Madrid Food Tour, Madrid

Madrid Food Tour (Self Guided), Madrid

Spain is internationally reputed as a major gastronomic power and its capital city Madrid attests to this claim, being home to vibrant food markets and multiple establishments serving traditional Spanish food in a soul-warming atmosphere.

One of the iconic food destinations is Plaza Mayor, a bustling town square where you can savor traditional Spanish dishes. The square is home to numerous restaurants and cafes, offering a taste of Madrid's gastronomic delights.

For a truly historic dining experience, make your way to Botin, known as Europe's oldest restaurant. Established in 1725, this charming eatery serves succulent roasted suckling pig and lamb, prepared in wood-fired ovens, ensuring a taste of centuries-old culinary traditions.

For a taste of local flavors and fresh produce, visit Saint Michael's Market (Mercado de San Miguel). This indoor market offers a plethora of Spanish tapas, seafood, cheeses, and wines, making it a perfect spot for food enthusiasts to explore and sample the city's diverse cuisine.

Chocolateria San Gines is a sweet escape where you can indulge in Madrid's famous churros and rich, velvety hot chocolate. This cozy establishment has been satisfying sweet cravings since 1894.

A visit to the Gate of the Sun (Puerta del Sol), the bustling heart of Madrid, offers opportunities to try street food, such as Spanish sandwiches (bocadillos) and stuffed pastry (empanadas), while taking in the city's lively atmosphere. Nearby, Saint Anne's Square (Plaza de Santa Ana) boasts a variety of restaurants and cafes, offering both traditional Spanish dishes and international cuisine.

If you're in the mood for a different culinary experience, head to the famous German Beerhouse (Cerveceria Alemana) in Madrid, known for its hearty sausages, schnitzels, and of course, a wide selection of German beers.

Strolling along Huertas Street (Calle de Huertas), you'll encounter a myriad of tapas bars and restaurants, each offering a unique twist on traditional Spanish dishes.

Madrid's food scene is a culinary adventure well worth exploring. Be warned, though, that the delectable treats awaiting you on this self-guided gastronomic journey may leave you craving more of Madrid's delightful flavors and culinary prowess. But anyway – ¡Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)
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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 (Town Square)
  • Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant)
  • Mercado de San Miguel (Saint Michael's 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)
Plaza Mayor (Town Square)

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

The grand and dramatic Town Square ("Plaza Mayor"), was originally conceived by Felipe II, who in the late 16th century envisioned a more prestigious focal point for his new capital. The oldest building in the square is the Bakery House ("Casa de la Panadería"), dating back to 1590, but like much of the plaza, it underwent reconstruction after fires in the 17th and 18th centuries. The elaborate frescoes adorning its facade were added as recently as 1992. Today, the building houses the municipal tourist office (daily: 9:30am–8:30pm).

With a capacity of up to fifty thousand people, the square was historically used for beatifications, coronations, public trials of heretics followed by the burning of the victims, theatrical performances, and bullfights. It has now become a popular destination for tourists, boasting expensive outdoor cafés and restaurants. Despite its transformation, the square retains an air of grandeur and continues to host public events, including outdoor theater, music performances, Christmas fairs, and a Sunday market for stamps and coins.

The central bronze equestrian statue depicts Felipe III and dates back to 1616.

Why You Should Visit:
The square is always a hub of activity, serving as a focal point for numerous open-air special events, ceremonies, and celebrations.

****FOOD WALK***
While many of the restaurants in the square tend to be a bit on the pricey side and often crowded with tourists, the ambiance of the place itself is truly delightful, making it a perfect spot to relax and indulge in a glass of fine Spanish wine accompanied by delicious tapas. One particularly noteworthy culinary delight is the calamari sandwich, a signature dish of Madrid, consisting of crispy battered calamari served in a bun, which pairs perfectly with an ice-cold beer.

Among the numerous gastronomic gems surrounding the square, you'll find the renowned Los Galayos historic restaurant. Open from 10am to 11:30pm every day, this establishment has been serving traditional Madrid recipes since 1894. Their specialty lies in the succulent beef tenderloin cooked on a sizzling hot stone block. With several dining rooms and two outdoor terraces, Los Galayos caters to those looking for a leisurely meal or a quick snack of tapas. Another hidden gem worth exploring is Casa Revuelta (Tue-Sat: 10:30am–4pm, 8–11pm; Sun: 10:30am–4pm), a charming and unpretentious bar tucked away in a nearby alley just south of the square. Here, you can savor their mouthwatering signature tapa of "bacalao frito", which features perfectly battered and fried cod that simply melts in your mouth.

Furthermore, on nearby Calle de Cuchilleros street, you'll find Restaurante Botín (1–4pm, 8–11:30pm daily), the world's oldest restaurant, founded in 1725, which has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant)

2) Restaurante Botin (Europe's Oldest Restaurant) (must see)

Dating back to 1725, El Botín is Europe's oldest continuously operating restaurant, as recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. Originally known as Casa Botín, it was founded by Jean Botín, a Frenchman, and his wife. Initially functioning more as a tavern than a restaurant, it transitioned to Sobrino de Botín ("Botín's Nephew" in Spanish), after Mrs. Botín's passing when her nephew took over.

Set in rustic interconnected dining rooms, El Botín is renowned for its signature dishes of "cochinillo" (roast suckling pig) and "cordero lechal" (lamb). Original recipes have been faithfully preserved, and the oven has been kept continuously aflame, never to be extinguished.

Throughout its history, El Botín has attracted notable figures. Spanish painter Francisco de Goya worked as a waiter at Café Botín while awaiting acceptance into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Ernest Hemingway was a regular patron, mentioning the restaurant in the closing pages of his novel "The Sun Also Rises". He wrote, "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".

Reservations in advance are highly recommended!
Mercado de San Miguel (Saint Michael's Market)

3) Mercado de San Miguel (Saint Michael's Market) (must see)

Although there are larger markets in Madrid, San Miguel is a remarkable testament to the city's history, as it is the sole surviving iron marketplace. Constructed in 1914-15, this distinctive single-level market is enclosed in glass and served as a neighborhood market for nearly a century. In 2009, it underwent a transformation into a gastronomic hub, which proved to be an immediate success and set the stage for the proliferation of gourmet markets not only in Madrid but throughout Spain.

Built on the grounds of a former church, demolished in 1810 during the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, the market now houses an array of exceptional food stalls that prepare and serve delectable dishes from various regions of Spain. If you're unsure about what to order, don't hesitate to request a sample to help you make your choice.

In addition to the food stalls, the market features a wine bar, a vermouth bar, and a flamenco venue, and it frequently hosts live music performances, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

When you approach the main entrance, be sure to look up and admire the fallen angel statue known as "Accidente Aereo". While not as well-known as the one in Retiro Park ("Parque del Retiro"), it is equally spectacular.
If you plan to use the restroom facilities, hold onto a receipt from one of your purchases to avoid any charges.
Chocolateria San Gines

4) Chocolateria San Gines

Recognized as an Historic Tourist Site by the City Council, this café has become an integral part of the Madrid's culture since its establishment in 1894, having gained fame for its offering of "chocolate con churros" – a combination of thick hot chocolate paired with deep-fried hoops of batter. This culinary delight serves as the perfect indulgence to cap off a night of extravagance, making San Ginés a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. In fact, it has become somewhat of a customary ritual for Madrileños to gather here after the clubs close, taking a moment to savor the treat before heading home for a quick shower and then off to work. However, the pleasure of this combination extends beyond the late hours of the night – it is equally satisfying for breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Given the café's reputation, it is not uncommon to encounter queues during busy periods; nevertheless, the service is efficient and prompt. Whether you choose to enjoy your indulgence indoors or on the café's outdoor terrace, which extends onto a pedestrian street, you have the freedom to explore the diverse menu. In addition to the iconic "chocolate con churros", the menu offers an array of options including soft drinks, coffee, and a variety of other pastries. So, immerse yourself in this timeless café experience and savor the flavors that have captivated the hearts and palates of countless individuals throughout the years.
Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)

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

One of the city's most popular gathering spots, the Gate of the Sun is alive with constant chatter and a lively atmosphere. This square marks the historic location of the original eastern entrance to the city, where a gatehouse and castle once stood. Over time, these structures disappeared, giving way to a series of churches. In the late 19th century, the area was transformed into a square, becoming the vibrant center of café culture.

Today, the square takes the shape of a half-moon, with a modern glass train station facing the statue of Carlos III. On the southern side, an austere red-brick building houses the regional government, while the buildings opposite form a semicircle and house contemporary shops and cafés. Originally serving as the city's post office, the regional government building was constructed during the reign of Carlos III in the 1760s. In 1847, it became the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior, and the distinctive clocktower was added in 1866. Notably, during the Franco regime, the police cells beneath the building were infamous for human rights abuses.

The Gate of the Sun itself has witnessed significant historical events. On May 2, 1808, the uprising against the French occupation began here, although the rebellion was ultimately crushed. In 1912, liberal prime minister José Canalejas was assassinated in the square, and in 1931, the proclamation of the Second Republic took place from the balcony of the Ministry of the Interior.

Today, the square continues to be a focal point for festive celebrations, bringing together locals and visitors alike. On New Year's Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the square is filled with people eating grapes, a tradition believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

Beneath the square lies Madrid's hub of public transportation. The underground Metro lines 1, 2, and 3 conveniently serve the area, providing easy connections to the city's commuter rail system and the major train stations at Chamartín and Atocha.
Surrounding the square, the side streets are predominantly residential, offering a vibrant nightlife and an array of entertainment options. Street music is a common sight here, adding to the lively atmosphere. Many bars and clubs in the area don't open their doors until after midnight, ensuring a vibrant and late-night social scene.

****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 (8:30am–9pm daily), renowned for its pastries, particularly the "roscón de reyes" (special ring-shaped cake for King's Day) and the "napolitanas" (cream slices), which you can savor in the upstairs salon overlooking the square.
Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square)

6) Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square)

Situated just a few blocks southeast of the iconic Gate of the Sun ("Puerta del Sol"), this expansive pedestrian square exudes a lively and occasionally boisterous ambiance. Its origins trace back to the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, who oversaw its construction between 1808 and 1813. The square derived its name from the 16th-century Convent of Santa Ana, which previously occupied the area but was demolished to make way for this gathering place.

The square bears testament to its strong literary connections with monuments dedicated to two renowned Spanish writers. At one end stands a striking marble statue of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–81), the playwright who was a prominent figure during the waning years of Spain's Golden Age of arts. Sculpted in 1878, the monument depicts scenes from four of Calderón's plays adorning its pedestal. At the opposite end, a statue of poet Federico García Lorca, erected in 1998 to commemorate the centenary of his birth, faces the Spanish Theatre ("Teatro Español"). Originally constructed in 1745, the theatre underwent restoration in 1980 following a devastating fire.

The square's ties to the performing arts extend further into history, as the theatre now occupies the site where the Corral del Príncipe once stood—a popular open courtyard venue for theatrical performances in 16th-century Madrid. These performances often fostered lively interactions, occasionally escalating into clashes between actors and audience members. Across from the theatre, the glass balconies of ME Madrid Reina Victoria, a luxurious hotel, offer a splendid view of the square.

The square's remaining two sides, as well as the adjacent streets, host a plethora of popular bars and restaurants. Notably, the classic Cervecería Alemana ("German Beerhouse"), established in 1904 and once a favorite haunt of author Ernest Hemingway, remains a bustling establishment, constantly bustling with customers. Just around the corner from the theatre, you'll discover Viva Madrid, a popular tavern frequented by the stylish and youthful, known for its captivating 19th-century ceramic tableaux. Here, you can savor a range of cocktails, classic tapas, and hearty Spanish main dishes.

For an elevated experience, it is worth paying €8 to gain access to The Radio Rooftop (Wed, Thu: 4pm–1am; Fri, Sat: 4pm–3am; Sun: 4pm–2am), a cocktail bar on the top floor of the ME Madrid Reina Victoria hotel, that offers breathtaking views overlooking the square. Capture snapshots of local life bustling below or use a wide-angle lens to capture the broader cityscape beyond.
Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

7) Cerveceria Alemana (German Beerhouse)

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

Established in 1904 by a group of German manufacturers (hence the name), the 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". Hemingway's 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 pretensions of city life, with wooden beams, hat racks and black and white photographs from past bullfights.

The food fills, the beer range (German, Belgian and Spanish) is broad, and the service is efficient. As you indulge in a caña (draught beer), it's advisable to be mindful of the tapas, as the bill can quickly add up.
Calle de Huertas (Huertas Street)

8) Calle de Huertas (Huertas Street)

As you wander along this street, take a moment to glance down at the ground, where brass letters have been set into the pavement, displaying quotes from renowned authors such as Galdós and Cervantes. The area, known as the Literary Quarter or the "neighborhood of Spanish writers", was once home to literary giants like Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Quevedo during the 1600s.

Today, this bohemian and charmingly cobblestoned street offers a delightful mix of traditional taverns and trendy celebrity chef establishments. Brimming with thriving delicatessens and tapas joints, it offers visitors a chance to recharge and indulge in delectable bites and refreshing drinks. With practically every door along Huertas leading to a bar or restaurant that showcases both traditional and innovative takes on local cuisine, it's no wonder that even the most satiated stomachs find it difficult to resist the temptation of gluttony amidst such a gastronomic bombardment.

Notable architectural and historical points of interest include the late 18th-century neoclassical building on the left corner with calle León, which now houses the Royal History Academy ("Real Academia de la Historia"). It was originally constructed for the monks of El Escorial, who printed and sold their prayer books there. On the right corner, where calle del Príncipe intersects, you'll find the Santoña Palace, now serving as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Built in 1734 by Pedro de Ribera, it boasts a typically elaborate Baroque doorway.

Across the street, you'll spot the Casa Alberto tavern, distinguished by its red wooden frontage, providing a pleasant spot to enjoy a drink. It is worth noting that Cervantes himself lived in a house on this very site for a period of time during the early 17th century.

Head to the cosy Blackbird Rock Bar (Tue-Sun: 8pm–3am) located at No. 22, a fantastic venue for those seeking a bluesy ambiance. If you're musically inclined, you can even showcase your talents during their monthly jam sessions. In addition to the music, the bar also offers a selection of cocktails, classic tapas, and hearty Spanish dishes to satisfy your cravings.

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