A quick guide to tapas 11

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If you are headed to Spain, get your taste buds ready to enjoy one of the great culinary treats in the world, tapas (also called pinchos in some parts of far northern Spain).

Tapas are bite-sized food portions, not only served in restaurants, but also in almost every bar and pub in the country from early afternoon onward. They come in both hot and cold varieties and can either be eaten as a way to tide you over to the traditionally late Spanish dinner or as a meal unto itself. This shot came from my stay in Valencia, but you will find tapas all over Spain.

tapas in costa brava spain

A couple of questions usually come up the first time you wander into a bar serving tapas:

Do I just pick some of the ones displayed and eat them? Absolutely. They are put out fresh daily and replenished as needed. If they are on display, as in the photo, just grab a plate and pick some up and start eating.

How do they keep track of what you’ve eaten and how do I pay for it? In most places, you will just keep the toothpicks, some of which are different colors or sizes that represent different prices. When you are ready to pay they will either just ask you what you ate or count toothpicks. It can be a bit of an honor system, so do not tempt the travel karma gods by cheating.

How much does it cost? In my experience, a portion of tapas will usually run from 2€ to 4€, tending towards the lower end of that scale more commonly. A wonderful glass of Spanish wine will usually cost around 3€ or so and you can do a fairly filling meal and drinks for under 15€.

So next time you are in Spain, dive right in and enjoy one of the best food traditions you will find anywhere on the planet.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

11 thoughts on “A quick guide to tapas

  • Sam

    I love the tapas as a way of eating! it satisfies both my greedy side and my desire for variety (I have a short attention span with food). Perfect!

  • Daniel McBane

    I lived in Madrid for about a year and I have to say, I generally found the tapas to be quite overpriced when you consider the amount and the quality of food you get for your money. In fact, I found Spain to be the most overpriced county I’ve visited, once you take into account the salary of the average Spaniard. I suppose that’s why so many of them end up living at home with their parents.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved living in and traveling through Spain, I just always felt like I wasn’t really getting my money’s worth–at least not in comparison to Germany or most of Asia, which is where I lived before and after Spain.

  • Mig

    The tapas in Spain are delicious! A bit pricey for my budget, but enjoyed it. It was interesting to see the different styles of how the tapas in the U.S. are served in small dishes instead of on bread.

  • Barbara

    We love tapas and your description and photo has just answered the question of what’s to eat for our Sunday family get-together! My husband is of Spanish descent and can whip up some mean tapas that we all love and enjoy. Thanks for the great post!

  • Amber

    I saw this photo and started to drool! The picture from Valencia reminds me of my favorite place for tapas in Barcelona. I love the entire concept, but this place won me with its pintxos of sliced bread with chorizo, a spicy roasted pepper, and a tiny quail egg. Yum! Thanks for bring back a good memory.

  • Allan Wilson

    Similar to the sushi system. The Tapas’ imaged look good and hefty. One like a baguette hot dog. 2 to 4 euro is a bargain. been a long time since my last visit to Spain but researching Tapas is a good reason to return. “What about the toothpick between your teeth!”. Thanks for sharing President Hodson.

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