Top 7 Foods & Drinks to Try in Spain

by Emese Graham
best things to eat in spain

Embrace the late and slow tempo of Spanish cuisine. Your adventure starts with a belated lunch, the largest meal of the day in Spain, and lasts well into the night for tapas with your loved ones. Taste your way through these must-try Spanish dishes while exploring three tremendous cities: Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville.

1. Jamón

spanish dishes

Best place to try: Claus Gurumeta, Expert Traveller in Vancouver highly recommends La Venencia in Madrid (Extra tip: Be sure to stand at the bar for the full local experience!)

Wherever you travel in Spain, it’s impossible to avoid jamón. Even the walls of many trendy bars and restaurants are lined with whole legs of cured ham.

You’ll notice there are two different types to sample. Jamón Serrano is a more affordable ham, made from a variety of large white pig breeds, cured with salt from 12-18 months before serving one slice at a time. Jamón Ibérico is a more premium variety, sourced only from black Iberian pigs and cured for 2-4 years before it’s ready to enjoy.

Ask your server for a slice, carved to order from a jamonera, to enjoy with your wine and tapas.

2. Cava

spanish cuisine

Best place to try: Make a reservation at Burbujas Cava & Gastro Bar in Barcelona for superb selections of cava and oysters.

The perfect pairing for your plate of sliced jamón is a glass (or two) of the Catalan region’s sparkling wine: cava. Primarily made from three Spanish grape varieties, xarel-lo, macabeau, and parallada, then traditionally prepared with a double fermentation method, cava is the hallmark of a Spain holiday done right.

Though its French counterpart is the only one that can be officially referred to as champagne, you might notice that many locals in Catalonia often refer to cava as xampany anyways.

3. Paella

spanish dishes

Best place to try: Lyle Truden, Expert Traveller in Vancouver suggests La Barraco in Madrid because it’s an undisputed local favourite serving up high-quality ingredients you might miss in tourist-trap eateries.

Paella is nothing short of an icon in Spanish cuisine. It has roots in Valencia, but various regions throughout Spain also offer their own take on it. The most popular version of paella is a seafood dish, made with rice, green beans, and a plethora of fish, shellfish, and sometimes snails.

Share a steaming pan of paella for a hearty lunch to fuel you for several hours of sightseeing.

4. Gourmet Seafood

spanish cuisine

Best place to try: Caelis is a Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona, just a ten-minute walk from the Picasso Museum. With a few tasting menus to choose from (including one for the vegetarians in your group!), Chef Romain Fornell offers a marvellous tasting tour through modern Spanish cuisine and seafood.

Spain boasts nearly 5,000 km of coastline, making it one of the best European countries for beautiful beaches and of course, seafood! You can pop into almost any restaurant for ocean-fresh eats, but for a surreal foodie experience, ask our Expert Travellers to get a reservation in one of Spain’s most exciting gourmet seafood restaurants.

You thought you knew seafood, but until you’ve sampled squid tartar, oyster with pickled duck foie gras, and tuna belly with waffled potato at Caelis… you don’t know what you’re missing.

5. Vermouth

spanish cuisine

Best place to try: La Casa Fundida (The Melted House) is a unique spot for live jazz and blues, art exhibitions, quality vermouth, and market-fresh ingredients. Find it in Mercado de Triana in Seville.

Vermouth doesn’t have Spanish origins, but you’ll find that it’s certainly a staple in Spanish cuisine culture, especially in Madrid, where a neat glass of vermút is a popular choice on a late Sunday morning. Enjoy Spanish vermouth as an aperitif, commonly available on tap in Madrid but by the bottle in Barcelona. If you’re in a splurging mood, order a Catalan vermút reserve and pair it with a salty appetizer.

6. Churros

spanish dishes

Best place to try: Bar Comercio in Seville is a family-owned business passed down through multiple generations serving up addicting churros and tapas.

Churros might be a decadent dessert in North America, but on your Spain vacation, they get to be breakfast, too. In the southern regions, try the churros relative, porras, which are thicker and have a slightly different texture. Either way, don’t be shy- order those pieces of fried sweet goodness con chocolate and dip your way to cocoa bliss.

7. Tortilla de Patatas

spanish cuisine

Best place to try: Santa Marta in Seville, close to Plaza de San Andres serves up savoury tortillas de patatas as part of a memorable tapas meal.

Sometimes called tortilla Española, this simple but tasty appetizer isn’t what you’d expect if you’ve been picturing the thin flatbread. Tortillas in Spain are a popular dish served either hot or cold, traditionally made from carefully selected potatoes, eggs, and sometimes onions. Some restaurants will experiment with other ingredients for a unique tapas share-able, but the objective is always to highlight fresh, quality ingredients.

Don’t even get us started on mouthwatering traditional dishes like patatas bravas, gazpacho, and croquetas! 


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Must-Try Spanish Cuisine for the Foodie Traveller

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