Check out Madrid’s quick snacks and street food in spots like Plaza Mayor, Malasaña and Círculo de Bellas Artes. Here are Culture Trip’s top recommendations to immerse yourself in the city’s authentic cuisine culture.
Given that Madrid is home to the world’s oldest restaurant in continuous operation, Sobrino de Botin in La Latina, it’s fair to say that the city has a heritage and tradition of fine dining. But you’ll find a rich variety of tasty treats tucked away in the city’s napkin-strewn bodegas or sold from vendors on the street. Much of Madrid’s street food scene also revolves around the city’s world-famous markets, where people buy quick and easy to-go food while shopping for local produce. All of these traditions have helped shape Madrid as a city and can be enjoyed authentically on a shoestring budget.
Located on a small side street just off Plaza Mayor, this bar is one of the most popular spots to grab a bocadillo de calamares (squid sandwich). Bar La Campana doesn’t make much else other than the delicious sandwich, but they do it to perfection. There is usually a queue, but it is worth the wait to watch the staff fry up their fresh calamari just behind the counter. Sandwiches are a steal at €2.70 (£2.45).
Situated off the stately Plaza Mayor, Mercado San Miguel was founded over 100 years ago and reopened in 2009 after extensive restoration. The wrought-iron and glass structure is packed with takeaway stalls and tapas bars where you’ll rub shoulders with stylish Madridleños as well as foodie travellers. Visit Basque specialist Amaiketako and tuck into its tuna, anchovy and piparra chilli pepper salad; sample one of the Spanish capital’s best burgers at Raza Nostra, which justifiably refers to itself as the temple of meat; or choose from more than 200 vinos and sherries on offer at Pinkleton & Wine. Shopping and snacking doesn’t get much classier than this.
Located in Madrid’s hip neighbourhood of Malasaña, it may be no surprise to find that Mercado de San Ildefonso is the perfect place to find delicious international street food. Find over 20 stalls offering everything from exotic Asian and South American options to street food classics such as burgers, pizzas and tacos. There are also plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. It’s ideal if your group can’t decide what to eat.
What good is cheap, delicious food without a refreshing drink to wash it down? Over the 90-or-so years that it’s been open, Casa Camacho has become a Madrid institution. The traditional bar is famous for its tapas as well as its beers, vermouth on tap and its trademark Yayos (a mix of vermouth, gin and soda water). Casa Camacho is particularly popular among Madrileños in Malasaña, as residents who live nearby have been coming for generations. The bar is always packed so at weekends you may need to squeeze your way to the front.
Sidrería El Tigre has become very popular among Madrid’s student scene and it’s easy to see why. Its food and drink offering is probably among the best value in the city. Beers are served in smaller caña size or larger half-litre size, and come with a plate stacked high with classic tapas dishes such as patatas bravas, croquetas, jamon and more. Just a stone’s throw from Círculo de Bellas Artes and Gran Via, it’s perfect if you’ve spent a long day exploring the city centre and want to relax with some great food and drink on a budget.
One of Madrid’s most famous confectionery stores, Chocolat, in the Las Letras neighbourhood is a fantastic place to grab yourself a traditional Spanish churro. Not only is the dough made fresh by hand in the shop, but you can also sample the shop’s famous handmade chocolate as a dip too. In Spain, churros are often used to start the day, but with Madrid’s reputation for late nights leading to early mornings, you might find yourself sampling one on your way home too.
Every year during January and February, Gastrofestival comes to Madrid to promote the link between gastronomy and art, including a huge array of food and drink options. You’ll find niche, interesting and experimental cuisine as well as street food staples; in between concerts and workshops on literature, painting, film, photography and more. During the festival, a number of gourmet delicatessens open their doors and teach cookery classes.