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FOOD & DRINK

Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Save lots of money next time you’re in Spain’s capital with these delicious, free eats you get with every drink you order.

Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio
Madrid isn't one of the free tapas capitals of Spain, but it still houses a handful of bars that give generous amounts of grub completely 'gratis' (free). (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

Stopping at a bar for a caña (small beer) and some tapas is an intrinsic part of the Spanish lifestyle, and one that’s often a lot cheaper than eating out in the conventional sense. 

If you’re not familiar with the drill, tapas are small plates of food that are traditionally served for free with every drink in bars and taverns.

The more cervezas or vinos your order, the more grub you get.

It’s a practice that’s steeped in myth, with old wives’ tales suggesting tapas were decreed by a Spanish king who wanted to stop his people from getting too drunk to not work, or that another Spanish royal was advised by his doctors to eat with every drink so that no one would notice how often he was drunk.

Tapas fables aside, many bars across Spain no longer offer free tapas, although a number of cities such as Granada, Salamanca and Badajoz do have a reputation for sticking to the gratis approach.

READ ALSO: Granada’s mayor stirs debate by calling for end of free tapas

Madrid unfortunately is not one of them, with the majority of bars not giving up the free tapas tradition fully, but still reducing portion sizes to a minor nibble that will hardly fill you up.

Photo: Maria Merleke/Flickr

However, in a city with 15,000 bars (one for every 211 residents) there were bound to be a few exceptions that have remained true to custom and where you can be wined and dined for under €10.

Here are ten tried and ‘tasted’ bars in Madrid where you get ample free tapas with your drink, one for each barrio (neighbourhood).

For quick access to Google Maps to find out where exactly they are, click on the neighbourhood name for each bar.

El Lagar, Argüelles

Cramped and often busy, this friendly bar in upmarket Argüelles offers Spanish classics ensaladilla rusa (Spanish potato salad), tortilla and cold meats for free with every drink. Make it an early lunch or dinner to have more space to move around.

Photo: Jorge Diaz/Flickr

Bar Quevedo, Las Letras

A five-minute walk from Spain’s Parliament is this cosy, slightly hidden corner bar in the historic Barrio de las Letras. Everything from the waiters to the tapas are ‘castizos’ (authentically Spanish).

 

El Tigre, Chueca 

They favour quantity over quality in this iconic spot in Madrid’s gay neighbourhood. The gargantuan free servings of food result in it often being packed to the brim but you can always head to the nearby El Respiro (The breather) for exactly that…and some patatas con salchichas y pimientos (potatoes, sausages and pepper mix), pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken), empanadillas (meat pies) and paella. 

Entre Cáceres y Badajoz, Goya

As the name suggests, this restaurant in Madrid’s affluent Goya has a marked southern Spanish feel to it, from the décor to the generosity of its portions. And the quality of the free tapas isn’t at all bad either (fried sardines, calamari, meatballs), making it a popular spot with young people and office workers in the area alike. 

 

Malaspina, Sol

Another tapas freebie option slap bang in the centre of la capi (the capital). The name sounds like the Spanish expression for “bad vibe” (mala espina) but nobody seems to be complaining about the huge free tapas of ensaladilla rusa, homemade meatballs, mussels, sausages, lacón (pork shoulder) and chicken wings.

 

La Pequeña Graná, Embajadores

Taking its name from the Andalusian city of Granada, where delicious free tapas are the norm, this restaurant offers free or dead cheap sides such as goats cheese and crispy bacon on toast, spicy meat wrap and boletus mushroom croquettes, making it a more refined choice than most other eateries on the list.

 

Peña Atlética de Legazpi, Legazpi

If you’re in the working-class neighbourhood of Legazpi and you’re feeling thirsty and peckish, head to this Atlético de Madrid-themed bar where the best free tapa on offer is roasted peppers with cumin.

Real Madrid fans might prefer grabbing some cañas and free tapas at Venta Matadero, right next door.

 

La Felicidad, Guzmán El Bueno

Not far from Madrid’s university district is this aptly named free tapas bar called “happiness”. It’s certainly put smiles on many young hungry faces with it’s free tapas which include paella and other classics.

 

Casa Pepe, El Pilar 

Casa Pepe, known as Pepe el Guarro (Pepe the pig) is one of the best known free tapas bars in the north of the city.

And it’s not because of the poor quality of the food that the bar owner has received this nickname but rather because the floor is routinely adorned with chicken bones that customers throw on the ground after finishing their free tapas serving.

Littering bar floors is somewhat of a national sport in Spanish bars, although usually it’s just paper serviettes. 

 

Pestiqueira, Malasaña

Madrid’s hipster haven is perhaps the barrio with most free tapas bars. Pestiqueira is a spacious bar offering free big portions that are fairly tasty.

FOOD & DRINK

These are Spain’s new Michelin-starred restaurants

The new 2023 Michelin Star guide for the best restaurants in Spain and Portugal has awarded new stars to 34 restaurants across Spain. Read on to discover which ones and where they are.

These are Spain's new Michelin-starred restaurants

En España se come bien (People eat well in Spain), you’ll hear many Spaniards proclaim. That’s coming from a country that’s not accustomed to singing its own praises on the global stage. 

Although these higher-than-average gastronomic standards apply to all types of bars and restaurants, when it comes to haute cuisine, Spain continues to be among the top five countries with the most Michelin-starred eateries, together with France, Japan, Italy and Germany.

On Tuesday November 22nd, Michelin revealed its newest restaurant selection of acclaimed Spanish restaurants during an event in the Spanish city of Toledo.

As of November 2022, two restaurants in Spain have been awarded the coveted three Michelin Star distinction.

Three have gone up to the two-star category and 29 restaurants have been given new one-star rankings.

Atrio in Cáceres (Extremadura region in western Spain) and Cocina Hermanos Torres in Barcelona have both earned the top award three-star prize, which is the highest award that can be given, and have joined the 13 other restaurants in Spain at this level.

According to the judges, Atrio won the distinction due to “its elegant and delicate dishes, prepared by chef Toño Pérez, who has shaken up local gastronomic traditions”. His menu focuses on Iberian pork and other products from Extremadura.

While in Barcelona, Cocina Hermanos Torres has been given the top award for “firing the imagination with every bite”. Chefs Sergio and Javier Torres have created “a magical space in which the gastronomic experience consistently seeks out the very best seasonal produce and exceeds foodies’ expectations, turning it into a dining extravaganza,” the judges said.

READ ALSO – REVEALED: Spain’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants

Of the 2023 guide, International Director of Michelin Gwendal Poullennec said: “We were delighted to see how younger chefs are taking the lead and embarking on their own journeys, in many cases flying the flag of reinterpreted regional or fusion cuisines”.

“In turn, vegan options are gradually forging ahead on menus, something which was already occurring in other European countries,” he added. 

Below are the Spanish rankings for the 2023 guide, including the three stars awarded to Atrio and Cocina Hermanos Torres. 

Two stars

  • Deessa, Madrid
  • El Rincón de Juan Carlos, Adeje, Tenerife
  • Pepe Vieira, Serpe, Pontevedra

One star

  • Ababol, Albacete
  • Ajonegro, Logroño
  • Aleia, Barcelona
  • AlmaMater, Murcia
  • Alquimia-Laboratorio, Valladolid
  • Ancestral, Illescas
  • Arrea!, Santa Cruz de Campezo
  • Ceibe, Ourense
  • Cobo Evolución, Burgos
  • Código de Barra, Cádiz
  • Come, Barcelona
  • Enigma, Barcelona
  • Etxeko Ibiza, Es Canar, Ibiza
  • Ferpel, Ortiguera
  • Fusión19, Muro, Mallorca
  • Gente Rara, Zaragoza
  • Kaleja, Málaga
  • La Finca, Loja
  • Mont Bar, Barcelona
  • Monte, San Feliz
  • Montia, San Lorenzo de El Escorial
  • Oba, Casas-Ibáñez
  • O’Pazo, Padrón
  • Ravioxo, Madrid
  • San-Hô, Adeje, Tenerife
  • Slow & Low, Barcelona
  • Tabaiba, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • Ugo Chan, Madrid
  • Zuara Sushi, Madrid

The Michelin Guide also handed out special awards to three different chefs.

The Young Chef Award for 2023 went to Almería-born chef Cristóbal Muñoz, who at age 31, heads up the kitchens at Ambivium in Peñafiel, Castilla y León.

The Chef Mentor Award for 2023 was given to a well-known name in the world of Spanish gastronomy – Joan Roca, who together with his brothers turned El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia into one of the best and most famous restaurants in the world.

Finally, the Michelin Service Award for 2023 was presented to Toni Gerez from Castell de Peralada, also in Catalonia. As the restaurant manager and sommelier, he “excels in customer-facing roles, in particular, when presenting his marvellous cheese cart that goes from table to table,” explained the judges.

In total, the 2023 Guide lists 1,401 restaurants throughout Spain, Portugal and Andorra. Out of these, 13 have three Michelin Stars, 41 have two Michelin Stars and 235 were awarded one Michelin Star. 

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