Madrid Food Tour (Self Guided), Madrid

Spain is internationally reputed as a major gastronomic power and its capital city of Madrid is home to vibrant food markets and a plethora of restaurants serving traditional Spanish food and offering visitors a soul-warming food experience. This self-guided food tour takes you to the places where you can taste the authentic Spanish dishes and typical Madrid delectable treats.
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Madrid Food Tour Map

Guide Name: Madrid Food Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza Mayor (Main Square)
  • Sobrino de Botin (World's Oldest Restaurant)
  • Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market)
  • Chocolateria San Gines
  • Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)
  • Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square)
  • Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)
  • Calle de Huertas (Huertas Street)
1
Plaza Mayor (Main Square)

1) Plaza Mayor (Main Square) (must see)

Madrid is a city of interconnected squares, with many broad avenues and narrow lanes connecting them. In the middle of the city, you'll find Plaza Mayor, an enormous square that is lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes.

Plaza Mayor was the center of Old Madrid and was built in the late 1500s. It was initially called the Plaza del Arrabal and was the primary market in town. The main buildings and architecture of the square were established in 1619 by architect Juan Gomez de Mora. But a series of fires destroyed the square, first in 1631, 1670, and finally in 1790. The buildings as they stand today are the renovated structures built after the 1790 fire by architect Juan de Villanueva.

For centuries, the square had hosted countless important public events such as bull fights, beatifications, crowning ceremonies, trials and even public executions. The equestrian statue in the middle of the square is monarch Philip III, under whose reign the square was first established in 1580.

Why You Should Visit

The square is always a hub of activity. Many special events are held here, like the annual city Christmas market. There are various religious ceremonies held in the open-air square for Easter (Fiestas de San Isidro and Semana Santa).

Tips

On nearby Arco de Cuchilleros Street, you'll find Restaurante Botin, the world's oldest restaurant, founded in 1725. It has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The restaurants here charge "tourist-prices," but the tapas bars are more reasonable. There are many souvenir shops and a tourist information office on the ground floor under the arches.

****Food Walk***
Although most of the restaurants on the square are somewhat overpriced and brimming with tourists, the place is still marvelous to sit out in and enjoy a sip of good Spanish wine and tasty tapas (most notably the calamari sandwich – Madrid's culinary specialty – a bun filled with calamari battered in flour and egg and then fried, craving to be washed down with an ice-cold beer).

One of the many delicious “corners” surrounding the square is the Los Galayos historic restaurant. Open since 1894, serving traditional Madrid recipes, its main specialty is beef tenderloin on a hot stone block. The restaurant has a number of dining rooms, plus two outdoor terraces for those who seek a quick snack of tapas. Los Galayos has the history and well-deserved reputation, in terms of food quality, that draws both locals and tourists in their numbers.
2
Sobrino de Botin (World's Oldest Restaurant)

2) Sobrino de Botin (World's Oldest Restaurant) (must see)

Sobrino de Botin, founded in 1725, is the oldest restaurant in the world in continuous operation.

The restaurant was founded by Frenchman Jean Botin and his wife, and was originally called Casa Botin. Initially it was more of a tavern than a restaurant. After Mrs. Botin passed away, the establishment was inherited by her nephew who changed the restaurant's name to Sobrino de Botin, meaning "Botin's Nephew" in Spanish.

Botin has three dining rooms. Its specialty dishes are cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and cordero asado (roast lamb). Apart from using the original recipes, the restaurant has also kept the flame burning in the oven continuously, never to be extinguished.

The restaurant has been associated with some famous people in its history. The Spanish painter Francisco de Goya worked in Cafe Botín as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Ernest Hemingway is said to be a regular of the restaurant and even mentioned the restaurant in the closing pages of his novel "The Sun Also Rises". He wrote in the novel: "We lunched upstairs at Botín's. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta".

If Ernest Hemingway said the restaurant was good, you better believe it.

Opening Hours: daily: 13:00-16:00 (lunch) / 20:00-24:00 (dinner)
3
Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market)

3) Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market) (must see)

Located near Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market is one of the most popular tourist stops in the town. It was opened in 1916 but was recently renovated and upgraded. It now houses 30 different vendors who serve gourmet tapas. It's not a grocery market in the traditional sense, but rather a spot for snacks (tapas) and drinks.

San Miguel Market is a foodie's destination that's worth a visit. You'll get to sample foods from all around Spain. It's a hip and busy market, full of tourists and locals alike.

Tapas are a uniquely Spanish idea that pretty much any foodie can get on board with. They're savory snacks or "small plates," typically served with drinks and shared among friends. They aren't quite a meal, but they give you the option to try many different things in an inexpensive and non-filling way.

Be on the lookout for regional specialties from all around Spain. Fine wines, Castile cheese, Iberian ham, and fresh fish and seafood from Galicia. You can eat your way around Spain in this one little market.

The market is a bit on the expensive side, but worth it, especially if you want a varied sampling of local cuisine. It can get very crowded, though, so consider visiting during an off-time for shorter lines!

Tip:
Don't be afraid to ask for a taster if you are not certain of what you're ordering. If you're going to use the restroom, make sure to keep a receipt from one of your purchases, so you don't have to pay.

Operation Hours: Sun-Thu: 10am-12am; Fri, Sat: 10am-1am
4
Chocolateria San Gines

4) Chocolateria San Gines

Established in 1894, Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid is famous for its staple – churros con chocolate – deep-fried batter sticks served with hot chocolate. Also on the menu is a good selection of cakes. This place is ideal for a quick break on a sightseeing walk, to sit down and enjoy the crispy churro dipped into the hot, thick, dark chocolate, while watching the world go by for a while.

Opening hours: daily: 8:00 - 23:00
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)

5) Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) (must see)

The Gate of the Sun is the most famous public square in Madrid. The square gets its name as it was one of the gates in the medieval city's walls in the 15th century. There was a rising sun on the wall here since the gate was on the east side of town.

The square is the beginning of the radial network of Spanish roads. You'll find a plaque here marking kilometer zero (km 0) of the road system. The spot is considered the symbolic, if not actual, center of Spain. As such a well known social center, the square has seen its share of political protests and demonstrations over the years.

The square is dominated by the monument to King Carlos III and the famous bronze sculpture of "the bear and the strawberry tree". According to the legend, there were a large number of bears and strawberry trees in the nearby forests. Hence, bear together with strawberry tree has been the symbol of Madrid since the medieval time.

Another important attraction on the square is the Clock of the Gate of the Sun. It has been a long tradition in Spain that people greet new year by eating twelve lucky grapes to the twelve chimes struck by this clock at midnight. Spaniards believe that eating grapes on New Year's Eve would bring them luck. Much like Times Square is in the US, the New Year celebration from the Gate of Sun has been broadcast live since 1962.

Tips

Under the square is the hub of public transportation in Madrid. The Metro's Lines 1, 2, and 3 serve the area, so connections are easy with Madrid's commuter rail system and the central railroads that connect to the Chamartin and Atocha rail stations.

The side streets are residential, and this area is full of nightlife and entertainment options. Street music is typical here, and many bars and clubs don't open until after midnight.

****Food Walk****
While at the Gate of the Sun, you can have a chance to eat like a true madrileño in the number of family-run restaurants, authentic taverns and tapas bars abounding the area. Known to the locals for decades, these eateries are quite close by yet remarkably away from the trodden tourist paths. One such hidden gem is called La Mallorquina, renowned for its pastries, particularly the “roscón de reyes” (special ring-shaped cake for King's Day).
6
Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square)

6) Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square)

Santa Ana Square is located close by to Gate of the Sun and Huertas Street, in Madrid's central Letras District. It was built in the 17th century and was known originally as Corral de la Pacheca and Principe. In addition to several monuments, namely to Pedro Calderon de la Barca, the Spanish Golden Age writer, and Federico Garcia Lorca, Grenadian poet, this square is a home to numerous restaurants, cafes and tapas bars.

Spanish Theatre, the oldest theater in Madrid, is also found here, on the eastern side. On on the western side of the plaza is a luxury hotel, now known as ME Madrid Reina Victoria. Built in the early 19th century, this hotel gained fame as the one favored by popular bullfighters, including Spain's #1 torero Manolete who was a regular guest here, back in the 1940s, and always reserved room number 220 out of superstition.

The abundance of tapas bars, cafes, beer houses, and restaurants around the square makes the place particularly busy, and in summer the buzz continues until late at night. Back in the day, this vivacious neighborhood was frequented by illustrious personalities such as Ernest Hemingway who, among other places, particularly favored the nearby Palace Hotel and German Beerhouse to quench his thirst with a glass of beer.

If you're a discerning tapas hunter with a thirst for beer, you will find the variety of hip gastrobars in the area most satisfying. If you want to enjoy a city view of Madrid while eating, head to the terrace restaurant on the top floor of Me Madrid Reina Victoria hotel
7
Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

7) Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

Sitting on the southern edge of Santa Ana Square, German Beerhouse was once the favorite taproom of Ernest Hemingway and many other celebrities of the day including American actress and singer Ava Gardner. They all either lived in or visited Madrid quite often throughout the 20th century.

Established in 1904 by a group of German manufacturers, hence the name, this brewery is still "a good place to drink beer and coffee," – as Hemingway once put it in his article in Life magazine – to be shared, if lucky, with "the most beautiful woman in the world". His regular table here still stands in the near right-hand corner and it feels every bit as though the man himself might walk through the door at any moment. This classic Spanish beer hall prefers buckets of olives to preening pretentions of city life, with wooden beams, hat racks and black and white photos from old bullfights.

The food fills, the beer range (German, Belgian and Spanish) is broad, and the service is efficient.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11am–00:30am; Fri, Sat: 11am–2am
8
Calle de Huertas (Huertas Street)

8) Calle de Huertas (Huertas Street)

Literary Quarter, or Huertas for short, is the “neighborhood of Spanish writers” set in the heart of Madrid. Back in the 1600s, this part of the city was inhabited by the likes of Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Quevedo.

Today, this bohemian, cobble-stoned area represents a wonderful whirl of traditional taverns and chic celebrity chef joints. The street is packed to the brim with thriving delicatessens and tapas outlets offering top-notch eating to the visitors who seek to recharge their batteries with a bit of a bite and tipple.

With nearly every door on Huertas leading either to a bar or restaurant offering old and new spins on the local cuisine, it's no wonder that even the most full-bellied find hard to resist the temptation of gluttony amid such a gastronomic bombardment.

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