Be it traditional Sunday lunch with family, tapas-hopping with friends or hours spent at the markets picking up the freshest local produce, the Madrid lifestyle centers around food!
Madrid is a haven for foodies. Our food-obsessed team can often be overheard trading secrets about where to go for the best tortilla española, caracoles or vermut on tap. The hunt for the next best local spot is never ending! Madrid is quickly becoming a front-runner in the booming Spanish gastronomic movement, placing itself as a culinary powerhouse for both the traditional and the avant-garde. Luckily for all you hungry travelers out there, you’ve come to the perfect place to find the top foodie things to do in Madrid
1. Dine at the best restaurants
Spanish food is typically very simple, often based on peasant food and designed to warm the soul. Nowadays since traditional food still dominates Madrid, the freshness and quality of ingredients make all the difference between the best restaurants and the mediocre. For the traditionalist, we recommend sticking to the fiercely Castellano bars of the old town and quaint family-run restaurants. That means no pictures of paella or English menus in the window, or a man on the street trying to coerce you to come in. You’ll know the good spots when they’re filled with locals by 9:30 pm and you have to elbow your way to the bar.
Our favorites include Casa Lucas (Calle Cava Baja, 30) for great tapas and atmosphere, Sanlúcar (Calle San Isidro Labrador, 14) for a taste of Andalucía and Txirimiri (Calle Humilladero, 6) for ox-tail. If a sit-down restaurant is more your style, check out Garcia de la Navarra (Calle Montálban, 3) for fresh ingredients, hearty plates and excellent service.
The Basque Country or Catalonia might be more famous for their innovative cuisine, but Madrid is catching up. New chefs are making waves as they bring modern and exciting new dishes to the city. Three-Michelin star chef David Muñoz is one of them. His restaurant Diverxo is always busy and very upscale, but a multi-course meal here is well worth the wait and the price for any foodie in Madrid.
Looking for a modern twist on Spanish tradition? Head to 80 Grados, a fun and modern spot serving up delicious small plates for insanely affordable prices—a foodie’s dream. If it’s fusion your after, try Zaperoco, where you’ll find influences from Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and even Peru and Brazil! Or go to Habanera, a posh spot that offers a delightful combination of Caribbean and Meditteranean. They also have an extensive wine, sherry and cocktail list!
Insider’s Tip: Visit David Muñoz’s food court stall StreetXO (Calle de Serrano, 52) in the Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience to try incredible and creative dishes from this chef at a fraction of the price.
2. Eat your way through the markets
There’s no way to get to know a city’s food culture better than spending time in its markets. It’s a unique and fun experience that provides a look at local life and definitely one of the top foodie things to do in Madrid. Most cooks and chefs have a market they swear by for seafood, quality meats and cheeses and fresh produce, creating a huge demand for the best of the best at every stand.
Satisfy any craving at the infamous Mercado de San Miguel by taking a quick walk through the various food stalls with ready-to-eat bites. No foodie can leave Madrid without trying the olive, anchovy and quail’s egg pincho at La Hora del Vermú and fresh seafood from El Señor Martín.
For a super traditional market experience, head to Mercado de Maravillas (Calle Bravo Murillo, 122), where you can find everything from the simplest of ingredients to live snails. Take notes from an assertive Spanish grandma to see how the ordering is really done.
Insider’s Tip: You can experience a local market (including multiple tasting stops inside!) on our Hidden Madrid Food and Market Tour!
3. Enjoy a meal with locals
Taking the concept of going local to the next level, EatWith has started a movement that allows locals to welcome travelers into their home for a home-cooked meal. The meal can include a cooking class or just a spread of lovingly-made food for the guests to enjoy amongst new friends. If you spend some time exploring the site, you’ll find vegetarian, ethnic and regionally traditional meals waiting to be enjoyed for way less than you would pay at a restaurant. Each home is vetted before being accepted by EatWith, so it’s completely safe and an easy way for foodies to get an authentic taste of Madrid.
4. Take advantage of fantastically fresh seafood
You would never know there’s no water in Madrid by the sheer amount of seafood on any given menu. The capital gets shipments every day, hauling in a fresh catch from the coastal regions of Spain. The city’s land-locked location in no way prevents madrileños from satisfying their taste for the ocean’s offering. For all the seafood you could ever eat, stop by Galician restaurant Marisquería Ribeira do Miño (Calle Santa Brígida, 1) where the friendly staff will serve you a platter piled a foot high (no joke!) with crustaceans. If working for your meal is not your idea of fun, stay away from the crabs and goose barnacles and order the almejas a la marinera—succulent clams in a garlicky sauce, so good you’ll mop it all up. Another favorite is the pulpo a la gallega, a Galician-style octopus finished with olive oil and paprika. Finish off the meal with a bang and order queimada, a Galician drink made with coffee, liquor, sugar and orange slices and then lit on fire at the table. Olé!
Fun fact: Madrid is home to the second largest fish market in the world! MercaMadrid‘s size is second only to the fish market in Tokyo, Japan!
5. Drink like a Spaniard
To make sure you get all the tastes of the city, no foodie in Madrid can decline to imbibe. Spain is home to some of the best wines in the world that happen to pair perfectly with tapas. For a sampling of Riojas, Riberas and Albariños, spend an evening at Bar De Vinos, where great wines for great prices can always be found.
Aside from the typical vino y cerveza, traditional drinks in Madrid include vermouth, sherry and gin & tonics. For a before dinner drink, head to Bodega de La Ardosa (Calle Colón, 13) where you can find both smooth and strong variations of vermut, always on tap. For more adventurous foodie things to do in Madrid, check out La Venencia (Calle de Echegaray, 7). A bare-bones sherry bar that Hemingway once haunted. Don’t even think about taking photos or tipping though, these guys are traditionalists!
Dinner can typically be started or finished (or both!) with a gin & tonic, and making a good one is an art form in Madrid. The best gin-tonics (as the Spanish call them) can usually be found at stylish bars and restaurants, so if you’re up for a bit of schmoozing, find yourself a spot at the bar at Ramses. Located next to the beautiful Puerta de Alcalá, it’s not uncommon to spot the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Spanish soap stars enjoying a cocktail or two. For a more low-key vibe but equally delicious drinks, check out cocktail bar Santamaría (Calle de la Ballesta, 6).
6. Go exotic in the Lavapies neighborhood
Lavapies is the cultural melting pot of Madrid, making it ideal for foodie things to do in Madrid, especially for those looking for Indian, Latin or even Senegalese food. Though many of the restaurants in this part of town aren’t quite as trendy as others, they are chock-full of spices and flavor that can’t be found anywhere else in town. The curry at Shapla (Calle Lavapies, 40-42) is killer and the veggie and rice plates at Baobab (Calle de los Cabastreros, 1) could convert any carnivore. Don’t forget about the tacos and excellent margaritas at Maria Bonita‘s two locations in the city!
7. Learn all the tricks
Looking to recreate all of the memorable meals you had in Spain? Lucky for you, there are some cooking classes in Madrid that can help you do just that. To learn the basics of a Spanish mama’s recipe book, browse the offerings at Cooking Point, promising that you’ll leave Spain with tons of new tricks for your own kitchen. You can also get in touch with us here at Devour Madrid Tours, and we can plan a group cooking class in Madrid (groups of 6+).
8. Devour Madrid Food Tours
If you’re eager to experience bits and pieces of all all the possible foodie things to do in Madrid, there’s no better way than to spend a few hours with us at Devour Tours. We can make (almost) any food dream come true with a custom tour, with options to focus on tapas and culture, the city’s history or to explore the local markets. For the ultimate foodie experience, book a tour at the beginning of the trip so you’ll be all set for the days to come!
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Featured Image Credit: Promo Madrid: Max Alexander