Tapas for Donna

Cuándo tapear

  • Bars, cafés and cafeterías are open for your first coffee and your last glass of wine before dinner; they are open to professionals, retirees, families, young couples and students – that is, everyone
  • Spaniards go out for tapas before the big meal at 3pm because the Spanish breakfast is so light
  • Spaniards go out for tapas between 5 and 11pm during the “paseo,” a leisurely stroll through the streets (which can include shopping) with family and friends
  • It is not unusual to visit 5-15 bars during the “paseo”
  • Bars, cafés and cafeterías usually close by midnight and do not serve dinner
  • Bars that open after midnight serve cocktails, play loud music, and do not offer food; they charge a cover
  • Clubs for dancing, “discotecas,” open at 2am and close at 8am; they charge a steep cover
  • Go out for “churros y chocolate” or “falafel” before bed if you stay out till sunrise

Cómo tapear

  • In bars, cafés and cafeterías every beverage, hot or cold, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is available except cocktails
  • Sherry is fun to order: “fino” or “amontillado” is dry and cold; “oloroso” is sweeter and room temperature
  • For a quick, single serving sangría-like drink, order “tinto de verano” which is “vino tinto” mixed with “Fanta limón”
  • During the “paseo” Spaniards order at the bar and remain standing up
  • Sometimes you have to wade the crowd and issue gruff commands to bar staff for the best service:  “Oye, dáme un vino tinto y un pintxo”
  • A free tapa or pintxo is frequently served with your drink
  • If you want a plate for sharing with 3 people or more, ask for a “ración”
  • Beer is ordered by the size of glass:  “una caña” holds 6-8 ounces and “una copa” holds 12 ounces or so
  • Ordering tapas is easy if you don’t speak Spanish because they are displayed on the bar counter or listed on a big menu – just point
  • Don’t leave Spain without trying:  croquetas, chipirones, patatas bravas, jamón serrano, pulpo gallego, tortilla, aceitunas, gambas al ajillo
  • In busy establishments, bartenders keep track of how much to charge you by the size and color of plates or the number and colors of toothpicks served with your tapas
  • If you sit down for service, maybe at an outdoor table, expect slower and more formal service; refuse bread if it arrives because it will be charged to you
  • At the bar or seated at a table, pay at the very end, asking directly and gruffly, “Cóbrame, por favor” or “La cuenta, por favor”
  • Tip very lightly for table service, maybe 5%
  • Tip nothing for service at bar counter
  • All water is bottled; order with or without “gas”

Dónde tapear

In general, stay off the beaten path by exploring safe neighborhoods where locals go.  Bars located on main thoroughfares are for tourists, with exceptions.

In Barcelona

Strolling down the Ramblas to the urban beach, Barceloneta, is a good idea, even visiting Mercat Boquería on your right hand side (if you are facing Mediterranean) but keep close to the Market without penetrating its surrounding neighborhood; on your left hand side is the Barri Gòtic which is worth exploring for its rustic wine-drinking establishments (and underground Roman ruins) if you take care around Plaça Real known for drug use

In Madrid

The neighborhood between El Paseo del Prado and La Plaza Mayor boasts more taverns than all of Norway; use Calle de las Huertas to guide your stroll

Leaving the Plaza Mayor, the Cava de San Miguel and Calle Cuchilleros streets hold amazing possibilities

For an after-hours experience, there are several ice-bars in Madrid worth visiting

In Sevilla

For the best, authentic nightlife cross the Isabel II bridge to visit La Triana, turn right or left at the end of the bridge for great tapas bars on the Guadalquivir River; these bars serve food late into the night.  Order “sangría” here, not in Barcelona or Madrid.  If you are lucky, a flamenco performance will spontaneously erupt from the crowd

In Granada

Calle Navas is a must-stroll because it is wall-to-wall tapas; locate la Plaza de Carmen on Calle Reyes Católicos; then walk through plaza to this street spur

Another fun neighborhood can be accessed by leaving the Plaza Nueva on Calle Elvira and strolling down side streets; if you are headed uphill this means your ascending the Albaicín neighborhood which is mostly residential and not one hundred percent safe at night

Strolling downhill, by crossing Calle Gran Vía de Colón, you will discover bars and shopping together in this upscale commercial district where the Cathedral is located; visit the Plaza de Bib-Rambla for lots of choices

Stores in Spain are open 10-2 and 5-9, generally.

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