A night out on the town for tapas is one of the most fun ways to eat like a local in Madrid! But where should you go… and what exactly should you order?
This guide to the best tapas bars in Madrid will walk you through the can’t-miss spots in the Spanish capital for an unforgettable dining experience.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Madrid, the best answer is often simply to join the locals at the nearest bar. If it’s crowded with boisterous madrileños, it’s guaranteed to be a good time.
These excellent tapas bars in Madrid have all earned the local seal of approval for good reason. Get ready for an unforgettable feast!
1. Casa Toni
When we say “they don’t make them like this any more,” we’re serious. Casa Toni is just about the last authentic, no-frills tapas bar left in the Puerta del Sol area. It may not look like much, but trust us when we say that this unfussy local favorite is as authentic as they come.
Casa Toni was originally simply called Toni, after the mysterious original owner, Antonio. A group of local friends working at a nearby restaurant took it over in the 1970s, and the rest is history. Since then, it’s been serving up tried-and-true Madrid classics that locals can’t get enough of.
This place’s claim to fame: offal. We’re talking intestines, sweetbreads, ear, you name it, all tossed on the grill with little more than garlic and parsley. But if you’re not feeling quite so adventurous, no worries—they also do excellent mushrooms, patatas bravas, chorizo, and more.
2. La Casa del Abuelo
This now-legendary garlic shrimp tapa was born out of necessity in the years following the Spanish Civil War, when Madrid was facing a massive bread shortage. (Not ideal for this spot, which originally opened as a sandwich bar.) The owner headed down to the market to buy whatever was fresh and plentiful, which happened to be shrimp—and the resulting dish is now a staple of bar menus throughout Spain.
The great part about La Casa del Abuelo (besides the shrimp) is the fact that they do everything themselves. From shelling the shrimp each morning to making their own olive oil and wine, they’re one of the most self-sufficient tapas bars in Madrid. Order a round of gambas with their house wine, and be sure to soak up all that delicious garlic sauce with your bread.
3. Casa Labra
Come to Casa Labra for the history; stay for the incredible salt cod dishes. This place opened its doors in 1860 and, less than 20 years later, witnessed the founding of Spain’s largest left-wing political party (the PSOE) within its walls.
Not much has changed at Casa Labra in the 160 years since its founding, and that’s just the way we like it. Most notably, it’s the only bar in Madrid that still features separate ordering areas for food and drink. This used to be quite common back when food suppliers at bars were a separate business entity from the bar itself, but Labra has kept the unique old-school setup for a vintage touch.
Order up some of their famous salt cod and wash it down with an ice-cold beer—or better yet, vermouth on tap. This slightly bitter, slightly sweet aperitif is the most delicious way to open your appetite for a day of exploring tapas bars in Madrid!
4. Taberna Real
Another great aperitif spot and one of the best tapas bars in Madrid is this spot just around the corner from the Royal Palace. In fact, Taberna Real means “royal tavern.” The space originally served as the living quarters for palace servants, who later turned it into a bar.
Go for vermouth here as well, and pair it with local Campo Real olives and a hearty slice of empanada. And don’t forget to indulge in your royal surroundings while you eat—the large chandelier is an exact replica of one that still hangs in the palace to this day!
5. Mesón del Champiñon
Few places can claim to have elevated a simple ingredient like the humble mushroom to new heights. But Mesón del Champiñón is one of them.
Tucked down a side street just around the corner from Plaza Mayor, this spot serves mushrooms like you’ve never had them before. They’re stuffed with garlic, parsley, and chorizo, then grilled to perfection. To really get the full local experience, try the traditional way of eating them with two toothpicks (it’s harder than it sounds!).
Like all of the best tapas bars in Madrid, this spot has been in the same family for decades—since it opened in 1960, to be precise. The space that the bar occupies used to be a storage area for the old market in Plaza Mayor, which explains its unique cave-like layout. Current owner Francisco’s uncle got ahold of this space when the market closed, turned it into a bar, and they’ve been churning out the best mushrooms in Madrid ever since!
6. La Campana
The bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari sandwich) is one of the typical foods you can’t leave Madrid without trying. And no place does it better than La Campana, a bustling little hole in the wall just around the corner from Plaza Mayor.
You won’t catch locals eating out on the plaza itself, but head down the side streets and you’ll find them pouring out of bars like La Campana, bocadillo de calamares in hand. This simple sandwich is Madrid’s go-to street food, and you can enjoy it at the bar itself or wander into the plaza to munch on it there.
So what makes La Campana’s calamari sandwich so good? Like most simple Spanish dishes, it’s all in the ingredients. In this case, perfectly fried calamari (crispy but not greasy) and homemade artisanal bread come together to work tapas magic.
7. Casa González
Craving the finest Spanish gourmet products Madrid has to offer? You won’t want to miss a stop at Casa González.
This gorgeous little gourmet shop in the Huertas neighborhood has gained a well-deserved reputation for stocking the best charcuterie, cheese, and canned goods in the city, along with a spectacular wine collection. The best part: it doubles as a tapas joint!
Order up a plate or two of cured meats and cheeses along with a glass of wine to wash it down. Grab a seat in the back dining area—which, back in the 1940s, was actually a clandestine meeting place for Madrid’s anti-fascist rebels!
8. Los Gatos
Feeling indecisive? One of the best ways to enjoy lots of different tastes is by ordering a round of tostas: open-faced sandwiches piled high with delicious ingredients. And when it comes to tostas, there’s no better place than Los Gatos.
But we’ll get to the tostas in a bit. Before you even order, the over-the-top decor inside Los Gatos is sure to catch your eye. Owner Miguel has been filling the space with quirky odds and ends ever since the bar opened, and the result is something you have to see to believe—yet so quintessentially madrileño somehow.
Back to those tostas. Los Gatos serves up more than 30 varieties of them, ranging from the simple (goat cheese with caramelized onion) to the elaborate (gulas con alioli—baby eels with garlic mayo). Order several and discover your favorite!
9. Casa Baranda
Casa Baranda is the kind of quintessential, old-school tapas bar that no trip to Madrid would be complete without. We’re talking traditional tiles, a zinc bar, wine barrels, waiters in bow ties—the works.
But believe it or not, this spot was a dodgy dive bar for much of its history, and nothing to write home about. It even closed during the first few months of the Spanish Civil War. But in 2016, the owners of the storied Bodega La Ardosa next door bought the place, converting it into the can’t-miss tapas spot it always had the potential to be.
Today, Casa Baranda is a must on any tapas crawl through Chueca. Order some vermouth and their incredible patatas bravas, and you’ll have found your new happy place.
Where Casa Baranda is charmingly vintage, nearby Angelita is sleek and contemporary. As one of the best wine bars in Madrid, they boast a selection of more than 500 different wines, 50 of which are available by the glass.
But of course, you’ll want some tapas to go with your excellent Spanish wine. At Angelita, said tapas come in the form of contemporary twists on classic Spanish dishes. From pisto with rosemary-infused alioli to bull’s tail stew in cannelloni form, everything here is familiar yet unexpected in the best way possible.
Hungry already? We can’t make Spanish food magically appear in front of you—but check out this video of five incredible tapas at La Casa del Abuelo to hold you over until you can make it to Madrid.
Tapas Bars in Madrid FAQs
The concept of tapas can vary depending on where in Spain you are. In Madrid, you’ll often get a little bit of free food with your drink (such as potato chips or olives), and this is considered a tapa. However, going out to tapas bars in Madrid is about the experience of packing into crowded spaces among locals and ordering food, often to share among friends.
There are nearly 15,000 bars and restaurants in Madrid! You’ll never have to look far to find a place to eat.
You have a few different options when it comes to pairing tapas and drinks, all of which are delicious. When you’re starting your meal, an aperitif like vermouth or dry sherry is perfect for opening your appetite. As you continue your feast, switch to beer or wine.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on January 2, 2018 and was republished with new text and photos on September 17, 2021.
Ready to really eat like a local? Join us on our Tapas, Taverns & History Tour and experience some of the best tapas in Madrid with us! In addition to tasting the city’s best dishes and learning the history behind them, you’ll also learn the ins and outs of how to order drinks and food, experience the lively and vibrant culture and meet new foodie friends. We can’t wait to see you soon!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.