although it will be hundreds of calories – but yummy indeed with a hot cup of coffee to go with!

    1. Wendy

      The churros con chocolate are worth the calories!

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