With so many culinary traditions, brilliant chefs, and gourmand locals, it’s no surprise Spain is a food & drink paradise. Each province and region boasts its own unique flavors and specialties that vary depending on factors such as customs, geographical location, weather, and the quality of soil. Thus, from the virtues of the Mediterranean Diet to the refinement of Catalan cuisine, Spain’s gastronomic landscape is as spectacular and diverse as the country itself.
Deeply rooted in the local culture, the quintessential tapas are the most famous and beloved Spanish culinary tradition, and an experience no one should miss while visiting Spain. The art of pairing food with conversation in a pleasant ambience has always been a common habit for Spaniards, who love their food as much as they enjoy socializing. Tapas are not a certain dish, they consist of small bites of local food usually served for free when ordering a drink at the bar, and they can be almost anything from marinated olives to seafood, Spanish ham, or cheese. Tapas are free in most cities and towns throughout Spain, except for the Basque Country, where these small portions of food called pintxos are not a gratuity, but an exquisite way of sampling the local delicacies.
As mentioned above, Spanish food and drink varies greatly from a region to another. Home to gazpacho and delicious fortified wine (sherry), Andalusia features a superb combination of long-lasting Arabic traditions and Mediterranean products; Valencia is renowned for paella; the refined Catalan cuisine combines the best from the sea and the mountains, being especially famous for sauces and cava (a local sparkling wine); while in Galicia you can find the best seafood in Spain.
One thing people should bear in mind when visiting Spain is that eating hours are a bit late compared to most European countries. Lunch is usually served between 2.00 – 3.00 p.m. and dinner never before 9.00 p.m. . Another important aspect is that Spanish people love to eat out, thus the country is dotted with a myriad of quality restaurants ranging from cheap and cheerful to Michelin-starred establishments. Whether you find yourself in a bustling Spanish metropolis, on one of the country’s sunny coasts, or in a tucked-away village, the best thing you can do is to follow the locals, they will certainly lead you to the best spots in town.
Last but not least, for a hearty cheap lunch don’t hesitate to try the Menu del Dia. This normally consists of a three course meal and is a great economical way to indulge in the local gastronomy.