Tapas and pinchos are some of the symbols of Spain. Many tourists visit Spain every year just to try the famous tapas. You can find them everywhere in Spain and we are sure you will love them.
List of the best Spanish tapas
What is a Tapa?
We have heard many things about the tapas, some people say tapas are one of those special dishes from Spain, others talk about them as another time to eat, like when you are having breakfast, dinner… what is a tapa in Spain??
The original meaning of tapa is small portion of a dish, that you get served for free when ordering a drink in a bar. We cannot say that tapas are starters, you can eat a few tapas before eating or you could just eat tapas all night long, until you end up full. Tapas can be anything, they are normally shown as small bocadillos or toasts with ham and cheese, but a tapa could also be paella, calamari or anything… it just needs to be a smaller portion of it.
So… are tapas free in Spain? If they bring you the tapas after asking for a drink, they should be free right? Well, it used to be like that, but unfortunately tapas aren´t free anymore in many big cities of Spain. As tapas are getting famous all over the world, the bars have decided to start charging for them, and now a days you can order tapas in many places. The good thing is that there are still places where you get one or two tapas for free. That have led to a new kind of food tours, called “The free tapas tour” (in big cities like Barcelona) where people go to different bars, asking for one drink in each bar, while getting a tapa for free at the same time. It may end up being even more expensive, but it´s a lot of fun.
What is a pincho? Differences between tapas and pinchos.
If you have understood the meaning of a tapa, this should be easier. A pincho is basically a tiny portion of food that you eat with a cocktail stick, it´s also like an appetizer.
We can say that the difference between a tapa and a pincho is the size and the way to eat it, as for the pincho you need the stick and it will last just about two bites, while the tapas are a little bit bigger and you may use the fork.
Origin of tapas: History
There are many myths about tapas. Some people say tapas were originated by the farmers, who said eating small portions while drinking a small glass of wine, provided them more energy to keep working.
But the most famous stories come from two Spanish kings. The first one says that when Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise), was ill, he needed small amounts of food and wine to recover. Once he got better, he ordered all the bars to start serving small snacks with the wine.
The second story is from Fernando VII. It says, Fernando VII visited once a restaurant and ordered a glass of wine. The wine had a slice of cheese on the top, even though he knew it was used to cover the wine from bugs, he decided to eat it (his court did the same), since then he always ordered the wine with a “tapa”.
What is a tapas bar / restaurant?
As we said tapas are getting popular, and the whole perspective of the meaning of tapas has changed, tapas cost money now! That is why many people have decided to start a new business of tapas bar or tapas restaurants.
Basically, a tapas bar is a place where the only thing you will find is tapas. The whole menu is full of different kind of tapas. From the most authentic Spanish tapas, like Iberian ham or Spanish omelet, to some weird ones like tapas of Chinese food. People is getting very original and creative with the tapas. Could you create a new one??
Tapas in different regions of Spain
There are tapas everywhere you go in Spain, every region of the country offers their tapas in a different way, with their typical food from their area. This is what you will find in some of the different communities of Spain:
Authentic Galician tapas
Let´s begin from the north of Spain. The food of Galicia is known as one of the best in the country, therefore the same happens with their tapas. In Galicia you will find the best seafood in Spain, that is why the most famous tapa from this area, is the Galician octopus. Other famous ones are the “empanada” or their “pimientos de padron”.
Traditional Basque pintxos
In the Basque country, instead of searching for tapas look for their famous for pintxos. Typical from that region. The one we recommend you trying and the most traditional pintxo, is the anchovies and olives one. It´s delicious!
Authentic Catalonian tapas
Catalonian tapas are pretty good too. But there is one that stands out and it is also one of the most famous tapas in Spain: “Pan with tomato”, it´s as simple as it sounds, sometimes with a little bit of oil and ham and others just the bread with tomato. We have always asked ourselves, how something that simple can taste that good! It´s not sure the origin of this tapa, some people say it´s from the south others say it´s from Catalonia and Aragon, but if you visit this community you will eat it more than once! Or at least you should!
Authentic Spanish Tapas in Madrid
Madrid, the capital of Spain, as you know is in the center. Not any close to the ocean. Therefore, when you realize their most famous tapas are all seafood, it surprises you. Anyway, Calamari tapas and “Gambas al ajillo” which are some of the most common tapas of Madrid., are delicious!
Traditional Tapas in Murcia
There is nothing better than enjoying the sunny weather of Murcia while enjoying some of their tapas. Now even there are regions where you will find better paellas, some of the best tapas in Murcia are tapas of rice and of course their typical “pisto”.
Authentic Tapas in Valencia
A big plate of paella is recommended when visiting the Valencian community, but if you can´t wait for lunch time or you are in a hurry, at least you should try a small tapa of Paella. Another tapa that we highly recommend is an aioli toast.
Traditional Tapas in Andalucía
Another region with a perfect weather, is probably the place where you will enjoy the most doing a tapas tour. It´s great to spend some time with the locals while eating some tapas, they are very friendly. The most common ones are the famous “pescaito frito” anadaluz and their typical flamenquin, which is just a ham and cheese roll, but the taste is very good.