How to Eat Like a Local in Madrid

This blog post was originally posted on July 2, 2016 and was updated November 2, 2017

One of the best parts of discovering a new city is tasting local delights! Madrid does not disappoint with tons of hidden treasures for food lovers.

With restaurants featuring classic Madrid cooking, regional Spanish cuisine, and plenty of tapas, there’s something for everyone. With our tips, you’ll learn all the secrets for how to eat like a local in Madrid!

Olive skewers are a "must try" in Madrid and go perfectly with sweet, red vermouth! One of our tips for how to eat like a local in Madrid

Tomatoes for breakfast

One of the best ways to start your day and eat like a local in Madrid is with a nice cup of coffee and tostada con tomate (toast with fresh tomato puree)This classic breakfast combination is a small toasted baguette served with a little bowl of freshly pureed tomato.

You spoon the tomato over the bread and then drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. It’s like sunshine on bread! If you’re feeling like a little protein kick, you can add on some Spanish cured ham! For help on how to order your coffee in Spanish, check out our Spanish coffee ordering guide.

Insider’s tip: One of our favorite places to enjoy an extra large tostada con tomate is at Venta el Buscón (Calle Victoria, 5) near the Puerta de Sol square. For just a few euros, fuel up for the day with an amazing tostada with ham, freshly grated tomatoes, coffee and orange juice!

Coffee with milk or black are the perfect way to start the day! Having yours with pan con tomate is one of our tips for how to eat like a local in Madrid.
A café con leche or an Americano are perfect alongside a freshly toasted baguette smeared with pureed tomatoes!

Don’t forget second breakfast

As lunch time in Madrid doesn’t roll around until at least 2:00pm, you can get a little peckish in the late morning. Do like the locals and pop into a neighborhood cafetería for a pick-me-up. This is a crucial step if you want to eat like a local in Madrid!

A typical Madrid late morning snack (around 12:00pm) is a pincho de tortilla or a wedge of a thick potato and onion omelet. Spanish tortilla, as it’s called, is great at any time of day! But, you’ll typically see office workers, students and anyone ready for something to much on, standing at a bar, happily eating their slice between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

This delicious slice of Spanish tortilla is the perfect late morning snack and one our tips for how to eat like a local in Madrid
A thick slice of Spanish tortilla will make waiting until 3:00 pm for lunch a breeze!

Enjoy a ‘menu del día’ for lunch

Once you’re ready for lunch (starting between 2:00 and 3:30 pm) try a Madrid favorite, the menú del día or set lunch menu. This great lunch option is served at restaurants throughout the city during the week and at some places on the weekend. When you sit down for your meal, you’ll choose between several options for your first course, normally salads, soups or rice dishes and a meat or fish dish for you second course. The meal also includes dessert or coffee,

The meal also includes dessert or coffee, bread, and a drink. As lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain, the portions are usually quite substantial. We love having a menú del día because it’s a great way to sample a number of dishes in the same meal. And for between 10 and 15 euros per person, the price can’t be beat!

Stop by a market

Markets in Madrid are a true passion. Each neighborhood has its own market featuring stands selling meats, fish, produce, cheese and more! A great new trend in Madrid markets is that in addition to the butchers, charcuteries, and fishmongers, there are now a number of small bars and restaurants featuring food and drinks prepared with ingredients from the market. Ogle the selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables and just-from-sea fish and seafood then sit down for a drink and a bite, all in the bustling atmosphere of a neighborhood hub to truly eat like a local in Madrid.

Insider’s tip: One of our favorite markets is Mercado de la Paz (Calle Ayala, 28) near the Retiro Park. If you’re planning a shopping day in Barrio Salamanca (a great idea!) take a break from the boutiques with a stop at the market!

Go for ‘merienda’

Merienda is Madrid’s answer to afternoon tea, a typically sweet late afternoon snack. As dinner is quite late in Madrid, starting between 9 and 11pm, you might get hungry along the way! If you’re craving something sweet, try one of Madrid’s great bakeries for a late afternoon pastry to tide you over. This is also a perfect time of day to try churros and chocolate, the famous long crispy donuts dipped in thick hot chocolate.

Insider’s tip: For freshly made churros and amazing hot chocolate, try Chocolat (Calle Santa María, 30) in the Huertas neighborhood near the Prado and Reina Sofia museums. For a real Madrid treat, order the porras, thicker and fluffier versions of the churro.

Churros and chocolate for a late afternoon snack is one of our tips for how to eat like a local in Madrid.
Churros and chocolate is the most delicious afternoon pick-me-up!

Start your evening with vermouth

People from Madrid love getting their evening started, especially on weekends, with a glass of sweet, red Spanish vermouth. This aperitif is a fortified white wine flavored with herbs and spices and is the perfect way to open up your appetite for the meal to come. Try snacking on some olives as the sweet flavor goes perfectly with tangy, pickled foods. In most bars, vermouth is served on tap and in small glasses garnished with a slice of orange or lemon. Rub elbows with the locals as you sip the most in-the-know drink!

Olives and vermouth are a classic combination and one of our tips for eating like a local in Madrid
Start your evening like a true madrileño with a glass of sweet vermouth and a nice plate of olives!

Share your dinner

Dinner in Madrid means tapas! And how do we eat tapas in Madrid? Here in the capital, tapas is more a style of eating rather than the size of the plates. The most common format is large sharing plates called raciones which are basically a plate of something delicious meant for communal consumption.

Madrileños, or people from Madrid swarm tapas bars and order a variety of plates to be enjoyed among the group. This is not a sit-down, steak and two sides kind of deal. It’s a feast for the senses with plates of cured meats, grilled seafood, salads, cheese plates and more coming out of furious kitchens to hungry diners.

Insider’s tip: For a great tapas-style meal, order a few plates at a time and try going to several places, grabbing something at each place. You can always order more, so start small and build as you eat like a local in Madrid!

Go seasonal

Eating in Madrid is tied to the seasons. The chilly winters mean enjoying hearty soups and stews. During the winter months look for cocido madrileño, Madrid’s hearty stew made with garbanzo beans, meats, and vegetable. In the hot summer months, cold soups are king. Gazpacho and its silkier cousin salmorejo, are menu musts!

A lovely bowl of salmorejo garnished with chopped ham and hard cooked egg is perfect hot weather food. Seasonal eating is one of our tips for how to eat like a local in Madrid.
Seasonal eating never tasted so good. The scorching months of summer call for something cool and salmorejo is just right!

Know the timetable

On of the most important parts of enjoying a great meal in Madrid is knowing when to go. Kitchens in Spanish restaurants usually have very specific hours. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Breakfast: Cafés and restaurants typically offer breakfast between 8:00am and 11:30am
Lunch: 1:30pm to 4:00pm
Dinner: 8:00pm to 11:30pm (with after dinner drinks stretching late into the evening)

Want to eat like a local in Madrid? A food tour is a great way to discover Madrid’s vibrant and traditional dining scenes. One of our morning or evening experiences will give you tons of insider information about going out for tapas, which jamón is the best, how to order wine by the glass and so much more. We’d love to take you on a journey through this amazing city!

This group is all smiles, raising their glasses to a great night of food and wine! Our food tours are a great way to learn how to eat like a local in Madrid.
Let us show you some of our favorite local hangouts in Madrid!

As the daughter of a barbecue master and a pseudo-vegetarian, Amy’s culinary obsessions run deep. She spent time in Galicia before settling down in Madrid, where you’ll usually find her browsing the bottles of a local bodega or ogling the produce at the weekend farmer’s market.

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