Slowly but steadily I get the time to write down some of my favorite places and things to do in Madrid. After living 2 years in the Spanish capital and calling it “home” for a while, I got to know Madrid in many different aspects.
One of them was without any doubt the local food. Madrid is one of the cities with highest numbers of bars and restaurants per head. Thus it’s no wonder that locals consider the streets of Madrid and their countless terraces as their second living room. As prices are relatively affordable, you can basically eat out every night without draining your budget.
As any other Spanish large city, Madrid has its very own traditional food specialties and drinks. So here they go: the 10 Must Eat and Food to Try in Madrid.
Lunch time in Spain is usually between 2pm and 4pm. However in Madrid, restaurants are becoming more and more flexible regarding their opening hours.
One of the advantages of traveling slow is that you really get to know a place and develop a sense for the cultural elements that distinguish a travel destination. Even though Madrid is a large city, it managed to preserve many traditions and some neighborhoods feel like nothing’s changed in 50 years.
My restaurant and bar recommendations are based on my own experience of living in Madrid for 2 years and working in the Spanish tourism sector where I got to visit a high number of restaurants and hotels. Please feel free to ask me for any personalized recommendation in the comment from.
Where to stay in Madrid City Center
|Far Home Atocha|
Intur Palacio San Martin
|NH Collection Palacio de Tepa *****|
|URSO Hotel & Spa *****|
Find the perfect accommodation in Madrid in this Ultimate Guide on the Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Madrid
1. Suckling Pig
Suckling pig (cochinillo) is one of my favorite foods to eat in Madrid. Even though it is a typical dish from the small villages in the surrounding mountains of Madrid, you can also get it in the capital itself. (You can get the best on in Segovia, where the preparation of suckling pig is a local tradition and competition)
Suckling pig is slowly cooked during several hours which makes the meat very tender and the skin is a very slim crisp crackling. If well prepared the luscious meat just drops from the the ribs when you want to cut it.
The rules are very strict: the pig should only be milk-fed and shouldn’t be older than 2-3 weeks.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat suckling pig (cochinillo):
2. Spanish Omelette (Tortilla)
You can’t leave Spain or Madrid without having eaten a pincho de tortilla (also known as Spanish omelette). Even though it is one of the simplest dishes you can have, every bar or restaurant in Madrid has a different way of preparing it.
The tortilla española shouldn’t be confused with the tortilla francesa (French omelette) which comes without the fried, thinly-sliced potatoes.
Opinions differ whether the real tortilla has onions or not. At some places you get tortilla with spinach, peppers, chorizo and other varieties. A real good tortilla needs to be golden brown and firm at the outside and a bit liquid inside. It can be served either hot or cold.
Tortilla can be eaten in a sandwich or as a pincho to join your beer.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Spanish omelette (tortilla):
- La Ardosa
- Casa de la Tortilla
- Juana La Loca (the star dish is tortilla with caramelized onion)
Of course there must be something sweet! The most popular treat to eat in Madrid are Chocolate con Churros. The fried-dough pastry can be eaten at any time of the day, but it’s particularly appreciated at the merienda (afternoon snack at 6pm) or as Sunday morning breakfast.
Wikipedia lists churros as breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snack! Anytime is churros time.
Churros, the thicker version is called porras, are crispy on the outside and spongy inside. I like them hot directly from the fryer and dipped in a thick hot chocolate. In opposite to other countries, hot chocolate in Spain is thick like a pudding.
For me, there was nothing better to have Chocolate con Churros after clubbing or a long night out. I am convinced that it’s the best way to prevent a hangover.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Churros con Chocolate:
- Chocolateria San Gines (the one and only, open 24h!)
- Churreria Siglo XIX
- La Antigua Churrería
- Chocolatería Valor
4. Meat and Chickpea Stew (Cocido madrileño)
Cocido madrileño is a hearty, substantial stew that is usually eaten during the winter months (unless you’re an Asian tourist on a 2 weeks Europe bus trip and you need to eat Cocido Madrileño when it’s a burning 35 degrees outside...true story!)
The dish is based on chickpeas and is prepared with meat and vegetables like cabbage, carrots, turnip and potatoes.
The cocido madrileño is usually served in 3 different courses: first the broth with thin noodles (fideos), then the chickpeas (garbanzos) and vegetables followed by the meat. And then it’s definitely time for a long siesta!
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Cocido Madrileño:
5. Tripes Madrid-style (Callos a la madrileña)
Madrid-style tripe is like the Cocido madrileño a dish with humble origins. It’s recipe goes back to 1599 and consists of a stew including chickpeas, beef tripe, blood sausage and chorizo. Regarding vegetables it comes with garlic, tomato and bell peppers.
The stew is cooked for long hours and is usually eaten on Sundays when you’re sitting together with your family.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Callos a la madrileña:
- Lhardy (a classic, th first restaurant incorporating Callos, a “poor” meal to their menu)
- La Tazquita de Enfrente
- El Fogon de Trifon
- Bar Alonso
6. Calamari Sandwich (Bocadillo de Calamares)
The bocadillo de calamares, calamari (squid) sandwich, is yet another must eat dish when visiting Madrid. It’s just a classic as pizza in Italy or a French fries in Belgium.
The bocadillo de calamares is a bread roll filled with in olive oil fried squid rings. I really liked it but I was missing a sauce like mayonnaise or tartare sauce to make it easier to eat.
It’s usually eaten with a small beer (a caña) and you can have it at any time: lunch, dinner or afternoon snack (merienda). Again this typical food is all you can wish for after clubbing in Madrid’s best clubs.
Even though Madrid has no access to the sea, it has some of the freshest fish and seafood in Spain. This is because the latest catch from the shores is first
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich):
- Bar La Campana
- El Brillante
- Bar La Ideal
7. Broken Eggs (Huevos Estrellados or Huevos Rotos)
Can you believe that Broken Eggs (Huevos Rotos) is a local specialty from Madrid and that you can easily prepare at home? Well… the Broken Eggs from Madrid are nothing else you’ve seen or tasted so far.
Huevos rotos or huevos estrellados (starry eggs) are one of the foods to try when traveling to Madrid. They are usually served on a bed of French fries, Iberian ham, chistorra or chorizo.
You can eat this delicious meal at almost any bar or restaurant in Madrid. However the most famous place to have Huevos Rotos (even the king’s having his broken eggs here) is Casa Lucio.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Huevos Rotos (Broken Eggs):
8. Snails Madrid-Style (Caracoles a la Madrilena)
Snails Madrid-style are a traditional food to try in Madrid’s bars and taverns. They are yet another legacy of Madrid’ humble origins. Did you know that eating snails goes back to Roman times?
Snails are usually served in a clay pot as a tapa or a pincho, together with a beer or a red wine.
The secret of this meal lays definitely in the sauce. It’s cooked for long hours and is based on a meat broth made of chorizo, Iberian ham, wine, onion and a spicy touch.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Caracoles a la Madrileña (snails Madrid-style):
9. Rosca Madrileña
Rosca Madrileña is a traditional dish from Madrid which is hard to find nowadays. Rosca is the Spanish word for donut and roscas cakes are usually served for Christmas or for Three Kings Day.
However the Rosca Madrielña is all about meat served in a donut form. It consists of pork and veal meat, mixed with ham, bacon, flour, eggs and backed with a thick mushroom sauce.
As it takes a very long time to prepare, the dish is hard to find in Madrid’s bars.
You can order Rosca Madrileña at: Casa de Fieras
10. French Toast (Torrijas)
The tradition of eating and preparing torrijas in Spain goes back to the 14th century. Torrijas are most eaten during Semana Santa (Holy Week before Eastern).
Known as French toast, torrijas were a way to use old bread leftovers. It’s super easy to prepare: all you need to do is soaking bread slices in warm milk with sugar and cinnamon. Add some batted eggs and deep fry the slices in butter or virgin olive oil. Cover them with brown sugar just before serving.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Torrijas (French toast):
Extra: Tapas in Food Markets
Several of them have been remodeled and refurbished like Mercado de la Cebada or Mercado de Barceló.
Other ones like Mercado de San Ildefonso, Mercado de San Anton and Mercado de San Miguel have been converted in hip gourmet markets where you can eat delicious tapas in a cool setting. You can either go for grocery shopping or enjoy freshly prepared meals or tapas at the market stalls.
Mercado de San Miguel is the most popular (touristy&expensive) one whereas Mercado de Santo Anton or Mercado de San Ildefonso are located in Madrid’s hipster neighborhood Chueca and Malasaña.
I also really liked the Mercado de la Cebada as dance sessions are organized on Sundays. Is there a better mix than dancing and enjoying tapas?
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my stay in Madrid could convince you to try some of Madrid's local specialties.
Have you been in Madrid? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You'll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. I travel with a FUJI XT2 (mirrorless, takes amazing photos) and our Action Camera GoPro HERO5 Session (takes beautiful photos in the most extreme situations, sim & lightweight) – all of the cameras are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- To edit photos and answer mails while traveling, I usually take my Touchscreen 2-in-1 Business Laptop with me.
- When spending a lot of time on the road I love to wear my trekking sandals.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
In order to get more information on tourism in Madrid, I recommend the site of Tourism Board of Madrid