11 Must Eat & Food to Try in Madrid
Lunchtime in Spain is usually between 2 pm and 4 pm. However, in Madrid, restaurants are becoming more and more flexible regarding their opening hours. The Spanish cuisine of Madrid can be very hearty.
Thus during summertime, I recommend going for the lighter dishes and keep the heavier ones for winter or eventually for dinner time.
Even though Madrid is a large city, it managed to preserve many traditions and some neighborhoods feel like nothing has changed in 50 years. Traditional food of Madrid is often based on recipes that are hundreds of years old.
My restaurant and bar recommendations are based on my own experience of having lived in Madrid for 2 years and having worked in the Spanish tourism sector where I’ve gotten the chance to visit a high number of restaurants and hotels. Please, feel free to ask me for any personalized recommendation in the comment form.
Where to stay in Madrid City Center
Find the perfect accommodation in Madrid in this Ultimate Guide on the Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Madrid
1. Suckling Pig
Suckling pig (cochinillo) is one of my favorite dishes to eat in Madrid. Even though it is a typical dish from the small villages in the surrounding mountains of Madrid, you can also get it in the capital itself.
You can get the best one in Segovia, where the preparation of suckling pig is a local tradition and competition.
Suckling pig is slowly cooked during several hours which makes the meat very tender and the skin very slim crisp crackling. If well prepared, the luscious meat just drops from the ribs when you want to cut it.
The rules are very strict: the pig should only be milk-fed and shouldn’t be older than 2-3 weeks. It’s one of the most traditional foods to eat in Madrid. In case you are wondering what to eat in Spain, suckling pig is definitely a must!
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat suckling pig:
- Los Galayos
- Restaurante Casa Botín (the oldest restaurant in the world)
- Restaurante El Senador (serves suckling pig from Segovia)
- Restaurante Horno de Juan (serves suckling pig from Segovia)
- Asador Aranduero S.A. (serves suckling pig from Segovia)
2. Spanish Omelette (Tortilla)
Every restaurant has its very own tortilla recipe.
You can’t leave Spain or Madrid without having tasted a pincho de tortilla (also known as Spanish omelet). Even though it is one of the simplest dishes you can have, every bar or restaurant in Madrid has a different way of preparing it. If you want to eat in Madrid, you can’t skip tortilla.
The tortilla española shouldn’t be confused with the tortilla Francesa (French omelet) which comes without the fried, thinly-sliced potatoes.
Opinions differ whether the real tortilla has onions or not. At some places, you get tortilla with spinach, peppers, chorizo, and other varieties.
A really good tortilla needs to be golden brown and firm at the outside, and a bit liquid inside. It can be served either hot or cold.
Tortilla can be eaten in a sandwich or as a pincho to join your beer. When looking for traditional food in Madrid, it doesn’t get anymore traditional then with having a tasty tortilla.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Spanish omelet (tortilla):
- La Ardosa
- Casa de la Tortilla
- Juana La Loca (the star dish is tortilla with caramelized onions)
Churros are eaten with thick hot chocolate.
Of course, there must be something sweet! The most popular treat to eat in Madrid is chocolate con churros. The fried-dough pastry can be eaten at any time of the day, but it’s particularly appreciated at the merienda (afternoon snack at 6 pm) or as mornings breakfasts on Sundays.
Churros (the thicker version is called Porras) are crispy on the outside and spongy inside. I like them hot, directly from the fryer and dipped in a thick hot chocolate. In opposite to other countries, hot chocolate in Spain is thick like a pudding.
For me, there is nothing better to have chocolate con churros after clubbing or a long night out. I am convinced that it’s the best way to prevent a hangover.
Churros are definitely one of the tastiest Spanish food in Madrid.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat churros con chocolate:
4. Meat and Chickpea Stew (Cocido madrileño)
Cocido madrileño (meat and chickpea stew) is a hearty, substantial stew that is usually eaten during the winter months (You’ll not want to eat Cocido Madrileño when it’s a burning 35°C outside…).
The dish is based on chickpeas and is prepared with meat and vegetables like cabbage, carrots, turnip and potatoes.
Cocido madrileño is usually served in 3 different courses: first the broth with thin noodles (fideos). Then, the chickpeas (garbanzos) and vegetables, finally followed by the meat. And then, it’s definitely time for a long siesta!
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Cocido Madrileño:
5. Tripes Madrid-style (Callos a la madrileña)
Madrid-style tripe (Callas a la madrilena) is, like the Cocido madrileño, a dish with humble origins. Its recipe goes back to 1599 and consists of a stew including chickpeas, beef tripe, blood sausage, and chorizo. Regarding vegetables, it comes with garlic, tomato and bell peppers.
The stew is cooked for long hours and is usually eaten on Sundays when you’re sitting together with your family.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat Callos a la madrileña:
6. Calamari Sandwich (Bocadillo de Calamares)
The bocadillo de calamares (calamari squid sandwich), is yet another must eat dish when visiting Madrid. It’s just a classic as pizza in Italy or French fries in Belgium.
The bocadillo de calamares is a bread roll filled with olive oil fried squid rings. I really liked it but I was missing a sauce like mayonnaise or tartare sauce to make it easier to eat. However, that’s the traditional way to eat one of the best foods in Madrid.
It’s usually eaten with a small beer (a caña) and you can have it at any time: lunch, dinner or afternoon snack (merienda). Again, this typical food is all you can wish for after clubbing in Madrid’s best clubs.
Even though Madrid has no access to the sea, it has some of the freshest fish and seafood in Spain. This is because the latest catch from the shores is first delivered to Madrid before being shipped throughout Spain.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich):
7. Broken Eggs (Huevos Estrellados or Huevos Rotos)
Can you believe that broken eggs (huevos rotos) are a local specialty from Madrid and that you can easily prepare them at home? Well, the broken eggs from Madrid are nothing else you’ve seen or tasted so far.
Huevos rotos or huevos estrellados (starry eggs) are one of the dishes to try when traveling to Madrid. They are usually served on a bed of French fries, Iberian ham, chistorra (sausage) or chorizo.
You can eat this delicious meal at almost any bar or restaurant in Madrid. However, the most famous place to have huevos rotos (even the King’s having his broken eggs here!) is Casa Lucio.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat huevos rotos (broken eggs):
8. Snails Madrid-Style (Caracoles a la Madrilena)
Snails are Must Eat in Madrid
Snails Madrid-style are a traditional food to try in Madrid’s bars and taverns. They are yet another legacy of Madrid’ humble origins. Did you know that eating snails goes back to Roman times?
Snails are usually served in a clay pot as a tapa or a pincho, together with a beer or a red wine.
The secret of this meal lays definitely in the sauce. It’s cooked for long hours and is based on a meat broth made of chorizo, Iberian ham, wine, and onions and has a spicy touch.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat caracoles a la Madrileña (snails Madrid-style):
9. Rosca Madrileña
Rosca Madrileña is a traditional dish from Madrid which is hard to find nowadays. Rosca is the Spanish word for donut and roscas (cakes) are usually served for Christmas or for Three Kings Day. It’s the typical traditional food of Madrid of that time.
However, the rosca Madrileña is all about meat served in a donut form. It consists of pork and veal meat, mixed with ham, bacon, flour, and eggs and backed with a thick mushroom sauce.
As it takes a very long time to prepare, the dish is hard to find in Madrid’s bars.
You can order rosca Madrileña at Restaurante Casa de Fieras
10. French Toast (Torrijas)
Torrijas is a tasty sweet treat
The tradition of eating and preparing torrijas in Spain goes back to the 14th century. Torrijas are mostly eaten during the Semana Santa (the Holy Week before Eastern).
Known as French toast, torrijas were a way to use old bread leftovers. It’s super easy to prepare. All you need to do is soaking bread slices in warm milk with sugar and cinnamon.
Add some batted eggs and deep fry the slices in butter or virgin olive oil. Cover them with brown sugar just before serving.
Best restaurants in Madrid to eat torrijas (French toast):
Casa de la Torrijas – French Toast House
11. Patatas Bravas
Who doesn’t love some fried potatoes? The best thing about them is probably that they are always prepared in a different way, depending on where you travel.
If you are used to the Belgian fries, you’ll be astonished when you order patatas bravas in Madrid, the Spanish version of fried potatoes. Unlike their Norther counterpart, they are cut in cubes.
You can have patatas bravas as tapas or during your main course as a dish to share. Their firm, fired skin and warm inside make everybody melt immediately.
Patatas bravas are usually served with a hot, spicy tomato sauce to dip. Some restaurants add a scoop of tasty alioli garlic sauce to it. A delight! It’s an all-time favorite whether you’re a tourist or a local.
Patatas bravas is not only one of the most traditional dishes of Madrid but also one of the best things to eat in Madrid when you’re travelling on a budget.
Best Madrid restaurants to eat patatas bravas:
Extra: Tapas in Food Markets
Madrid’s Food Markets are Paradise for Foodies
Several of them have been remodeled and refurbished like Mercado de la Cebada or Mercado de Barceló.
Other ones like Mercado de San Ildefonso, Mercado de San Anton and Mercado de San Miguel have been converted in hip gourmet markets where you can eat delicious tapas in a cool setting.
You can either go for grocery shopping or enjoy freshly prepared meals or tapas at the market stalls. It’s a must, even if you only have 24 hours in Madrid.
Mercado de San Miguel is the most popular one (touristy and expensive), whereas Mercado de Santo Anton or Mercado de San Ildefonso are located in Madrid’s hipster neighborhood Chueca and Malasaña.
I also really like the Mercado de la Cebada as dance sessions are organized on Sundays. Is there a better mix than dancing and enjoying tapas? It’s the perfect blend of enjoying traditional food in Madrid with a modern twist.
Even though Madrid is famous for its ham, meat and sausages, there are plenty of vegetarian options in Madrid too!
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my stay in Madrid could convince you to try some of Madrid’s local specialties.
Have you been in Madrid? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with SafetyWing
To make the most of your trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Madrid (get -10% off with code “PAULINA10”)