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Madrid Tapas Bars:
Try Tasty Tapas in Madrid - "Tapeando en Madrid"
MadridMan's Favorite Tapas Bars in Madrid Spain

MENU: | Spanish Food | Madrid Restaurants |
| Madrid Tapas Bars | Madrid Bars | Madrid Terraces/Terrazas |

MadridMan LOVES Tapas in Madrid's Tapas Bars!

The below are those Tapas Bars in Madrid which are MadridMan's favorites - but not necessarily the best as this is very subjective. Please do not blame me if your experience is different than mine. One man's trash is another man's treasure and so on. You can be sure I'll add more Madrid Tapas Bars as positive experiences take place. Read more about Madrid Tapas and Madrid Tapas Bars in the "Food, Drink & Entertainment" forum category of MadridMan's ALL SPAIN Message Board. And feel free to post your Madrid Tapas Bars reviews there too.

But First, WHAT ARE TAPAS? The word seems to have originated from Andalusia. Tapas are small portions of foods served on a small plate or tray and intended as a snack, usually served with a "caña" or small glass of beer. There's much debate about the origins of the meaning of the word "tapa" but it's generally accepted that "tapear", which means "to cover over", to mean to COVER a small portion of food served at a bar in order to keep the flies off. Nice, huh? Some bars don't offer the tapa size at all - only larger portions called raciones - but still call themselves a "Bar de Tapas".

Whether it's for a snack before lunch, a snack before dinner, or making tapas your entire lunch or dinner, tapas in Madrid CAN BE an affordable alternative to a full meal. Most often, tapas are inexpensive (OR FREE!), the portions are quite small, and you can order many different tapas and share them with friends while standing at the bar - which is how it's most often done.

ARE TAPAS FREE? Aha! Good question. Historically speaking, nearly every bar would give you one free tapa with your beer, wine, or vermouth order. The offering was always the bartenders choice - not yours - but if you really don't like what's offered you can always ask "¿Hay otra cosa?" or "Is there something different?" to change it to something you might like more. Fewer and fewer bars in Madrid (and Spain) offer these freebies. You'll most often find the free tapas in the smaller, more neighorhood bars but many bars of this sort still remain in old downtown Madrid, including many of those in the galleries of Plaza Mayor. The (usually) nicer/fancier tapas bars SELL tapas and raciones - larger portions. In the city of Granada, for example, the FREE TAPA is very common and the size of the free tapas can be surprisingly large! So in Madrid, you'll sometimes get a free tapa with your drink order at the bar. But if you want a specific tapa you'll have to order and pay for it. Free tapas are usually something small like a plate of olives, potato chips, slices of chorizo, slice of tortilla de patata, olive-oil-swimming anchovies on a small slice of bread, a few peel-and-eat shrimp, almonds, small serving of paella, or almost anything.

"A tapear" - "Ir de tapas" or "to go for tapas", is almost a sport! Many people, usually locals out on the weekends, will go from one bar to the next, only having one drink and one tapa at each establishment. Those whom are "in the know" will go to bars where they KNOW free tapas will be served with the drink order. If you are one of these people you can spend 1 to 2 ? for a "caña" (small glass of beer), eat your free tapa, then move on to the next bar which serves a free tapa with your "caña". It's a wonderfully cheap way to go out, be with friends in many different places throughout the evening, and practically eat for free!

Most tapas bars don't have tables or chairs so be sure you're up to the task of standing at (OR NEAR) the bar where the tapas are served to you. Other tapas bars have chest-high counters along the walls or tall tables where clients can put their plates of tapas and drinks. At some of the smaller or more popular tapas bars available counter space can be a valuable commodity. Many people coming from the USA often find it uncomfortable to stand for long periods of time - including me. But one can accomplish a quick "Tapas Stop" in about 10 minutes - enough time top to have a caña, tapa, and maybe use the restroom. A "Tapas Stop" can cost you as little as 1.20?. That's not bad for what you get; a drink, snack, and a bathroom break. Then back to sightseeing in Madrid!

In the last 12 years I've visited MANY of Madrid's tapas bars. As time goes by, as with anything, I find myself going to the same few tapas bars - all the while still trying new places. Sometimes when the mood hits me (or high temperature) I'll stop into a new place and be surprised with not only the establishment but possibly also the low prices of their drinks or the quantity of their free tapa.


Terraces, while more charming, are almost always more expensive when ordering tapas & drinks. Most often they'll hand you the "terrace menu" which reflects higher prices than inside at the bar. Other times the menu will state something like "Terrace Prices 10% more".

Opening Hours
Many tapas bars in Madrid's old city center are open all day and do not close as do Madrid Restaurants. Other, smaller bars will close from about 4pm to 6pm so they too can enjoy a lunch break.

Tipping in tapas bars (and bars in general) is a tough topic. Tip what you "feel" you want to tip. Spaniards most often leave what ever's left over when the change comes back (coins only). MOST (although this is sadly changing) bar tenders get paid a decent living wage and do not rely on tips for survival. The American 15-20% tipping scale is outrageous by Spanish standards and no one BUT Americans tip that much. When served at the bar, it's common - and very acceptable - to not leave a tip at all. Sometimes I giggle when seeing people leave a 5-10 cent tip, no doubt the leftover change from the bill. But that's the way it is in Spain and bartenders are never offended from receiving small or no tips.

Foreigners, particularly those whom don't speak Spanish, find it extra challenging in tapas bars as there's often lots of activity with lots of people all ordering at the same time, knowing what to order, and HOW to pay the bill - if/when you can get the bartender's attention. If the customer speaks no Spanish, it's a good idea to know a little something about tapas, what they're called, and how to pronounce them before going to Spain.

Be aware that the listing of tapas bars below can overlap with other food-and-drink-related MadridMan pages. For example, a favorite "Madrid Tapas Bar" might also be listed on the Madrid Terraces page.

One last comment: These are TAPAS BARS in Madrid - not TOPLESS BARS in Madrid. Common mistake.

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Cheap Madrid Tapas Bars:

website: &
address: near SOL, Plaza Mayor, throughout Madrid
food type: Spanish
style of bar: traditional, 100s of cured hams hanging from walls
prices: 1 to 20 ?
credit cards: doubtful
tables at/near bar?: Not usually
has restaurant?: Yes, many do, but I don't recommend them
has terrace/terraza?: No
MadridMan Number of Visits: dozens

COMMENTS: Spanish-owned/staffed tapas bars for all madrileños and tourists alike, popular with both. The first striking sight upon entering any Museo del Jamón are the hundreds of cured hams hanging from the walls. I often wonder if any of them are ever sold or are simply for decoration. Most of these establishments have no tables or chairs but do have counters of some sort when bar space isn't available. Don't be shocked when seeing Spaniards casually aiming for (and usually missing) the trash bins along the bar's floor - often cluttered with paper napkins, olive pitts, and sometimes shrimp shells. A free tapa, bartender's choice, is almost always given with a beer, wine, or vermouth order. Other options include for-pay raciones - larger portions - which are listed on signs behind the bar along with their prices.

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website: none
address: Plaza Emperador Carlos V, 8 : CLICK for map
food type: Spanish
style of bar: kitch
prices: 1 to 20 ?
credit cards: doubtful
tables at/near bar?: 4 stools, no tables, counter space
has terrace/terraza?: Yes. One in front (traffic & view), one in back (quieter)
has restaurant?: No
MadridMan Number of Visits: dozens

COMMENTS: Spanish-owned/staffed tapas bars for all madrileños and tourists alike, popular with both. This place is an ABSOLUTE MadridMan FAVORITE!. A free tapa, bartender's choice, is almost always given with a beer, wine, or vermouth order. Other options include for-pay raciones - larger portions - which are listed on signs behind the bar along with their prices. El Brillante's "Claim To Fame" is, without a doubt, their "bocadillos de calamares" or "fried squid sandwhiches". Just delicious, large, filling, cheap, and if you're unlucky, a little rubbery too. As with the Museo del Jamón, don't be shocked when seeing the floors of El Brillante littered with paper napkins, olive pitts, and other food parts. The trash recepticle at the foot of the bar, reaching the length of the bar, is frequently and amazingly missed by busily chatting patrons.

When nicer weather comes to Madrid so do the "terrazas" or "terraces". El Brillante boasts terraces on the front & backsides of the bar. The frontside faces the Atocha Train Station and Ministerio de Agricultura which are nicely illuminated at night - as well as hundreds of stopping buses and belching exhaust pollution. The backside terraza is much quieter on the pedestrian plaza shared with the Museo Reina Sofia museum. My only alert to sitting at the terrazas is you might feel "rain sprinkles" falling from otherwise clear skies. This harmless and all-natural (but gross) "liquid" is likely to be the spit from "fun loving" adolescents hanging out of the Hotel Mediodia balconies - the hotel above El Brillante. This has happened to me NUMEROUS times so be forewarned. On the backside terrace there are several tables UNDER shade umbrellas.

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website: none
address: Plaza Mayor, 26 : CLICK for map
food type: Spanish
style of bar: bullfight themed
prices: 1 to 20 ?
credit cards: doubtful
tables at/near bar?: no tables, only counter space
has terrace/terraza?: Yes. Large one in front on Plaza Mayor
has restaurant?: No
MadridMan Number of Visits: 10?

COMMENTS: Spanish operated, long-standing tapas bar in Madrid's Plaza Mayor. Tiny but popular bullfighter-themed bar with both Spaniards and ever-constant tourists walking the plaza, curious about its interior. I have to admit, looking inside from outside can be a little scary, what with all the stuffed bull heads on the walls and hundreds of framed bullfight photos - including many photos of bull gorings! But once you get through the door and immediately greeted by the Spanish bartenders you feel much more at home. It's easy to spend a half-hour roaming the small bar looking at all the photos and bullfight memorobilia but the cheap beer and free tapa will likely keep you at the counter. The bartenders speak a few words of English to help tourists and the downstairs bathroom is clean and colorful. See photo and description of this tapas bar - and others in the Plaza Mayor - in my blog entry HERE.

Their outdoor terraza, put up whenever it's not cold (but that's not to say "warm") and tourists can always be found there enjoying the Plaza Mayor views. New, large umbrellas keep the sun and pigeon droppings from finding their way to your face - or your food. Yuck! **IT happens. I don't believe they serve entire meals on the terraza, just raciónes. Foods are pricey, but here you pay extra for comfort and the great view.

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| Madrid Tapas Bars | Madrid Bars | Madrid Terraces/Terrazas |

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