Leave it to Spain to take snacking to a whole new level. On a culinary basis, this gorgeous Mediterranean country is truly blessed. Spain has the ideal climate for endless acres of lush vineyards and olive groves, figs, dates, nuts, free-range pork and succulent seafood. While it derives from local sources, Spanish food is inspired and flavored by the world’s most exotic cuisines due to centuries of strong maritime and colonial activity. Spanish chefs have long since adopted those imported concepts and made them their own, and the small but hearty offerings of tapas are no exception. Recently the urban restaurant scenes of North America have featured a smattering of tapas style dishes, and they rank up there with flamenco and siestas as my favorite exports. But for a truly authentic tapas experience, you should go straight to the source!
Tapas in Spain
There are disagreements about how the tapas tradition originated. Some say that the 13th century King Alfanso “The Wise” had a particular fondness for small snacks with wine between meals to sustain his health, while others say that farmers relied on frequent meals to keep enough strength for their agricultural labor. It’s not contested that the word ‘tapa’ means lid, and refers to the mode of holding the small plate or slice of bread over the wine glass to keep dust out of it.
Rent a car in Spain and freely roam the country from the Gibraltar peninsula to the ports of Bilbao. Getting off the beaten path will allow you to reach incredible beaches, hiking trails, and historic village sites. See the gorgeous and important metropolitan examples of art and architecture, of course, but take a road cruise, as well. Away from the standard tourist fare, you will partake in bona fide examples of daily life in a rich and lively culture. Brush up on your Spanish and do a full tapas bar crawl. You’ll feel like a local as you explore the unique taverns, enjoying delectable little samples of food paired with zesty Spanish wines as you go!
Barcelona and Madrid are both great tapas cities, but if you’re hungry, head to Granada. It’s rumored to have the most competitive establishments offering the most generous portions to entice visitors to stay and drink. Traditional tapas are served alongside wine and other stiff beverages during specific tapas bar hours. Spaniards typically eat late lunches and dinners, so they tend to enjoy grazing in tapas bars and socializing before those meals. Plan your tapas expedition for noontime or the early evening and then cap it off with a full meal. Standing with a drink, you can chat with your travel companions or friendly locals. Each beverage you order will come paired with a small and delicious plate. Tapas dishes are usually salty in order to lead thirsty patrons to order a second beverage. With this style of bar service, you are likely to enjoy simple but complimentary fare, like a small dish of olives or a bit of ham and hard cheese with a slice of fresh bread. Restaurants may also offer tapas but they are likely to shift the focus from drinking to eating, and will feature more complex fare, and charge accordingly. Due to the popularity among tourists, however, many specialty tapas bistros and restaurants have started to feature very gourmet treats, with enticing flavor combinations beyond your wildest, such as bacon wrapped figs stuffed with tart blue cheese— but they will also come with a gourmet price tag!
In the Basque region, it’s more typical to be offered a selection of tasty morsels and the number of cocktail sticks you accumulate is charged to your bill at the end of your visit. Sometimes the snacks are displayed on a bar and you can either just choose your samplings or you will have to ask the server for your choice of canapé, depending on the establishment. They call this style of dining “pintxos” and in order to enjoy this fun experience to the fullest, a car rental in San Sebastian is a must! Between snacking hours, you be delighted to wander the four miles of sand beaches along the sparkling bayside. Check out “the best view in the world” from the summit of Mount Igueldo or even enrich your own culinary skills with gourmet classes in this lovely and decadent city.
You can immerse yourself in true Spanish culture when you explore the country with the freedom of a rental car. The temperate Mediterranean climate and vital culture make Spain an incredible destination whenever you choose to visit. Auto Europe offers the lowest rates on car rentals in Spain. Call our toll-free 24/7 reservation line at 1-888-223-5555 to begin your adventures, discovering the best Tapas in Spain.