Restaurants in Spain That Will Make You Book Your Next Holiday Right Now

There's a thriving foodie scene right across Spain, from Madrid to the various regions
There's a thriving foodie scene right across Spain, from Madrid to the various regions | © Michael Brooks / Alamy
Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor25 March 2021

Spain is seen as one of the best foodie destinations in the world. The cuisine changes from region to region, with dishes making the most of local ingredients. Whether it’s tapas, paella or sweet churros you’re craving, these restaurants will serve up the best food around.

The gastronomy scene in Spain continues to thrive, with some of the restaurants and chefs consistently ranked as the best in their fields. As we’re about to discover, there is a pioneering spirit that drives the industry to even higher levels, and as such there’s much to recommend. Here’s Culture Trip’s highly unscientific but tasty selection of Spanish restaurants you will want to try as soon as possible.

Restaurante Sobrino de Botín

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Restaurante Botin. Madrid, Espana - PJ7Y76
© DCarreño / Alamy

Let’s start with an oldie. Actually, let’s start with the oldie, as this Madrid restaurant is recognised by most authorities as the oldest restaurant in the world. It’s an unassuming establishment and quite dated inside, with the jumble of chairs and tables making it obvious that this was a place that operated long before fast food was a thing. The cochinillo (suckling pig) is the house special, a dish that has been served thousands of times to some of the world’s most discerning customers. It’s worth visiting if only to join their ranks and smugly boast, “Been there, done that.”

Tickets

Bar, Restaurant, Diner, Spanish, Tapas, $$$
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Spain, Catalonia, Barcelona, Sant Antoni, Tickets restaurant designed by architects El Equipo Creativo and opened in 2011 by Albert and Ferran Adria brothers, El Garatge space with a container as counter
© MAISANT Ludovic / hemis.fr / Alamy

Contemporary tapas might seem like an oxymoron to most Spaniards, but that’s what you can get at this award-winning restaurant in Barcelona. Head chef Albert Adrià owns Tickets with his brother, Ferran; the pair previously collaborated on elBulli, which was heralded as the greatest restaurant in the world until it closed in 2011. There’s less pomp and circumstance here, though, with fresh ingredients and delicious small bites winning out over extravagant showboating.

Arzak

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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San Sebastian, Pintxo im "Restaurante Arzak" , Spanien Norden | usage worldwide
© dpa picture alliance / Alamy

If you were to pick one destination in Spain to visit purely for the food, we suspect you’d choose San Sebastián. Specialising in new Basque cuisine, a movement that updates the traditional way of cooking meat and fish over hot coals, Arzak takes everything the region is known for and adds a unique twist to it. The family-run business has numerous Michelin stars to its name, and the dishes change with the seasons. Whenever you go, you’ll be guaranteed some of the finest cuisine in the world.

Cenador de Amós

Restaurant, Spanish
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Cenador de Amós
Courtesy of Javier Salas / Cenador de Amós

Another three-Michelin-star restaurant, Cenador de Amós is located in an old country mansion that sits between the hills of Cantabria and the coast. The chefs use traditional techniques, but the real star is the fresh selection of seafood that comes in daily from the Bay of Biscay. It is admittedly one of the more expensive options in the area, but it really does warrant a trip to this beautiful region.

La Pepica

Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, $$$
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La Pepica restaurant,6 Passeig Neptú,Malvarrosa beach.Valencia - FDAM0J
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy

Paella is probably the most famous dish associated with Spain. Each region has its own version of the rice-based dish, but Valencia is where it was first created. Original recipes include rabbit, chicken, vegetables and snails, but now you can get it with pretty much anything you want. La Pepica was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite paella spot and is found just off Las Arenas beach. Yes, it might all be a bit touristy today, but the food is still of the highest order. If we were to suggest one dish, it would be… the paella. Obviously.

Casa Carmela

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
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Seafood paella, Valencia, Spain
© Suzy Bennett / Alamy

We know it’s probably overkill choosing another paella specialist in Valencia, but the experience at Casa Carmela is so different to the one you get at La Pepica that we just had to include it. This is the authentic way to eat the dish, all served from one pan with everyone tucking in at the same time. It can take a while for the food to arrive as it is all made to order, but this is the way locals like to eat the dish – and we can’t beat that.

La Brunilda Tapas

Bistro, Spanish, $$$
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La Brunilda Tapas
Courtesy of La Brunilda Tapas

Tapas can be served many ways. As we saw with Tickets in Barcelona, small plates have evolved to constitute entire meals by themselves, but they were once simple dishes served for free with drinks in bars. Some places, especially in more rural places around Andalusia, keep up the old tradition, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch in Seville. Our pick here is La Brunilda, a comfy restaurant that ups the ante with a more fine-dining atmosphere. The prices are still reasonable, although if you want to fully embrace the bar-hopping culture, make sure you also stop off at Bodega Santa Cruz – it gleefully refuses to have a set menu, instead scribbling down the daily specials on makeshift boards.

Quique Dacosta

Restaurant, Spanish
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Quique-Dacosta-restaurante
Courtesy of Grupo Quique Dacosta

Chef Quique Dacosta has named his restaurant after himself, but if that’s considered an act of grandstanding, then wait till you get inside. The natural successor to elBulli when it comes to cutting-edge Spanish cuisine, all the ingredients are sourced within 75km (50mi) of the kitchen. The good news is that you’re on the Mediterranean here, so you’re going to get fresh flavours and aromatic dishes. If you book well in advance, you can also secure a spectacular view from some of the best tables in the house.

These recommendations were updated on March 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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