Top ten tapas and free eats in Madrid

In Spain, the “tapa” is the traditional free snack that often accompanies a drink in a bar. There is something unusually delicious about free food, especially when presented alongside a glass of red wine or an ice-cold “caña” (small glass of beer). “Tapas” are sensible – no drinking on an empty stomach. They also serve to whet the taste buds before a meal. Some even call tapas an “alcoholic’s paradise!” Unfortunately, in modern Madrid, you will most often be served a small bowl of crisps, a saucer of olives, or if you’re lucky a piece of bread with a slice of ham or cheese. Any larger serving comes at a price. Free tapas are not easy to come by in Madrid, but if you know where to go you’ll find an abundance of bars where you can eat well for the price of what you drink.

  1. Pepa Tencha, Calle de Apodaca 3, Metro Bilbao (Lines 1,4) and Tribunal (Lines 1,10) – Every Wednesday and Saturday from 8.30pm, this Italian Café offers a free “aperitif” alongside their affordable wine collection. The name is slightly misleading – it refers to an all you can eat buffet of pasta, polenta, salads and various dishes. If you’re looking to eat nearly free in Madrid, this is the best place to come.
  2. El Tigre, Calle de Infantas 30, Metro Chueca (Line 5) and Gran Vía (Line 1 and 5) – El Tigre is the go to place in Madrid for free tapas. Buy a round of beers and get a plateful of delicious snacks to go with it, along with the lively ambience one comes to associate with this most Spanish of Spanish cities.
  3. La Paloma Blanca, Calle de Espiritu Santo 21, Metro Tribunal (Lines 1,10) - This small hole in the wall bar grants you a generous portion of food gratis with your beer. Expect bowls of tuna and pasta salad, accompanied by a fried egg and bread. Ideal for backpackers looking for a protein boost.
  1. Magister, Calle del Principe 18, Metro Sol (Lines 1,2,3) and Tirso de Molina (line 1) - More than just another generic Spanish bar, Magister brew their own beer and each glass comes with a tapa of your choice, from cheese, pork products, Spanish omelette and much more.
  2. A’Cañada, Calle de Fúcar 20, Metro Anton Martín (Line 1) - This small, but packed bar is located close to the Reina Sofia Museum runs in a similar vein to El Tigre, offering plates of food for free with each drink.
  3. Boñar de Leon, Calle de la Cruz Verde 16, Metro Noviciado (Line 2) – A friendly, family owned tavern that serves the best Tinto de Verano, a cocktail of wine, lemon and vermouth, in Madrid. Their free tapas is very generous: from a Spanish omelette to cheeses and meat from Leon.
  4. El Rincón de Abulanse, Calle Cabarello de Gracia 18, Metro Gran Vía (Lines 1 and 5) – Cheap drinks and generous tapas.
  5. Bar La Mina Café, Calle de Mauricio Legendre 5 post, Metro Plaza Castilla (Lines 1,9,10) and Charmartín (Lines 1, 10 and trains) – While this bar is away from the centre, its location near the northern train station makes it an excellent stopping point for an “aperitivo” after a day trip to Segovía or El Escorial, offering free “pinchos,” Spanish appetisers to accompany a drink, this can include Iberian Ham, mussels stuffed with béchamel sauce and breadcrumbs, cheese and Russian salad.
  6. Mercado de Maravillas, Calle de Bravo Murillo 122, Metro Cuatro Caminos (Lines 1,2,6) – A huge market hall where you can buy all kinds of vegetables, cheeses, meats and much more, but it also houses numerous bars which offer generous portions of free tapas, such as “paella,” a Spanish rice dish, or garlic potatoes. The prices for drinks and food here are incredibly cheap!
  7. Malaspina, Calle de Cadíz 9, Metro Sol (Lines 1,2,3) – Just round the corner from Sol, this bar offers small tapas with your drinks, from tuna and potato salad, to toasts topped with Iberian pork products.

[flickr image via Ruth L]