Madrid gastro breaks

Miriam Garcia's foodie highlights in Madrid

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Jules Pearson

Miriam Garcia
HomeAway travel expert

Gastro breaks in Madrid Madrid, located in the very centre of the Iberian Peninsula, is the capital city of Spain. As a capital and main crossroads since the times of the Visigothic Kingdom in the 7th century, it has received all kinds of influences along the way, particularly regarding food. Known for having several areas and even whole quarters where you can simply spend hours tasting different specialties in various bars, Madrid's a great spot for a gastronomic break. 

Its gastronomy is a colourful mixture of the Mediterranean diet, with its profuse use of vegetables, fish and fruits, while the inland Castilian food is marked by somewhat heavy legumes and meat dishes. On top of that, the variety of Spanish regional cuisine on offer in the town is overwhelming. The taste of the Madrileneans for tapas and “aperitivo”, a light snack usually had around 1pm in order to whet the appetite before lunch, also means the array of bars, bistros and tabernas is seemingly endless.


Madrid: a great spot for a gastro break


Modern gourmet markets Modern gourmet markets

The indoor markets which once were very popular in Madrid have now somehow been outdated by modern malls; and by the working people who have less and less time to shop for food. A few of the markets have, however, survived, but they've turned into something quite different: fashionable gourmet markets, with beautiful decor, lively atmospheres, and unbeatable showrooms for some of the city's best gourmet shops. At Mercado de San Miguel, you will find not only superb quality fruit, fish and bread, but also elegant pastries, wine tastings and even a culinary bookstore. Mercado de San Antón, in the heart of the gay district Chueca, also offers delicious gourmet food.

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Cocido: a must eat Cocido: a must eat

Cocido madrileño is one of the most typical dishes of Madrid: a stew with chickpeas, various meats and vegetables, it is served in many restaurants around the town. One of the best is still served in one of the oldest restaurants in the city, the very charming and old-fashioned Lhardy, opened in 1839 by a French cook, close to the busy Puerta del Sol. Cocido is, of course, a hearty dish best enjoyed in cold weather, but if you happen to visit Madrid in warmer weather you can still sample the delectable snacks served in the pastry section of Lhardy. In its delightful shop that keeps its 19th century decor and beautiful wood panelling, you can purchase delightful croquetas and stuffed pastries. But remember: time your visit just right, as over the weekends the shop is usually crowded around noon.

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Huertas and Museum district Huertas and Museum district

Close to the very famous El Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums lies the area of Huertas, named after Huertas street, a  district renowned for its many bars, tabernas and wide selection of tapas on offer. It's a great spot in which to enjoy a drink after a Spanish dinner (never before 9pm, mind!), something of a national sport. Among the endless parade of tapas bars and restaurants, Bodeguilla Los Rotos specializes in “huevos rotos”, or broken eggs, a typical dish of fried eggs served in small skillets, and it boasts a small and cosy terrace for use in warm weather. For tasting quality Spanish wines alongside your meal, consider visiting one of the most interesting wineries in the area, Vadebaco.

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Centre and Habsburg quarter Centre and Habsburg quarter

If you fancy a taste of 16th-century Madrid, the Centre and Habsburg quarter is the place to go. One of the culinary highlights of this area is Botin, said to be the oldest restaurant in town, and the oldest in the world if we are to believe the Guinness Book of Records. The place opened in 1725 and hasn't stopped serving hearty Castilian style roasts and stews since. The Taberna del Capitán Alatriste, named after a successful series of novels about a Spanish soldier and man of fortune living in the 17th century, is another outstanding location to sample Castilian fare and fine Spanish wines. Of course, no visit to Madrid would be complete without trying the famous churros, donut sticks dipped in a cup of chocolate so thick the churro can almost stand up in it! A classic place to pick up these morsels is the Chocolatería San Ginés, very close to the heart of the city, Puerta del Sol: it's known for harbouring night owls.

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The Salamanca quarter

The Salamanca quarter, an elegant, fashionable and wealthy district built in the 19th century, is the perfect area for strolling in search of some superb gastrobars and restaurants; here, modern haute cuisine restaurants mingle with very traditional tabernas. Just wandering through its narrow streets on a sunny morning, dotted with some of the finest shops in Madrid, is a pleasure. Tapas and delicious Basque style “pintxos” can be sampled at the very busy Estay: a real classic in this district, it's known as a temple of the so-called “miniature” gourmet cuisine. At the Taberna La Daniela, the most Madrilenean dishes are served, like red seabream, while Teatriz, a former theatre converted into a restaurant-bar complex and decorated by Philippe Starck, is in a different league altogether. Not to be missed, take some time to visit its three bars and enjoy a glass of Spanish wine.


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