Crispy croquettes filled with gooey béchamel sauce; juicy squid, charred and shiny under a layer of olive oil; a slice of lightly browned tortilla filled with perfectly cooked potatoes. Spanish cuisine is delicious wherever you eat it, but it’s at its best in context and on the spot.
The flavors and traditions of the country come alive as you hop from tapas bar to tapas bar in Granada, sit among new friends in a Galician home-double restaurant, or sip something dry and delicious in the sun: cider at Basque Country, sparkling wine in Catalonia.
These are Spain’s quintessential culinary experiences, and while you’re there you can learn the tricks of the trade to continue the feast – and fiesta – at home.
1. Take a tapas tour in Granada
Tapas has become synonymous with all of Spain, but few places do it better than the Andalusian city of Granada, where any drink – be it vermouth or a tinto de verano – is served with free bites to accompany the meal. The best way to experience Granada’s tapas scene is to hop from bar to bar along Plaza Nueva and Plaza Bib-Rambla. Try Bodegas Castañeda for broad beans with prosciutto or blue cheese croquetas served at the bar or on wooden kegs, and seafood restaurant Cunini for steamed mussels and fried anchovies—all for no more than the price of your drink.
2. Dine in Galicia’s unofficial restaurants
Just three months a year, winemakers in Galicia’s coastal Rías Baixas open their homes as pop-up restaurants. Known as furanchos or loureiros, these date back to when medieval winemakers sold surplus wine after harvest, and today families adapt their garages and antechambers to house homemade albariño wine and plates of padron peppers, chorizo flambéed and mit small scallop filled empanadas for sale. Part of the fun is finding the furanchos – a laurel branch hanging from the door is all that sets it apart from any other country house.
3. Enjoy edible art in Madrid
Snagging a reservation at Madrid’s only three-Michelin-star restaurant, helmed by none other than David Muñoz, is a golden ticket to one of Spain’s most exciting dining experiences. Inspired by Spanish, Chinese and Japanese flavors, DiverXO’s avant-garde tasting menus – served on large white porcelain canvases – are presented as edible works of art. Roasted duck hearts are splattered with Tabasco and tomato ketchup like an abstract painting, and miso asparagus and naan balls are served with smoking towers of dry ice. Muñoz’s love of the avant-garde doesn’t stop with the food: flying pigs hang from the ceiling, and an all-white, bright decor feels like stepping into a sci-fi movie.
4. Hunt for truffles in Aragon
In Aragon – a landlocked region of mountainous northwest Spain – 80 tons of truffles are harvested each year, making it one of the largest truffle-growing regions in the world. Throughout the region, but particularly in the provinces of Teruel and Zaragoza, from around November/December to March, you can join the truffle farmers and their dogs, whose keen sense of smell will help you sniff out the precious mushroom, which is ripe and ready to be eaten . You can book truffle hunting experiences through the Aragon Tourist Office or a multi-day truffle themed trip with companies like Gourmet & Chic and The Spanish Touch. Most truffle-hunting experiences end with a tasting and truffle-centric menu at one of the region’s Michelin-starred restaurants, such as La Prensa and Restaurante Cancook.
5. Try “Gastroarchaeology” in Cordoba
During Islamic rule in Spain, Cordoba was one of the most ethnically diverse settlements in the country, a city where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived side by side. But after the Christian conquest of Spain, much of Al-Andalusian culture, including its cuisine, fell into oblivion. Through careful study of ancient manuscripts and cookbooks, chef Paco Morales brings Al-Andalus recipes to life at his two-Michelin-star Restaurant Noor, where ingredients like wild coriander, dates and almonds take you on a sensory journey through Islamic Spain . Morales is also inspired by Al-Andalus architecture and often incorporates decorative motifs found on Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral and other Islamic buildings throughout the city.
6. Join the tuna fishermen in Cadiz
Every spring, schools of bluefin tuna weighing up to 250 kg migrate from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, making for the best fishing season on the Andalusian coast off Cádiz. Fishermen here still use a stunning technique dating back to the Phoenicians called Almadraba, in which a net more than a kilometer long is cast along the migration route and, once filled with tuna, is pulled to the surface with it the fishermen can dive in it and finish the catch. And it’s also one of the more sustainable fishing methods — the nets don’t harm dolphins or whales, and the process creates minimal biological waste or discarded bycatch. Companies like Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen [anniebspain.com] and Epicurean Ways takes you with the fishermen to see the spectacle up close before enjoying a tuna cooking lesson and mojama (salt-cured tuna loin) tasting.
7. Participate in a Basque cider ritual
Cider has been made in northern Spain’s Basque Country for more than 1,000 years. Despite a collapse in the 18th century, 80 cider houses, or sagardotegi, have survived and more than 500 varieties of apples still grow here. Astigarraga, a town on the outskirts of San Sebastian where cider is cheaper than water, is famous for its txotx rituals, tapping huge barrels of cider surrounded by crowds of thirsty punters. Often draining hundreds of liters in one sitting, these boozy cider-drinking rituals are served with chistorra (paprika-spiced pork sausage), T-bone steak, and salted cod tortilla to soak up the alcohol.
8th Cycle Jaens Olive Greenway
Introduced by the Phoenicians and Greeks, the production of olive oil has defined the Andalusian city of Jaen for thousands of years. One way to explore the groves is the Olive Oil Greenway [viasverdes.com]an 80 mile bike and walking trail along a deserted 19ththCentury railway that once transported olive oil from Jaen to Malaga. Also, many of Jaen’s almazaras (olive oil mills) offer tours and tastings, where you can learn about the different varieties of olives in the region (picual and lucio being the most popular) and enjoy a traditional farmer’s breakfast of olive oil bread and cheese. During the harvest season (October to early January) you can join the farmers as they collect and process the olives. oleoturismojaen.com
9. Sip wine underground in Aranda del Duero
Beneath the streets of Aranda del Duero, capital of Castile and Leon’s Ribera del Duero wine region, lies a five-mile network of hundreds of interconnected bodegas. Many of these historic wineries, built in medieval times, remain closed to the public, but a new generation of winemakers are beginning to open them up for underground tastings. At Bodega Don Carlos — a 15th-century wine cellar 45 feet below Aranda del Duero’s main street — Tempranillo and Albillo wine tastings are paired with morcilla de burgos (black pudding), roasted red peppers, and mollejitas de lechazo, topped with breadcrumbs and deep lamb gizzards served -roasted.
Read more: Discover the Spanish city with a hidden world of underground wineries