Dining in Spain is all about flavour, character and the best use of local produce whether its superb seafood, tender lamb or tapas. And, if you ask, 'What is Spanish food famous for?' the answer will depend on where you are, as Spaniards are fiercely proud of their region's cuisine and rightly so.

What you should eat when visiting Spain? 

Depends on where you are as Spanish food has always been about making the best of fresh local produce. This might be seafood and fish from Spanish coastal waters, citrus fruits, tomatoes and olives from the southern provinces or deliciously succulent beef and pork.

What is the best Spanish food? Again this depends on the region patatas bravas, paella, gazpacho, jamón Ibérico, tortilla Espanola and calamari will feature high on any list. And, if a country as large and diverse as Spain could be said to have a national food, it would have to be Paella Valenciana.

The best places in Spain for Spanish food 

Spain is a diverse country so opinions differ widely on the best places for enjoying Spanish food. While San Sebastian offers everything from humble Pintxos to Michelin-starred cuisine, you can't beat Galicia's hearty winter stews, Madrid's sweet churros or the tasty sobrassada of the Balearic Islands.

Traditional Spanish food - the top four

These top four of Spanish foods appear on menus from tiny cafes to award-winning restaurants. You'll find them served as tasty tapas or given a modern twist in the contemporary restaurants that are coming to the forefront in Spain's major cities. 

Our top four are on the map so why not book a visit to try them for yourself?

Valencia - Paella 
Madrid - Churros con chocolate
Seville - Gazpacho
San Sebastián - Pintxos

The best places in Spain for Spanish food 

Spain is a diverse country so opinions differ widely on the best places for enjoying Spanish food. While San Sebastian offers everything from humble Pintxos to Michelin-starred cuisine, you can't beat Galicia's hearty winter stews, Madrid's sweet churros or the tasty sobrassada of the Balearic Islands.

Traditional Spanish food - the top four

These top four of Spanish foods appear on menus from tiny cafes to award-winning restaurants. You'll find them served as tasty tapas or given a modern twist in the contemporary restaurants that are coming to the forefront in Spain's major cities. 

Our top four are on the map so why not book a visit to try them for yourself?

Valencia - Paella 
Madrid - Churros con chocolate
Seville - Gazpacho
San Sebastián - Pintxos

The tapas guide

Traditionally tapas is a small savoury dish served with drinks while standing at a bar. 'Tapa' is the Spanish for 'top' so it's often said that small plates of tapas were balanced on top of a glass of beer or wine to keep insects out! While the words pintxos and tapas are commonly intermixed, pintxos is a Basque Country tapas where meat, fish or vegetables are skewered to pieces of bread.
Tapas has its origins in the hot climate of southern Spain especially around the cities of Sevilla and Malaga but can now be found across the country. Bars everywhere from small villages to large cities still often offer a small plate of tapas free with every alcoholic drink. Tapas can be enjoyed at any time of the day or evening and are perfect if going out with a group of friends. Just choose a selection of tapas and dive right in.

Famous Spanish food region by region

Spain is made up of 17 regions each with its own geography, culture and cuisine. Madrid is the capital and sits at the geographical centre of the Iberian Peninsula surrounded by mountains to the north and the plains of Spain to the south. Spain is diverse with stunning mountain scenery, beaches that range from the rugged to the tropical and even islands as far away as the Canary Isles off the Atlantic coast of Africa. We've put together a list of famous Spanish food from some of the regions and islands. Enjoy your meal or as they say in Spain, 'Buen provecho'. 

Comunidad Valenciana

At the heart of the Comunidad Valenciana is Valencia, Spain's third largest city and a pleasing mix of narrow cobbled streets full of history and stunning contemporary architecture. Once away from the city, you are quickly in a region of fertile market gardens and the bright green of its rice fields. The Valenciana region is, of course, famous for its paella, the dish for which the rice was traditionally grown.

Paella

This dish originated in Valencia's rice fields but can now be found across Spain. The base is locally-grown paella rice which absorbs the cooking flavours of chicken, rabbit, prawns, cod or other seafood. Saffron colours the rice while beans are often added. Purists say that meat and fish should never be mixed in one paella.

Fideuá

Is a similar dish to paella but is made with fine pasta instead of rice. The pasta is flavoured from fish stock made from local catches of rockfish. Historically, it was popular with busy housewives as the pasta cooks faster than the rice.

Horchata de chufa

Introduced by the Moors this cold drink is made from the tuber roots or chufas. Despite having a distinctive almond flavour, it doesn't actually contain any nuts! It's particularly refreshing during hot Spanish summers.

Comunidad de Madrid

Madrid sits proudly at the heart of Spain's gastronomic scene with everything from traditional bars and cafes through converted markets where Madrileños and visitors alike gather with friends to eat and drink to award-winning restaurants. In between eating, visit the world-famous galleries such as the Prado as well as the Palacio Real.

Bocadillo de calamares

Despite being 500 km from the nearest coastline, fish and seafood are always on Madrid's menus and fried strips of calamari or squid sandwiched in a fresh crispy roll make up one of the capital's most beloved dishes.

Cocido Madrileño

Winters can be cold in Madrid which is when the Spanish turn to this hearty stew with a base of noodle broth and chickpea. To this is added vegetables, blood sausage, chorizo and meat (veal, serrano ham, bone marrow, chicken).

Churros con Chocolate

Madrid is a city that never truly sleeps and there's nothing better than finishing the night (or starting the day) by dipping freshly cooked doughnut strips into a cup of chocolate so thick the spoon stands up in it. There's only one place to truly savour this, the legendary La Chocolatería San Ginés, a place that never shuts!

Catalonia

Catalonia is a region that stretches from the glamour and grandeur of Barcelona to the magnificent peaks of the Pyrenees. Sandy beaches, Roman ruins and the art and architecture of Gaudi and Dalí' all contribute to the diversity of Catalonia.

Pan con Tomate

While this simple but nutritious and tasty breakfast dish has its home in the Catalonian region of Spain it can now be found across the country. A slice of fresh crusty bread is spread with a paste made from tomato, olive oil, garlic and salt. It is sometimes topped with a slice of cheese or ham.

Calçotada

Definitely does hail from Barcelona and is made from the simple spring onion. A feature of winter festivals, the onions are grilled over open fires fuelled by grapevine clippings. They're then wrapped in newspaper and served with the special sauce salvitxada.

Butifarra negre amb mongetes

Or beans with black sausage is another hearty but quick to cook winter dish for those cold mountain winters. The beans and sausage are cooked with leeks and peppers in meat and wine broth. Served with crusty bread, it's the perfect tapas bowl.

Andalucia

Andalucia in southern Spain wears its Moorish heritage and history proudly with the Alcazabas of Malaga and Sevilla being top tourist attractions. A must see, though, is the Alhambra of Granada. With almost every day of the year being warm and sunny, Andalucia's beautiful beaches are always popular.

Gazpacho and Salmorejo

Are both cold soups that make refreshing tapas or appetisers on hot days. Traditionally gazpacho is served in a glass while salmorejo is eaten from a bowl with a spoon. Both are tomato based but salmorejo has diced stale bread, ham and hard-boiled egg as well.

Pescado frito

Andalucia has hundreds of kilometres of coastlines and many active fishing fleets so it's no surprise that freshly fried fish or pescado frito is found on just about every menu. A white fish of the day is coated in flour and deep-fried in olive oil then sprinkled with salt and seasoning.

Calamares

Calamares or squid are also freshly caught in Andalucia, sliced into rings and again deep fried. The perfect finger food in a newspaper cone.

Asturias

With its green meadows, the soaring mountains of the Picos de Europa and a jagged coastline with over 200 beaches, Asturias is one of the most dramatic regions of Spain. It is not short on history either, especially in its medieval capital, Oviedo.

Fabada

Winters can be cold but Fabada Asturiana is the perfect antidote. Chorizo and the blood-sausage, morcilla are its key ingredients along with white beans.

Cachopo

Is made from two huge veal (beef from animals less than one-year-old) fillets so is not for the faint-hearted. Sandwiched with ham and cheese, the veal is deep-fried in breadcrumbs and served with potatoes and either mushrooms or peppers (or both!).

Sidra

Asturias has produced Sidra since the Roman occupation. Apple varieties are blended to create the crisp sidra which is less sweet than British cider. To ensure it's drunk with the right amount of bubbles, sidra is traditionally poured from a great height.

Galicia

Many pilgrims cross Galicia on their way to Santiago de Compostela but this region is about much more than hiking. Its coastline is wild and dotted with fishing ports from where, locals say, the best fish in Europe is caught. Lugo and A Coruña are both full of history.

Pulpo a la Gallega 

Or Pulpo á Feira as it's known locally is a true regional signature dish that features highly at Galician festivals. Tenderised octopus tentacles are sliced, sprinkled with olive oil and paprika and then served with boiled potatoes. Spanish-style sushi!

Empanada gallega

A favourite for everybody, this dish is a crusty pie. The Galician version has its own special dough and is stuffed with meat, fish, peppers, onions... (whatever seasonal fillings) and cooked in a baking dish or sheet.

Tarta de Santiago

The origins of this almond pie date all the way back to the middle ages. It is made with ground almonds, sugar and eggs, it can be sweetened and adapted with lemon zest or even drinks such as sweet wine or brandy. Traditionally, the imprint of the cruz de Santiago (Cross of Saint James), is presented on top.

Castilla y León

In Castilla y León medieval spires and towers soar above vast plains while spectacular mountain peaks break up the region. The walled town of Salamanca has history galore while the awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct towers over Segovia.

Lechazo

Lechazo is made from the tender meat of very young lambs. Traditionally the lamb is roasted in wooden stoves.

Embutidos 

Embutidos is the group name for the cured, dry sausages so typical of this region where using every part of the animal was vital. The sausages have individual names such as chorizo made from cured and smoked pork or cecina, dried beef meat with a smoky flavour.

Cochinillo 

Cochinillo or suckling pig is particularly associated with Castilla y León. Tender young pigs are roasted until the succulent meat falls off the bone. The crispy skin is eaten like potato chips. It's commonly served with boiled potatoes.

Balearic Islands

Mallorca and Menorca are probably the most well-known and most visited of the Balearic Islands which lie a short distance off the coast of Catalonia. The islands' history is a vibrant mix of Spanish and Moorish while the scenery of beaches, forests and mountains is stunning.

Sobrasada

Sobrasada is a typical sausage of the Balearic Islands. Raw cured pork meat is minced and mixed with paprika, salt and other spices according to different island recipes.

Ensaimadas

Ensaimadas are just perfect for breakfast or with a morning cup of coffee. Available in different sizes from the petite to huge, they are swirls of light pastry liberally coated with icing sugar. Sometimes, they're even filled with cream.

Coca de Trampó

Coca de trampó which comes from Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands, is ideal at any time of the day. It's a tasty flatbread made from olive oil which is then topped with a mix of diced tomatoes, peppers and onions.

Basque Country

Pais Vasco differs from the rest of Spain in its culture, language and cuisine. Its cities are cosmopolitan and rich in art and history while San Sebastián, in particular, has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its restaurants. Seafood features highly on the coast while Pyrhennian mountain pastures produce high-quality beef and cheeses.

Txakoli

Crisp and slightly sparkling, Txakoli is a young wine that is usually white but there are red and rose versions. Traditionally it's poured from a height into tall thin glasses and served with pintxos.

Pintxos 

Pintxos are small snacks of fish, vegetables or croquettes skewered to a slice of bread with a toothpick or 'pincho'. Typical of the Pais Vasco, they're perfect when socialising with friends.

Bacalao a la Vizcaína

Bacalao a la vizcaína or salt cod in Biscay sauce is a hearty peasant dish. Its spicy red sauce is not made from tomatoes as you might think but only from red onions and a puree of choricero peppers.

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