Just north of the city center, Chamberí is a residential refuge and home to some of Madrid’s best tapas bars.
When locals want to live in the city, but not “in the city,” many choose Chamberí. It’s the shortest distance you can travel from the center—just three metro stops north of Puerta del Sol—to get a taste of how locals are living and what they’re really eating.
Chamberí incorporates six smaller barrios: Ríos Rosas, Vallehermoso, Trafalgar, Arapiles, Gaztambide, and Almagro. And, while each has its own flair, together they form a district that is highly authentic, architecturally rich and family-friendly. Lush urban paradises, such as Plaza Olavide, entice locals to enjoy an aperitif after work. Streets like Calle de Ponzano are a culinary yellow brick road (and this one even has its own hashtag: #ponzaning). Here’s a list of our top picks for dining in Chamberí.
Locals flood this tapas bar for its fresh seafood and perfectly-poured cañas (small draft beers). Despite Madrid being landlocked, the capital is home to the second-largest seafood market in the world (after Tokyo). And institutions like Fide (Calle de Ponzano, 8) prove why this city is where you should be eating fish!
It’s a no-frills bar where the freshest anchovies, clams, barnacles, octopus, mussels, crabs and oysters are offered up on humble stainless-steel platters. We love it here because the food speaks for itself, the decor hasn’t been updated since the 70s—and it seems like the prices haven’t either!
2. Sala de Despiece
Translating to “cutting room,” Sala de Despiece is tiny, daring and ultra-modern. It has become a tapas phenomenon in Chamberí, serving gourmet twists on classic Spanish tapas. This place does modern the right way. Locals get a kick out of dining on high stools, inside what feels like an industrial laboratory. The presentation is innovative and wacky, but ultimately the ingredients are seasonal and the menu reflects Madrid’s classic nose-to-tail eating philosophy.
3. Mercado Vallehermoso
While not a restaurant per se, grabbing a tapa in one Madrid’s municipal markets is one of the best ways to take in the local culture.
Chamberí residents not only do their grocery shopping at Mercado Vallehermoso, but stop along the way to have a drink, a nibble, and socialize. The incorporation of tapas bars and cafes into these traditional spaces has allowed Madrid’s markets to stay relevant in the age of supermarkets and chain grocery stores. Dishes are cooked fresh from ingredients collected under the same roof. And for this reason, you’ll find locals embracing innovative and international dishes. Food stalls, such as Kitchen 154, cater well to a growing demand for Asian flavors.
4. El Doble
If you’re on the hunt for the quintessential madrileño tapas bar, here you go. El Doble (Calle de José Abascal, 16) has all the classics: boquerones (fresh anchovies cured in salt and vinegar) with potato chips and olives, plates of cured meats, grilled prawns, sardines on toast, marinated octopus salad, and much more. It’s always packed here, so you’ll have to work hard to claim your real estate at the stainless steel bar top. But, embrace the struggle with drink in hand and let the fight work up your appetite!
5. Taberna la Mina
Open since 1949, Taberna la Mina (Calle General Álvarez de Castro, 8) has updated its decor but still serves all the classics. Icy vermouth on tap pairs perfectly with clams, mussels, artichokes and pincho moruno (Spain’s answer to kebab). Occasionally, they offer up specialty items like fresh barnacles and cecina (salt cured beef) on toast. They also have a lovely terrace outside, where you can enjoy the low-key bustle of Chamberí.
6. Bar Sierra
Loved by students, Bar Sierra (Calle de Galileo, 41) offers a heaping plate of bravioli (fried potatoes with both a spicy red sauce and garlic aioli) for the price of a beer. How can so much food be served for free? It’s a mystery that continues to impress locals.
It’s not gourmet, by any means, but the bar is always packed for a reason: they’ve perfected the art of cheap and greasy tapas. Little empanadas, beef sliders, lacón on toast (Galician-style pork shoulder), and croquettes are served abundantly—and all for just pennies.
Along the same lines as Bar Sierra, Gandarío has the student population hooked—only here, the specialty is a platter of grilled meat on potatoes with various dipping sauces. It’s a fun and interactive tapas experience, where you choose the plate size based on the number of friends in your group (and yes: two people counts as a “group”). Then, you choose the proteins: minced chorizo, steak, pork sirloin or sausage, chicken breast or bacon. Everything is grilled fresh and served abundantly.
8. Sagardi Castellana
On the other end of the spectrum, business people flock to Sagardi. Next to Paseo de la Castellana, this upscale tapas bar offers an array of stunning pintxos (Basque-style tapas mounted on crusty bread). The tapas of northern Spain have been successfully imported into Madrid by places like Sagaretxe and Txacolina, but Sagardi is still somewhat of a secret.
While technically a sit-down restaurant, their front bar is perfect for a quick nibble and a glass of wine. Their pintxos are laid out under a glass display case—a true feast for the eyes. Try the sweet and savory toast of fresh cow’s cheese with blueberry conserve. If you like it, they’ll talk you into the cheesecake—served warm—for dessert.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Madrid? Just add your email address in the form below!
Prior to selling everything and moving to Spain, Claire served in the Canadian Army. She is a nutritionist (and foodie), armed with a degree in literature, conquering Madrid one restaurant at a time. She has worked in multiple restaurants and a culinary school, but now helps others fall in love with her adopted city through Devour Tours.