The tradition of offering free tapas with drinks in bars in Spain is a time-honoured one, but it is not one that happens all over the country. In some cities though the tradition lives on: the three regions where you can most commonly expect to be offered free tapas with your glass of wine or beer are the eastern part of Andalusia, Castilla y León and Galicia.
Tapas is the term given to small plates which are used like a lid to keep insects and dust away from the drink that they cover. Traditional tapas dishes include ham or olives but modern tapas dishes can be a little more interesting and intricate. If you’re passionate about tapas and are looking for the best free tapas dishes in Spain then here are some of the best cities in the country to visit:
Granada is considered to be the best city in Spain if you’re looking for free tapas: the dishes available are varied and exciting, and the portions are often generous. From mini burgers to Spanish tortillas, fried fish to traditional chorizo. Every time you buy a drink, you will be given another tapas plate, meaning that you could end up enjoying a full meal without paying a penny for your food. Don’t drink alcohol? Don’t worry. Free tapas is offered with soft drinks and bottles of sparking water, as well as with beer and wine. You should note that tapas is not usually served with tea or coffee though.
Don’t be surprised if the prices of your drinks in Granada is slightly higher than in other Spanish cities: this helps to cover the cost of the food. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, then you don’t have to miss out: just ask for una tapa vegetariana o tapa vegana but don’t be surprised if some bars just serve you something simple like cheese and bread. If you’re in Granada hunting for the best tapas then head to Calle Navas, Calle Virgen del Rosario and the area around the Cathedral.
If you travel south from Granada and head to the coast, then you will find Almeria. This is another city that is famed for its incredible free tapas, but what is interesting about Almeria when compared to other tapas cities is that when you order your drink you will actually be able to choose your accompanying tapas dish. Ideal if you don’t want to be surprised! The tapas menus here are vast and exciting, so you certainly won’t go home hungry. Toast is popular in Almeria, so don’t be surprised to find an abundance of delicious, topped toasts.
Top tip: Tell your waiter what tapas you would like as you order your drink, as they often forget to return for your food order, particularly during busy periods.
If size matters, then head to Avila. Free tapas potions here tend to be much larger than in any other cities. You will receive a hearty and delicious dish, and they are offered in almost every bar in Avila. The dishes here are like mini meals, so you won’t need to order more than one or two. In Avila the patrons like their meat, so you will find that the dishes feature plenty of it. Head to Calle San Segundo for the best tapas in Avila.
Note that because of the large portion sizes, you can expect to pay slightly more than the national average for your drinks, but given the dishes involved they are still very good value.
Located in the north of Granada, you will be offered tapas on the house with each drink you order here but, like in Granada, you won’t be given a choice of the tapas that you receive. Prices here tend to be lower than in Almeria but the portions are still incredibly generous, so you won’t need to have more than a drink or two to enjoy a full meal. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan then the bars might not be as accommodating here as they are in Granada, but you may find that there are some simple options available to you.
Popular tapas plates in Jaen include migas (fried breadcrumbs or flour with pieces of meat and fried peppers) or morcilla (blood sausage or black pudding).
Leon is considered to be one of the greatest foodie cities in northern Spain, and it also offers excellent free tapas. You will find a wide range of traditional tapas dishes here, as well as specialities exclusive to the city such as patatas leonesas (León-style potatoes), or morcilla de León (blood sausage or black pudding from León). For the best tapas in Leon head to the Barrio del Húmedo or the Barrio Romántico.
During the pandemic, a few bars in León started charging around €0.30 to €0.50 for tapas, but most still offer their tapas dishes for free. If you are charged, you should be told that a charge will be implemented before you order.
Santiago de Compostela
This small city offers free very simple tapas dishes with each cold beer or glass of wine ordered. You won’t find large or complex dishes here, but you will find tapas dishes that comprise of a piece of bread with some type of meat on top or a small slice of tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette). Prices here are reasonable, so you won’t find that the cost of your small plate has been built into the price of your drink, as you might in other cities.
The final city on our list is Lugo, which is a walled city in the region of Galicia. Tapsas works slightly differently here compared to other Spanish cities. Once you have ordered your drinks, a waiter will come to your table with a tray of small tapas plates, and you can choose the one you would like to eat. This means that you have greater control of your tapas choice than in most other places.
Common and popular tapas dishes in Lugo includepulpo (octopus), empanadas (Galician-style pies), tortilla rellena (filled omelette) and anchoas (anchovies).
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