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food / travel

Gùsto! How · What · Where Locals Eat (And Drink) In Madrid

Photo of The last horchata kiosk in Madrid, Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José

The last horchata kiosk in Madrid, Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José

Yannick Champion-Osselin

Madrid is the place to be if you want to experience the full variety of Spanish cuisine. Since it became the capital of Spain in the 1500s, Madrid has been a melting pot for culinary traditions from all over the peninsula. Its main dishes are simple, easy fares — often fried — prepared in bar and tavern kitchens.

The walkable Spanish capital city is easy to explore — especially through food. When Spaniards talk of “ir de tapas," they're referring to an itinerant way of eating — the tradition of wandering around a neighborhood, casually bar hopping while being served a tapas dish to “picar” alongside your beverage of choice (traditionally wine, but more recently beer has become popular, too).

Some of the most famous sides include padrón peppers, cured ham, cheeses, croquettes, chorizo and patatas bravas. It's a fantastic way to get to know an area, try new food, and, if you're the chatty type, make new friends.

But eating and drinking in Madrid is more than simply a sprawling tapas bar...

Two mugs of chocolate and a plate of churros outside of Chocolateria San Gines

For breakfast, as a snack or as a dessert after lunch, a chocolate with churros is good at any time of the day!


Start your day with a tasty treat

The legendary Chocolatería San Ginés has been serving churros with chocolate to Spaniards at all hours since 1894. It is a classic for a reason, beloved by tourists and locals alike, and we cannot help but recommend it.

Their churros are consistently crisp and warm, with rich and decadent melted chocolate served in a mug. It is well worth the small queue to take a seat in the original down-to-earth establishment in Sol, with its stainless steel tables and dark green paint.

A victim of their own success, they also offer take away through various apps — so you don't even have to leave your bed to experience a typical Madrid breakfast. And if you want to class it up, city-confidential recommends trying out the five-star Urso Hotel & Spa in Justicia, which has recently become a vendor of the iconic treat.

Chocolatería San Ginés — Calle Pasadizo de San Ginés 5, 28013 Madrid (Sol)

Go mushroom mad

The staff at El Brote really know their mushrooms — because that's all they serve. Warm and knowledgeable, mushroom experts and childhood friends Eduardo and Alvaro will dissect their menu for you, isolating a selection of ingredients so that head cook Pablo can whip up the perfect dish.

A vegetarian's delight, these guys have been changing and perfecting their menu for 10 years with locally sourced ingredients plucked straight from the earth. Although it's a small gem that most seem to come across by chance, it's still a good idea to make a reservation.

The mycologically decorated restaurant so good that journalist Almudena Ávalos described it as an "oasis" full of "the most ephemeral delicacies of the countryside" in national daily El País. All in all, El Brote is an earthy but intoxicating education on how to make mushrooms magnificent.

El Brote – Calle de la Ruda 14, 28005 Madrid (Latina)

Cool off with a lingering taste of Valencia

The Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José is the last original horchata kiosk, out of dozens that used to litter the streets of Madrid. With its blue and white paneling, the stand takes you back in time to the 1960s – or across the country to Valencia, where the specialty drink is most famous. Horchata is an ice-cold drink made of water, sugar and tiger nuts, which taste a bit like almonds.

Owned by the same family since 1944, brothers Miguel and Jose are the fourth generation to run the stand, selling all manner of drinks and snacks. They are open six days a week (closed Mondays), and work through the summer. The online guide Madrid Secreto says that the stand's stunning awning and decor is reason enough to visit, and that their farton (soft sweets typically dunked in horchata) are not to be missed.

The stand also sells a traditional madrileña drink, agua de cebada, made with toasted barley, water and sugar. For the less adventurous, the brothers also whip up slushies, called granizados in Spanish, in the classic lemon, or with added mint for a variant known as gusalim.

Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José – Calle de Narváez, 8, 28009 Madrid (Goya)

A man in a chefs hat tends the oven, with shelves of roast pig behind him

A chef works the oven at the world's oldest continuously operated restaurant, Sobrino de Botín


Eat amongst history

Another location that is renowned for a reason, the Sobrino de Botín is Europe’s longest continuously running restaurant, and has been cooking meat in the same oven since 1725.

The tavern serves a host of traditional fare from around Spain and its home city.

Acclaimed in the Guinness Book of World records, this eatery is a meat lover's paradise.

The tavern serves a host of traditional fare from around Spain and its home city. Signature dishes are the roast suckling pig and roast lamb, served whole on a platter and accompanied by vegetables. The most expensive dish on the menu by a long shot are the baby eels, at over 100€, with the rest of the fish and meat being sold at a less eye-watering price.

The Spanish weekly newspaper Que!also emphasizes the eatery's attention to customer service. Its smartly dressed staff are warm and attentive, the restaurant consistently manned by a Botín family member with knowledge of the site's rich history.

It has also hosted many celebrities throughout its history, frequented by U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway and exiled Spanish politician Indalecio Prieto. It is also said that, before reaching artistic fame, painter Francisco de Goya worked in the Botin’s kitchens. At 19, he spent time scrubbing dishes, to pay his way upon arriving in the capital from Zaragoza.

Sobrino de Botín – Calle Cuchilleros 17, 28015 Madrid (La Latina)
Bodega de la Ardosa with two motorcycles parked outside\u200b and a door in the doorway

A dog sniffs at the door of Bodega de la Ardosa


Join the age-old debate: tortilla con o sin cebolla? (with or without onions)

Perhaps the most iconic of Spanish foods, it would be remiss to not suggest at least one spot to eat tortilla de patatas. They are the crowning tapa, found in almost any bar or restaurant across the country.

The potato-based Spanish omelette is also subject to controversy: should you make it with or without, onions? A study in the Spanish daily El Mundo found that 73% of Spaniards are "concebollista," preferring to include onion in their tortilla. Yet locals and Michelin star chefs alike still stand by the tortilla without onion, so the debate continues.

Whatever you decide, a consistent Madrid favorite is Bodega La Ardosa’s tortilla de patatas. With its beautiful red facade and eclectic vintage interior, La Ardosa would be iconic even if it didn't serve good food. But it does. Menu highlights other than their fantastically moist tortilla are the artichokes, croquettes and the bar’s homemade Vermouth. Pair this with reviews that consistently highlight a communal, bustling, welcoming atmosphere — and you have a winner.

La Ardosa – Calle Colón, 13, 28004 Madrid (Malasaña)

To take a break (or nurse a hangover), try a classic bocadillo

Madrid has its own sandwich, the Bocadillo de Calamares (squid sandwich) which consists of battered squid fried in olive oil, served in a sliced bread roll. This can also be accompanied by a squeeze of lemon, garlic mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce.

Plaza Mayor, a large plaza and the ancient market square of Madrid is the place to eat a Bocadillo de Calamares. Just off Puerta de Sol, the busy square is full of cafes and restaurants. Just off the square’s southern exit, one location is home to the consistently best-rated Bocadillo de Calamares in the city.

La Campana (with runners up Casa Rua and La Ideal meters away) is a brewery that has been selling Bocadillo de Calamares since 1870. The down-to-earth cervecería serves an array of tapas in the authentically madrileño way at a reasonable price. The website Madrid Gratis concurs that it is the place for this kind of bocadillo, 'a stand-out bar' in a street full of quality establishments. In spite of its location next to Madrid's most touristic squares, La Campana is home to a well priced sandwich that does not skip on the filling. And for vegetarians, you can switch this out for the equally tasty Bocadillo de Tortilla, because the only thing that can make the Spanish omelet better is mayonnaise and bread.

La Campana – Calle de Botoneras, 6, 28012 Madrid (Sol)

Feeling brave?

Another mythic spot in Madrid is Las Bravas, home of the infamous Bravas sauce. It is a temple to the Patatas Bravas, a tapas that can be found throughout the country.

For the uninitiated, Patatas Bravas consist of fried potato cubes accompanied by the spicy bravas sauce made up of olive oil, flour, cayenne and paprika. Although its origins are unclear, it first appeared in the 1950s in Madrid bars, and a decade later Las Bravas acquired its copyright.

Its online reviews consistently recommend the house specials, the fast service and hearty portions. The boisterous bar serves its spicy sauce with just about every tapas imaginable, and more. Alongside croquettes, manchego cheese and tortilla, its menu includes bravas sauce with octopus, pig's ear and mussels.

Las Bravas – Calle Álvarez Gato, 3, 28012 (Original) or Pasaje Matheu, 5, 28012 (Sol)
Plates of tapas including tortilla and croquetas are served alongside a beer

An array of tapas at Bodega de la Ardosa



While eating across the city, why not try the local beer? Mahou beers are light and unpretentious, perfect to quench your thirst on a hot day. The family brewery was founded in 1890 in Madrid, and has grown into the leading beer company in Spain — also sold in over 70 countries.

Spain is the second-largest producer of beer in Europe after Germany, and Mahou specializes in pale ales known for their light, sweet hops and malty flavor. Typically sold in brown bottles or small cans, Mahou beers are a dime-a-dozen in bars and on patios across the country. Salud!

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