Madrid food guide: How to eat your way around the city
Spain’s cosmopolitan capital has a stellar gourmet reputation – and a whopping 17 Michelin-starred restaurants. But when it comes to discovering where to eat in Madrid, there’s nothing better than eating your way through these beautiful streets, unearthing the best local eateries, markets and street food as you go.
Central Madrid is bursting with foodie hotspots. But where to begin? Kickstart your Spanish culinary adventure with our Madrid food guide…
Start with a traditional breakfast
Many Madrileños – or Madrid locals – like to start the day with a mug of strong cortado (milky coffee) and a savoury snack, in the form of pan con tomate. Think toasted slices of baguette topped with garlic, crushed ripe tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Simple but delicious. Café de Oriente serves up some of the best in the city with a side order of stunning Royal Palace views.
In typical laid-back Spanish style, breakfast can run as late as 11.30am. Brunch is a relatively new concept here but if you’re craving scrambled eggs and bacon, head to Café Oliver in the trendy Chueca district. You’ll be treated to a three-course brunch extravaganza for under €30.
Go for the menu del dia at lunchtime
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Madrid and usually takes place between 2pm and 4pm. A great way to save money is to go for the menu del dia (menu of the day). To keep their establishments busy following the global economic crisis, the city’s restaurants lured in diners with set three-course lunch menus for as little as €10. The trend has stuck, allowing us all to sample fantastic local favourites for a bargain. The wine is even included! No wonder locals love to head off for a siesta afterwards.
Top lunch spots for anyone who wants to know where to eat in Madrid on a budget include:
• Bacira in Chamberi for creative Spanish-Asian fusion dishes.
• La Musa Latina in La Latina for uber cool surroundings and dishes from around the world.
• Badila in Lavapies for classic Spanish food and an intimate atmosphere.
Squeeze in some extra meals
If you’re pushed for time and want to sample as many of Madrid’s foodie offerings as possible, make sure you fit in a couple of extra eating slots. It’s the Madrid way!
To keep you going until lunch, grab a mid-morning snack of tortilla de patatas – thick slices of potato omelette. Madrileños love to duck out of work and pop to their local bar or café for a quick bite of this tasty Spanish classic.
If you find yourself peckish after lunch, you’ll love indulging in merienda (Madrid’s take on afternoon tea). Hunt down the best bakeries and choose a sweet, flaky pastry to tide you over until the evening’s eating kicks off around 8.30pm. La Mallorquina in the Puerta del Sol neighbourhood is famous for its decadent answer to the pain au chocolat.
Tapeando the night away
You can’t discover what to eat in Madrid without trying Spain’s most iconic food: tapas. The best way to sample these tiny, mouth-watering plates is to indulge in the art of tapeando. That’s bar-hopping from place to place, sampling the tapas in each establishment as you drink.
While you’ll find amazing tapas all over Madrid, it’s often simplest to tapeando your way down a renowned tapas street. Calle Cava Baja, with its colourful buildings and lively buzz, is one of the very best. Located in the vibrant La Latina district, this famous street is lined with a dizzying choice of tapas bars and restaurants. Head to Txakolina for Basque-inspired dishes from the north of the country, Casa Lucas No. 30 for chilled-out wines and an ever-changing tapas menu, and Taberna Tempranillo if you fancy splashing out on upmarket tapas made with luxury ingredients like foie gras.
Go international in Lavapies
It’s not all about the tapas in Madrid. This diverse city showcases cuisines from all around the world. Head to the eclectic Lavapies district and you’ll find an endlessly exciting mix of flavours and influences. If you love a bit of spice, this is the place for you, with everything from Mexican to Senegalese food on offer. Head to Moharaj for the best curries in town.
Hit the markets
The food markets in Madrid are the ideal place to soak up some foodie atmosphere. Each district has its own unique market, where you sample dishes as you browse. Most markets have little bars and restaurants nestled among the food stalls.
Mercado de San Miguel is one of the most popular places where locals eat in Madrid. Spain is known for its fantastic produce and this bustling market has a wealth of fantastic stalls. Don’t miss the seafood! If you’re a keen cook yourself, head to Mercado de Maravillas to drool over the heavenly selection of fresh ingredients there.
Don’t forget the drinks
As if you could! Madrid is a fabulous city for anyone who loves a tipple and a good time. Sample the best of Spanish wines, pair your tapas with cold cañas of beer, or make like the locals and try the red vermouth. It’s a popular aperitif here. They also make a mean gin and tonic in Madrid, just go easy – the measures are much more generous than they are back home!
Where to stay?
The funky Urban Sea Atocha 113 hotel is located right in the heart of all that foodie action. Not only do you have Madrid’s top sights, like Prado and the Botanic Gardens, right on your doorstep, you’re also never far from something tasty to eat. Stroll to Chocolat on Calle Santa Maria for your morning churros and hot chocolate, or Madrid institution Museo del Jamon on Calle de Atocha for the most mouth-watering cured meats around.
Photo by Poppy Loves.