Aside from being the capital of Spain, Madrid is the gastronomic capital as well. With more than 8,000 restaurants.
It is the central hub where most of the freshest seafood caught on the coasts of Galicia and the South of Spain are flown into the world’s second largest seafood market to be served up in the local restaurants.
It is also the place where you can savour international flavours from around the world without leaving the city!
Dining out in Madrid is an adventure that never ends and there are endless options for all tastes and preferences.
Here is a guide to the best gourmet experiences in Madrid that will keep all foodies and gourmet lovers happy!
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Eat like a local in Madrid
Timing is everything
One of the most shocking things for first time visitors to Madrid is the eating schedule, which is a lot later than the schedules of most Europeans or Americans.
It is not common to find restaurants open for lunch at 12:00pm but nowadays there are many chain and tourist restaurants serving lunch at that hour. To really live the authentic Spanish dining experience you need to eat a little later than you’re used to!
This is the typical Spanish dining schedule:
8am: this is time for a coffee before work.
11am: This is Spanish peak breakfast time, most offices will slow to a halt and everyone goes out to the local bar to have a coffee and maybe some toast with tomato, the typical Spanish breakfast.
2pm: Spanish lunchtime, which is the biggest and heaviest meal of the day.
9pm: Dinner time which is usually a lighter meal.
Menu del día
If you’re looking to dine on a budget you can enjoy the fixed price menu, known as menu del dia. This ranges from €10 to 16 per person and includes a starter, main course and dessert and a drink (which includes wine).
These menus can be found at most Spanish restaurants and is great for travellers on a budget!
Tapas is not a Madrid thing
Madrid is not the best place for free Tapas in Spain, as they don’t usually give you free tapas with every drink. The best place for tapas in Spain is Granada where you get huge portions of free food with every drink.
A Madrileño favourite for tapas is the authentic La Ardosa, Calle Colón, where you can enjoy tapas of salmorejo, Jamón and a nice glass of Vermouth.
For the trendiest street for drinking and dining check out Calle de Ponzano in Chamberi district which is where young, middle-class Madrileños go to the hang out in the weekend, there are excellent places to try tapas and boasts of having more restaurants in one street than any European city!
Try the local dishes
The most popular local dish is a heavy winter stew called Cocido Madrileño. A hearty stew made with pork knuckle, vegetables, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chickpeas slow cooked in a meat broth and served in two courses: first the vegetables and chickpeas followed by the tender slow-cooked meat.
Cocido is arguably best when home-cooked, though here are the best restaurants for cocido in Madrid are Malacatin, Calle de la Ruda 5, which is almost always full and requires booking weeks in advance; and La Bola on Calle de la Bola 5.
Another Spanish classic is Spanish tortilla, a thick and tall omelette filled with potatoes and with a gooey oozing centre.
Though tortillas may be found far and wide in Madrid, very few places serve authentic Spanish tortilla as government regulations dictate that it needs to be served freshly made to order, most tortillas are made with an egg powder replacement and are nothing like the authentic Spanish tortilla!
The best tortillas in Madrid can be found at Casa Dani, situated inside the marketplace Mercado de la Paz in Calle de Ayala 28.
Here at this authentic bar you can enjoy your gooey Spanish tortilla whilst rubbing elbows with businessmen drinking a quick caña and eating a variety of tapas during their lunch break. It’s also incredibly reasonable and for a few euros you can get a racion of Spanish tortilla or for €10 you can have a menu del dia, which includes a drink and try some of the other dishes on offer!
If you want a more upmarket tortilla experience, Tortillas de Gabino in Rafael Calvo 20, a beautiful upmarket restaurant serving all kinds of tortilla including an unforgettable mouth-watering tortilla with an entire Torta de Casar cheese baked inside it.
They also have other traditional dishes including Spanish seafood, meat and vegetables. Prices start from €10.50 for their house classic tortilla.
Visit the markets
The most popular tourist market in Madrid is Mercado de San Miguel, situated just next to Plaza Mayor but it is a serious tourist trap! It is also a hangout for local pickpockets so make sure you keep your eyes on your possessions and your phones!
It is worth a visit to see the wide array of seafood and dishes on offer but there are more authentic markets to experience in Madrid and a great budget gourmet option!
Mercado de San Fernando is located in Embajadores, a short stroll uphill from Embajadores metro. This market is home to many stalls including an excellent Greek restaurant called Exargia, authentic Spanish stalls and craft beer as well.
This is an excellent place in the weekend and it is always packed with locals, as it isn’t on the tourist radar. This is the perfect place to enjoy the local atmosphere shoulder to shoulder with Madrileños, but be prepared that it can get very loud and crowded!
Mercado de Cebada is a more rough and ready market situated in La Latina district, just steps away from the metro exit. This market is an actual functioning market, which sells seafood, vegetables and other produce during the week but is also home to some small restaurant stalls.
On the weekends you will find locals flocking to eat fresh seafood off tiny paper plates, straight from the fish stall.
Here you can wander from stall to stall trying some small tapas dishes at an incredibly cheap price and it is full of authentic market atmosphere! La Latina is also where the locals go to have tapas, beers and vermouth and there are plenty of excellent, crowded little bars around the neighbourhood.
Mercado Anton Martin is a recently revamped and trendy market that is a great place to try Spanish food and is home to an excellent authentic Japanese restaurant that is always packed, Yoka Loka and a great cheese stall where you can purchase Spanish artisanal cheeses.
Mercado de los Mostenses is tucked away near Plaza de España in Plaza de Mostenses and is home to some great Latin American street food stalls, here you can have excellent Peruvian food and grab a custom fruit juice at the Origen juice bar.
For the upmarket experience and to see how the other half live, visit Platea, one of the most expensive and luxurious food markets in Madrid that even have live aerial circus performers or live musicians on weekend nights.
This is where the trendy and wealthy come to socialize in the weekends and prices are also a bit higher than the other markets listed above.
Amazing seafood restaurants
Some of the freshest seafood is flown in daily from all parts of the country to Madrid’s finest restaurants, but seafood comes at a hefty price!
The finest restaurants for seafood in Madrid are O’Pazo, in Reina Mercedes 20, which serves seafood flown in from Galicia, as it is owned by a wealthy Galician family.
Here you can try clams, all different kinds of prawns and octopus and you may encounter a local celebrity or famous footballer as this place is renowned for its excellent food.
Another great restaurant is El Pescador, Ortega y Gasset 75, with over 40 years of experience serving seafood from La Coruña in Galicia with excellent seafood flown in from the North and also comes with a substantial price tag.
Dine at the best Madrid restaurants
Here are some local favourites:
Restaurant Botin – In the Guinness book as the world’s oldest restaurant, Casa Botin was a favourite haunt for writer Ernest Hemingway who frequented this restaurant and loved the cochinillo (roast suckling pig). This restaurant is quite pricey but is perfect for a special occasion. Just remember to book in advance!
TenconTen – a businessman’s classic restaurant in the heart of Salamanca district, this noisy place serves excellent Spanish food and a vibrant atmosphere. The food has a modern twist and it is a very trendy and popular choice among the locals.
El Paraguas – This classic restaurant has a reputation for its high-quality traditional food, excellent food and high price tag, this is a place where CEOs often entertain their foreign guests so that they can enjoy the flavours of traditional Spanish cuisine and they pride themselves in producing excellent meals with seasonal and local ingredients.
Casa Lucio – One of the all time favourite dishes in Madrid is Huevos Rotos, this is a pile of hot steaming French fries with pieces of Jamón strewn all over it and topped with an oozing fried egg and Casa Lucio is THE place to try it.
It is famous among footballers and celebrities and even Gwyneth Paltrow has written a raving review of this simple traditional egg dish. Situated in Cava Baja 35, this is a great place to enjoy some traditional dishes before barhopping around the La Latina district.
Something for the vegans and vegetarians
Spanish cuisine is usually heavy on meat, especially Jamón. However, in recent years the boom in vegetarianism and veganism has led to a flurry of new restaurants opening up to cater to this growing demand. Here are some of the best options in Madrid for vegans and vegetarians:
Rayén Vegano – Situated in Calle de Lope de Vega 7, this restaurant is one of the highest rated vegan restaurants in Madrid, using prime fresh ingredients and organic produce.
Restaurante Yerbabuena – A great vegetarian and vegan option which is modern and delicious and at a reasonable price, service is attentive and this place is an excellent dining experience for the discerning vegans and vegetarians out there.
Olivia te Cuida – a personal favourite and a hidden gem: this small, intimate restaurant in Alonso Martinez district is tucked away in Calle Santa Teresa 8.
It is a restaurant that also serves vegetarian options and you can select three or four different things to make up your main meal, which can include grains, meat, rice or vegetables.
The restaurant is tiny and only has enough space for 10 people and so reservations must be made in advance. High-quality ingredients and lovingly prepared meals, this place is a must for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
Travel around the world without leaving Madrid
Spanish food is incredible but don’t forget that Madrid is a cultural hub of diverse ethnic flavours, immigration has brought demand for fusion restaurants and international cuisines and it is possible to travel around the world without even leaving the city!
There are countless international restaurants but here are some recommendations to get started!
Streetxo – The bad boy chef of Spain, David Muñoz, chef in the famous Diverso restaurant opened this small restaurant offering Spanish and Asian fusion cuisine at more reasonable prices.
Here you can experience the creative and innovative dishes of this Michelin chef without having to wait several months for a table.
The exciting dishes are cooked before your eyes in a central open kitchen, bursting with flames and emerging on your plate in combinations that stimulate all your senses.
Ramen Kagura – Sometimes in the winter or spring you just want a steaming bowl of ramen noodles, this little restaurant is popular among the locals and is always packed, with queues stretching out the door.
Arrive early so as not to be disappointed, as they don’t take bookings! Noodles are cheap and excellent and the restaurant is located a short stroll from the Royal Opera House in Opera district.
Naomi – one of the first Japanese restaurants in Madrid, this tiny restaurant offers high-quality cuisine with an intimate feel.
From the outside it is not remarkable but once inside it looks just like a restaurant you would find in a street in Tokyo. Rerservations are a must and there is no website, you can call +34 915 72 23 04
Egeo – This little Greek place can be found in Calle de San Carlos 17, in the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapies, recently voted one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods by Time Out. They have delicious budget friendly souvlakis and it has a cool hipster vibe, with large windows looking out into the street.
Other things worth trying are the French fries served with feta cheese but everything on the menu is delicious and cheap!
Mestizo – This fantastic Mexican place is a little upmarket, located in the Recoletos neighbourhood on Calle de Recoletos 13. The food is excellent and guacamole is prepared by a puffing Mexican chef in a large stone pestle and made up in front of your very eyes.
The spectacular Molcajete, served in giant stone pestle is a sight to behold and absolutely delicious. In the weekends at lunchtime they even have a Mariachi band to provide you with some music to accompany your meal.
Inti de Oro – Peruvian food has become very fashionable in Madrid and one of the older establishments in Madrid offering authentic Peruvian cuisine is Inti de Oro, Calle de Ventura de la Vega 12, near Anton Martin.
Here you can find large portions of ceviche, causa, seafood and great piscos, which will leave you satisfied and a little tipsy before you go barhopping in Hortaleza street.
Food Experiences in Madrid
Food tours in Madrid
A great way to experience the city’s gourmet offering is by taking a tapas tour around the centre. With Devour you can have an English speaking guide take you from bar to bar to sample some of Madrid’s most classic dishes. An unforgettable experience where you will eat your way around the city!
Chefugee – this voluntary organisation will have an honourable mention as it’s a non-profit run with the aims of helping refugees in Madrid. Once a month they organise a pop up dinner with a refugee chef from different countries such as Ukraine, Iran, and Morocco, serving up delicious dishes prepared in the traditional way.
They also run cooking courses where you can learn to cook with a refugee chef. With some luck you may be able to catch one of their events during your stay in Madrid!