Madrid's Best Eats: From Tapas Restaurants to Food Markets to Hearty Brunches

The capital of Spain has emerged as quite the culinary destination, with many cuisines represented nationally (Andalucian, Galician etc.) and internationally (Venezuelan, Japanese etc.) all around the streets. In fact, certain neighbourhoods in Madrid are even famous for tapas bar crawls (La Latina) and trendy bohemian bars and cafes (Malasaña).

Bars & Restaurants

1. Desengaño 13

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Located in the hippy Malasaña neighbourhood, Desengaño 13 is a new age tapas restaurant with a cosy interior and fusion food. The menu here is varied and reasonably priced, from sharing plates to bigger plates to sweet desserts. 

For much of the menu, you get to choose between a half portion and full portion, and the half portion was perfect for ordering more of the other dishes to share.

To start, we tried the Roasted Carrot Hummus, which was served with pineapple, beet and cassava chips, and the lightly salted chips went with the sweet carrot hummus perfectly. 

The Iberian Ham Table was also more of a twist on traditional Spanish tapas, as the ham was served with tender bread toast, chopped confit garlic and tomato puree. And the bread here was beautifully toasted. 

We also had a bigger plate to share with the Iberico Pork Ribs which is glazed with Barbakatsu sauce and served alongside sautéed vegetables. 

2. Ojalá

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Also located in Malasaña, Ojalá is a happening restaurant and bar popular with locals and travellers alike, with a manmade beach below the ground floor in the basement. Yes, you read right. A beach in a restaurant. 

Unfortunately, we didn't manage to get a place below, but the dining area on the ground floor's also not exactly a shabby place to be, and probably more conducive for dining. 

It opened as early as December 2004, but the space was reinvented and renovated by Andrés Jacque recently, an architect who turned it into a dining space with a hanging garden with wood furniture and fairground lights.

To start, there are small tapas plates with usual favourites such as patatas bravas, nachos and guacamole, chickpea hummus etc. 

Other food on the menu includes salads, wraps, tacos, baguettes, sandwiches, burgers and other common favourites for mains like Fish and Chips, Mac'n'cheese, Chicken Pie etc. 

Ojalá is also open for brunch and breakfast, and features some vegetarian options as well.

With beers, ciders, sangrías, cocktails, mixes, wines, gin & tonics, and a mix of other drinks, Ojalá's also a great place to grab drinks with good company.

3. Tximiri

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The neighbourhood of La Latina is home to the famous tapas bar crawl in Madrid, where patrons hop from bar to bar, and it does seem like there's a tapas bar and restaurant every few metres in every corner of the neighbourhood. 

Tximiri does start with tapas, but the bigger plates here are absolutely fantastic, especially the meats. 

We had the Pluma Ibérica (Iberian Pen with Tximichurri sauce, sliced potatoes and smoked aubergine) and Magret de Pato (Duck Breast with baby potato, rosemary and fig). Both meats were cooked to perfection and were tender and juicy. The sauces drizzled on top of them were also flavourful and complemented the meats perfectly. 

4. Casa Lucio

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Also located in La Latina, Casa Lucio is a traditional Spanish tavern located on the picturesque street of Calle Cava Baja.

If traditional Spanish cuisine is what you're after, Casa Lucio hits the spot, and often features on many 'Best Of' lists year after year. 

This restaurant is so popular that this might be the one place you might need a reservation for, if you're ever going to make one (I didn't make a single restaurant reservation throughout my 3 weeks in Spain). 

We appeared at the door at opening, and still they were hesitant as to whether they could seat us, and many end up jostling for a space at the counter whilst they stand and enjoy their tapas and drinks, which is fine as well, and is all part of the experience, not to mention something many Spaniards do themselves.

The eggs here are famous, so we had a plate of those, which are eggs fried in oil served over fries. It doesn't look all that appealing but it's a Spanish specialty and I'm glad I tried it. We also ordered Pollo Ajillo, which is chicken with garlic and is also a Spanish classic. 

The wine list here is absolutely extensive, and so is the food menu.

5. Musa Malasaña

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Part of the La Musa group which also includes Ojalá, Musa Malasaña is also another trendy tapas restaurant open from breakfast till late at night. 

The breakfast menu starts with the usual favourites with poached eggs, tortilla, iberian ham, fruit bowls and the like, served from 10am to 1pm Monday to Sunday. You also get juices, milkshakes, smoothies, coffees, teas and hot chocolate on the drinks menu for breakfast. 

After 1pm till closing, tapas dishes here are served with a twist, with dishes such as Japanese chicken Ponzu dumplings, Peruvian ceviche, Pork fillet tataki with nuts and parmesan, stir-fried noodes with shitake mushrooms and Iberian pork shoulder. 

Definitely a place to try if you need a break from traditional Spanish restaurants and tapas bars.

6. Rosa Negra

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If you're in the mood for Mexican, Rosa Negra is a Mexican cantina decorated almost a little too on the nose and is a short walk away from the museum triangle of Madrid. 

Also a great place for late-night food and drinks, the drinks menu offers Beers, Wines, Smoothies, Soft Drinks, Cocktails, Tequilas and Mezcales. 

Food starts with Mexican classics like nachos, guacamole, salads and seafoods like ceviche. I was craving for tacos so I had the Taco Variety Plate with Grilled Beef, Suadero (Slow Cooked Beef), Chicken, and Cochinita (Seasoned Slow Cooked Pork) Tacos. The tacos here was pretty good, but I still think the best tacos I've had on the Iberian peninsula was all the way in Portugal's capital city of Lisbon in Pistola y Corazon Taqueria.

Read: The Best Food & Drink in Lisbon, Portugal

Of course, Rosa Negra also offers Quesadillas, Burritos, Fajitas and traditional Mexican dishes such as Mexican torta, chicken mole, enchiladas and arrachera. 

7. Restaurante La Castela

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Another traditional Spanish tavern is Restaurante La Castela, close to the Retiro Park. 

This is one very popular with locals, and seating is limited, with a space in front of the bar for standing and eating, where most people end up.

The menu here is similarly extensive, and we had the Grilled Baby Lamb Chops and Grilled Iberian Pork Fillet with barbecue sauce. 

The Iberian pork fillet here was cooked to well done here, as opposed to many other places I've tried Secreto Ibérico, where the meat was done a little redder and juicier, so it depends on what you prefer. 

8. Mercado de la Reina

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Contrary to it's name, Mercado de la Reina isn't a food market or food hall, but an actual restaurant situated along the main artery of Gran Via.

I usually stay away from restaurants situated along big boulevards with many pedestrians in touristy places, mostly because they're usually overpriced and / or not that great, the golden rule being that the best spots are always located in smaller alleys you have to seek out.

But this is one of the more popular ones, and features a swanky Gin Club located below the restaurant. 

Walking in, many of the seats seem to be taken near the counter and bar, but the host seats those coming in for dinner to an upper level with bigger tables, and is a popular place for big groups to dine. 

Mercado de la Reina serves up traditional Spanish food, with many tapas sharing plates, but we went for the main courses, specifically Secreto Ibérico with Granny Smith Apple Cream and Mercado Potatoes, and Roasted Salmon with Smoked Salt, Sautéed Season Veggies and Chimichurri Sauce. 

The food here was decent, but expect to pay about 3 to 5 euros more for what you'd pay for in other restaurants given its prime location on Madrid's Fifth Avenue equivalent. 

Food Courts and Food Halls

1. Mercado de San Ildefonso

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A three-level food market located near one of my favourite bohemian shopping streets named Calle de Fuencarral, Mercado de San Ildefonso stands on the corner of the aforementioned street and Calle Sta. Bárbara. 

Most people go to food courts for the vibe, and they've become the in-thing for dining. 

There are some stalls on the ground level, mostly the Asian stalls, but the bigger seating area is on the first floor, lined with all the other food stalls serving up pintxos, tacos, tapas, skewers, traditional Spanish grub, and naturally, a busy bar serving up drinks.

The food here was decent, we had patatas bravas and pintxos, which weren't the best I'd had of either, but weren't shabby either. 

Again, oddly I had better food in food halls and markets in Lisbon, but the vibe here was amazing with its bustling atmosphere, and would be a great place to go for a group.

2. Mercado de San Antón

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Mercado de San Antón in the Chueca district, the heart of Madrid's LGBT+ neighbourhood and culture, is also a multi-level food hall and market. 

There's plenty variety of food here as well, with burgers, tapas, pintxos, meats, and the like. 

The biggest draw here is the rooftop terrace and restaurant with La Cocina de San Antón.

The restaurant here is okay, but as mentioned, the biggest draw is the rooftop terrace, with many locals and tourists grabbing a drink during the hot summer afternoons and evenings. We had small bites and desserts here, which were brilliant, including the Fried Chicken Fingers served with a curry sauce and an apple tart served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top.

Perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up and respite from the summer heat.

3. Mercado de San Miguel

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The most popular food market is actually Mercado de San Miguel, because it's located in the heart of the old historic city centre, where most tourists will find themselves. 

Housed in a beautiful building, this market ended up being my least favourite simply because it is so touristy, and most Madrileños don't find themselves here. 

The food here was, like always, just decent, but the lack of sitting options thanks to the crowds that pour in means you'll most likely have to stand and grab a bite or walk around while you work on your pintxos. 

Personally, I prefer the former two markets, for a better atmosphere and feeling like you're somewhere less overtly touristy.

Brunch Cafes and Hearty Breakfasts

1. Brunch Club

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Brunch Club is a cosy cafe in Malasaña, and offers a Full Brunch at €17, with toast and three spreads, a yoghurt bowl, orange juice, coffee or tea and a plate like Eggs Benedict. 

For just the plate of Eggs Benedict, expect to pay €7.90. 

The smoothies were also great and refreshing, and there are plenty of seats, including another dining area in the back, and is a good place for a coffee and conversation. 

2. Federal Cafe

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A popular Aussie-inspired cafe, Federal Cafe has two branches in Madrid, one at Conde de Barajas and another at Conde Duque, as well as two branches in Barcelona, one in Girona and another in Valencia. 

Expect classics from your favourite Aussie cafes, all below €10, such as toast, pancakes, eggs benedict, free-range eggs and oven-baked toasts, sandwiches and salads. 

3. Bicycle Cafe

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A cafe also in Malasaña, Bicycle Cafe is decorated with vintage pieces and furniture, and is a cosy place encouraging those working on their laptops at specific tables, making this a great place for work and coffee. 

Bicycle Cafe offers fresh, natural and low-fat dishes, salads, nachos, bagels, toasts, as well as their specialty of sandwiches made with Danish bread. 

This is the place to be for foodies interested in organic and natural food made with fresh ingredients, as well as artisanal coffees. 

Oh, and to grab that all important mid-afternoon drink or dessert.

4. Carmencita Bar

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One of the most popular brunch spots in Madrid, Carmencita Bar opens at 11am and fills up completely by 11:30am daily, with weekends, especially Sunday brunches, the busiest time for the restaurant, and you'll most likely need a reservation to secure a table.

We arrived at 11am on the dot, and there was already another group waiting to enter, and we managed to snag a seat in the corner while we watched patrons pour in over the next few minutes. 

Expect your standard brunch fare, as well as hamburgers, toasts, salads and sharing plates. 

Churros

1. Chocolatería de San Ginés

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There was absolutely no way I could do a Foodie's Guide to Madrid without mentioning Chocolatería de San Ginés, often considered an institution, and the best place to grab churros in Madrid. It's common to find a line outside the restaurant, with a big menu and seats inside and downstairs.

If I'm being honest though, I don't think there's much difference with whichever chocolatería or churreria you choose. 

This place benefits from being in the heart of the historic centre with many tourists everywhere, and has served a number of famous patrons (including Javier Bardem), with vintage photos hung up on walls in this storied chocolatería.

So even if you don't make it out here, churros you'll get to enjoy anywhere else will definitely suffice and satisfy that sweet tooth. 


From my trip to Spain this summer, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag or postcard to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to these parts of Spain, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!

View the full product catalogue at the shop here.

Flowers of Andalusia Tote Bag
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The stereotypical view of the white villages of southern Spain (los pueblos blancos) includes white houses, narrow pebbled streets barely wide enough for vehicles to pass through, and the flowering bougainvillaea poking through the houses.

Frigiliana made all the pueblos blancos views I had in my mind manifest in real life.

It was stunning on every corner, but from where we parked at the foot of downtown, we had to scale a number of steps to get up to the town centre, and halfway up we saw these bougainvillaea growing out of the walls with the beautiful town in the background which was absolutely stunning and this is where I took this photograph.

View the rest of the collection here.

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Afternoons in Seville Tote Bag
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When in Seville, we went on a walking tour to get ourselves familiarised with the city.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Seville— What to Do & See in the Andalusian Capital

I've fallen hard for walking tours after this summer, and I'm so glad I went on 2 in Spain alone.

Across the Guadalquivir River lies the neighbourhood of Triana, so called the neighbourhood of gypsies and outcasts, where inhabitants used to identify as being from Triana before Seville. 

The draw of Triana though, apart from the flamenco flair, is Calle Betis, the riverfront promenade lined with restaurants and bars which turns into a hotspot in the evenings. 

Read: What to Eat in Seville— From Creative Tapas Restaurants to Traditional Spanish Taverns to Churros Bars

In the sleepy late afternoon though, the buildings shine in the sun as workers of each restaurant start slowly setting up for a busy evening ahead.

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The Barcelona Coffeehouse Tote Bag
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Barcelona wasn't on the itinerary this summer, but as you can imagine I have plenty photos from my stint 2 years ago. 

Read: What it Was Really Like Moving to Spain On My Own at 19

Read: What Moving Away From and Returning to Spain After 2 Years Felt Like

One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Barcelona is El Born, which is basically the Gothic Quarter except lined with local boutiques instead of kitsch tourist souvenir shops, which lends itself to a really nice bohemian atmosphere.

Read: Breaking Barcelona Down by Neighbourhood— The Best One For Your Needs

Not to mention some of the best tapas bars in the city can be found here, which is a major plus.

El Born's also where you get all the beauty of the Gothic Quarter, and I particularly like the doors and façade of shops and houses here. 

So here's a photograph of a coffeehouse in El Born, and I think this is quintessential Barcelona in a photograph.

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Vinyls in a Vintage Store Tote Bag
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When I lived in Barcelona, there were quite a few vintage clothing stores around, and this in particular was a chain of them— Flamingos Vintage Kilo. I would always walk into these stores even if I wasn't looking for anything in particular for the vibe of them. Everything about them just felt so damn cool. In this shop, I stumbled onto an area where there was a collection of vinyls, and there really is something about vinyls for me and the way they are packaged. There was no way I was leaving this store without at least a snap on the camera.

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White Spanish Towns Postcard
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Andalucia in Spain may be famous for its whitewashed hilltop towns, but I got a slice of that in Sitges in Northeastern Spain, Catalonia. The streets in winter were almost completely empty save the odd resident or two going about their daily business, meaning we got to explore the entire town almost to ourselves that day.

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Spanish Wall Murals Postcard
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Street art wasn't hard to find during the time I lived in Barcelona, Spain. But this by the side of a building in the town of Tarragona an hour away from Barcelona was by far the most elaborate I saw. The mural represents a celebration of Spanish culture.

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Ferris Wheel Postcard
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In a city surrounded by hills and mountains, we took a bus up to Tibidabo, one overlooking Barcelona which featured a theme park and church at the top. I took this of the ferris wheel at the Parc d'Attracions Tibidabo.

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Tarragona Views Postcard
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We stumbled onto this vantage point over the town of Tarragona just south of Barcelona when we found ourselves exploring the Roman ruins downtown. The best part of travelling around in winter is that for the most part, we had all these incredible sights to ourselves.

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Wish You Were Here Postcard
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I love neon signs, and this "wish you were here" one welcomed visitors during a pop-up Christmas market at the University of Barcelona that I stumbled upon. 

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You and Me Against the World Postcard
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During my very first trip to Barcelona, Spain, we headed to the beaches of the city in the district of Barceloneta. On a clear day, the sun brought the crowds in droves; friends playing beach football or volleyball, joggers taking in their morning ritual, groups of families and friends strolled along the promenade, and beachgoers getting out their towels and getting their best tan on. Whilst making my way down the boulevard, I managed to get this clear shot of these two palm trees right next to each other, and made me think of partners— two peas in a pod.

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