For members


The stats that explain Spain’s love affair with tapas

To mark the momentous occasion of World Tapas Day, The Local explores statistics that reveal Spain’s passion for food.

The stats that explain Spain's love affair with tapas
Photo: Despositphotos

While we’re sure that, like us, you won’t let your tapas consumption be limited to just one day of the year, on Thursday June 20th, annual World Tapas Day, you will have a great excuse to head to your local tapas bar an gorge on tortilla, croquettes, queso manchego or whichever miniature dish makes your mouth water the most.

To keep you going until then, here’s a run-down of the figures that outline Spain’s relationship with tapas.

Spaniards spend around €1,900 in bars and restaurants per year on average, and honestly, the temptation is understandable when you consider that there are around 260,000 bars in Spain, that’s one for every 175 people, according to stats released by Acierto insurance company to mark World Tapas Day.

More than half of Spaniards prefer tapas to other dining options  such as going to a conventional restaurant or fast food joint and 70 percent of people prefer tapas to anything else when they are on holiday.

Spanish mealtimes can be a bit of a struggle to get used to, but if you’re trying to blend in with the locals, it’s interesting to note that round 9 out of 10 people think tapas is best enjoyed in the evening or at the weekend.


Photo: Despositphotos

Although there are gourmet options for all you tapas connoisseurs out there, filling up on the mini dishes doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, almost 3 in 5 bars offer a free tapa with the purchase of drinks.

This tradition comes from the origins of the word tapas,derived from tapar (to cover). Legend has it that to stop the flies getting into their drinks, Spaniards of yore used wedges of bread, topped with various tasty morsels to cover their beer and wine glasses, hence the word tapa (lid) and the tapas tradition was born.  

Unfortunately, many bars across Spain no longer offer free tapas, but 53 percent of Spaniards think a free tapa with a drink is an important factor when choosing which bar to head to. The friendliness of the staff and the quality of the beer is also highly valued.

But here’s the big question: which tapas is the ultimate favourite?

Unsurprising, considering 46.5 percent of Spaniards say it is their favourite food, tortilla is the number one choice of tapas amongst Spaniards, followed by patatas bravas, jamón serrano, croquettes and Russian salad.

Other best-loved tapas include calamari and Manchego cheese. 7 out of 10 people enjoy an alcoholic drink with their tapas, with 26 percent opting for wine and the rest choosing other beverages.

Tortilla is Spain's all-time favourite dish. Photo: Depositphotos

Now for the eternal debate: should tortilla be cooked with or without onion? Well, according to data from Acierto, almost 60 percent of Spaniards are sure that onion has a rightful place in tortilla. 20 percent disagree, and prefer it without, but another 20 percent can appreciate it both ways.

Spaniards respect that good food isn’t confined to one area, with 3 out of 4 being happy to travel to different areas of the country in order to eat well. Spending on gastronomic tourism has increased by 17 percent in the past year, and around €12,000 million is spent on food experiences by both international and national tourists per year. The most popular destinations for food-lovers are Andalusia, Galicia, the Basque Country and Asturias.

By Alice Huseyinoglu


Quiz: How well do you know your Spanish food?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

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

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).