FOOD: The 10 cities in Spain with the best free tapas

tapas warning

THE free nibble with your drink is still alive in plenty of Spanish cities, with Granada offering one of the best tapas scenes in Spain.

This long-standing tradition of giving a free tapa with every drink is an art that, thankfully, hasn’t been lost.

The word ‘tapa’ means ‘cover’ and originally, in Andalucian wine-making regions, a saucer was customarily placed to cover a glass of wine in order to keep the little fruit flies from swarming in. A titbit of food placed on the dish helped attract clients to the wine bar, so the cook—usually the owner’s wife—would out-do herself to make more and better ones, and the marvellous tradition was born.

Free tapas, a long-standing tradition when ordering a beer or wine in Spain.

The Olive Press’ Tapas guide checks out where this long-standing tradition is still honoured:

1. Alcala de Henares

The historic town of Alcala de Henares, birthplace of Cervantes, has a long tradition of serving free tapas with wine or beer. Among the options: huevos estrellados (soft cooked eggs over a bed of olive-oil fried potatoes), patatas bravas (fried potato with hot sauce), hamburgers, sandwiches (usually toasted cheese and ham) and a wide variety of bocadillos (filled bread rolls).

2. Avila

Avila goes a step further in allowing customers to choose their own free tapa. The most popular are: patatas revolconas (mashed potato mixed with paprika topped with crispy bacon pieces), picadillo de chorizo, oreja, morro (pig’s ears and snouts), jabali guisado (wild boar stew), tortilla de patata (spanish omelette) and banderilla de riñones (kidney stew).

3. Badajoz

One of liveliest tapas scenes in Spain can be found in this Extremaduran province, especially in Valdepasillas, San Roque and Santa Maria de la Cabeza, where you can choose from pasties, chicken wings, livers, tomato picadillo or fried eggs with chorizo, among other temptations.

Tapas close up
The costless nibble with your drink is still alive in plenty of Spanish cities

4. Almeria

A stroll through Almeria’s historic quarter will lead you to an array of bars which offer the most interesting alternatives to tapas in a region. There is no shortage of patatas bravas here either, but be sure to try the typical ‘remojón’ – a broth made from dried tomatoes and hot peppers, typically with salt cod.

5. Granada

Granada has probably one of the best tapas scenes in the whole of Spain, the city is famed for the delicacies handed out with every drink and its generosity in terms of the size of the titbit.

If you walk around the bullring, the Realejo or the streets Elvira, Gonzalo Gallas or Navas, succumb to the temptation of ordering a caña accompanied with mouthwatering delights.

6. Jaen

In the historic centre of Jaen you’ll find excellent free tapas options. To get you started, here are some of the delicacies you’ll find: sausages, black pudding with breadcrumbs, pâte and cheese or cold meats.

7. Leon

The bars of Leon have a long tradition of serving free tapas with wine or beer, the most popular being boiled ham, black pudding and seasoned Lacon Pork Shoulder.

8. Segovia

Segovia, recognized for its Roman aqueduct, has a tapas trail that is just as impressive. In fact just about every bar in this historic city, particularly around the Plaza Mayor or the nearby Infanta Isabel street, offer generous homemade tapas.

9. Salamanca

Pork is the top ingredient in the student town of Salamanca, where the best tapas bars are found in the old quarter or along Calle Van Dyck. Here, the black pudding with caramelized onions is a must for all meat-lovers.

10. Vigo

This Galician port city is also renowned for its tapas scene. A beer or wine will see a free appetizer placed on the table, with seafood the undisputed star of tapas in Vigo.


Cristina Hodgson

Half English, half Spanish animal person. Cristina loves writing about all things fitness, travel and culture, she is also a script writer and novelist. When she's not typing away, you can find her enjoying outdoor sports somewhere off the beaten track in Andalucia. If you have a story get in touch! [email protected]

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