For any lover of Spanish food and drink who asks what is Granada Spain famous for, the answer has to be TAPAS! The tradition of tapas in Granada is legendary. It’s not where tapas originated, but it is the last remaining city in Spain were the true tapas tradition continues. But, eating tapas is a little more difficult than just popping into one of the best restaurants in Granada Spain. There is a science to what and where to eat in Granada. We are going to provide you the formula.
Even though we live in Spain, where we live in Girona there is not the same kind of tapas culture. I feel knowledgable, though, about what to eat in Spain. So I took our knowledge about Spanish cuisine, did a lot of research and mapped out a plan of how to attack Granada to eat great food. We ate an enormous amount of food (some good, some not so good), to create this Granada tapas guide.
In this Granada travel blog, we are going to provide a brief history of tapas and provide advice on how to find the best tapas in Granada. Then, we will offer recommendations for some of the best places to eat in Granada Spain. By the end, I hope we can provide a roadmap for how to make the most of your trip to Granada. If you are looking for particular information, use the table of contents below to jump right to the section that might answer your question.
Ultimate Guide to Tapas in Granada
Granada is legendary with food travelers because of its more traditional take on tapas. This makes it one of the most unique places to eat in Spain. The main difference is that every drink comes with a tapa, and it’s free. Of course, there is more to Granada than the free tapa, and many of the best dishes to eat in Granada you should cough up the few euros to try. There is also more to Granada than food. The combination of both Spanish and Moorish influences extends from the cuisine to the architecture as well. It’s definitely a city worth visiting.
Because the tapas culture is so different in Granada in comparison to elsewhere in Spain and Andalusia it helps to have a tapas guide to explain how to eat tapas in Granada, what kind of dishes you should track down, and most importantly, where to eat all this deliciousness. This guide will help you tapear, to tapa, just like a local.
Where To Stay in Granada Spain
Puente del Carbon Apartments: When we visited Granada, it was in the middle of a three week trip around Andalusia where we were staying only at hotels. So, we needed a washing machine. We ended up booking a great apartment through Booking.com which was near the Cathedral. The Puente del Carbon apartments were some of the best-managed apartments we’ve stayed in while traveling. Being so close to all of the bars and shops in Old Town, I was expecting a lot of noise, but it was so quiet. And, they were so reasonably priced, with apartments starting from €70 a night.
Check the best prices for Puente del Carbon Apartments Granada.
Melia Granada: I am also a big fan of the Melia hotel brand. A Spanish hotel chain with contemporary properties in the city centers all over Spain. Their location in Granada is a little on the luxe end, but at a good value with rooms starting around €100, some with terraces. They are also in a prime location to hit up the tapas bars in the Realejo neighborhood.
Check out the best prices for the Melia Granada.
Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula by Autograph Collection: In a more quiet part of town is the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection of properties. Centrally located on Gran Via, but a little north of the Cathedral and all of the tapas bar action, the hotel is in a beautifully restored palace building. It’s a great value with rooms starting around €220 a night.
Check out the best prices for the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula Granada.
Find the best rates for Granada Hotels and Apartments at Booking.com
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
History of Tapas
Let’s start with a little history of tapas. There is no definitive history, but instead a series of tales on the creation of tapas. One story from the 13th century involves an ill king who could only eat small amounts of food. Another tale involved a 19th Century king in Cadiz who asked for a slice of jamon to be placed on top of his drink to keep the sand from blowing in. The most commonly accepted tale originates in Seville where bartenders served sherry or beer with a saucer on top to keep the flies out. Then, they started to leave a little snack on top. The snack could be a slice of jamon or some olives. Customers appreciated the free food on top, or as a tapa, with their beverage and kept returning. Tapa translates to cover or lid.
That means that traditionally a tapa would come free with a beverage. Of course, back then, a tapa was something a lot more simple than what a tapa is today. Today, tapas are assumed to be small portions or plates of all types of cuisine served at Spanish restaurants across the country and the world. Although it is still possible throughout Spain to order a drink and receive a small plate of potato chips or olives, generally patrons will purchase tapas and drinks separately. Granada is the last major city in Spain where a tapa comes free with the purchase of a beverage. And, these tapas are more than just olives and potato chips. They are real tapas.
How To Survive a Granada Tapas Bar
At first glance, it seems that all you need to do in Granada is walk into a bar, order a drink, and receive your free tapa. To some extent that is true. But there is an element of chance to it all. You don’t get to choose your tapa. The Granada tapas bar gets to choose. So, what tips can we share to help you survive, or to make the most of the experience, to find the best food in Granada Spain?
First a note on the concept of “free” tapas. Many people who know Spain well notice that the drink prices are slightly higher in Granada than in other cities because they build in the price of the free food they give away. They have to make money somehow. As a Spanish resident, I would agree that prices are just slightly higher. That said, drink prices overall in Spain are lower than most of Western Europe, so it’s still a steal. Small beers and house wine normally range from €2-3 a glass.
When walking into a tapas bar in Granada, take a look at what people are eating at the bar. If you see several people eating the same tapa chances are that is what is being served at that time. An hour later, it might be something different. You are not guaranteed to receive what other patrons are, but it’s a good indication. That said, don’t be afraid to let them know if you are a vegetarian or have other restrictions.
Stand Don’t Sit
When moving from bar to bar, most local Granadinos eat standing at the bar and then move on. This is also a great way to try several tapas bars for one meal. And, it’s a lot more fun. Particularly on the weekend, many Granada tapas bars will expect you to order food when sitting down.
Although you don’t get to choose your free tapas, the longer you stay the better the tapa will be. At one bar, we received the basic tapa first, and with our next round, we ordered a plate of something tasty. Along with our paid tapa came a giant platter of shrimp. Yes, we paid for a tapa, but we had a good return on our investment.
There is an element of chance in accepting what tapas comes along with the drink. On Saturdays, the bars are packed all day. Many tapas bars tend to serve the plates that are easy to serve to a lot of people, and that means a lot of migas (see below) and rice. Going out to “tapear” on a Saturday is a risk that might involve a lot of migas. If you are in Granada on a Saturday, my suggestion would be to stay in one place and to keep ordering drinks to receive the better tapas. That said, the bars have such great energy on a Saturday, it might be worth it to eat some extra migas.
Don’t Be Afraid To Pay For a Tapa
The dirty secret of the Granada tapas scene is that in a lot of cases the free tapa is not the of the highest quality or might not be the specialty of the house. Included below are some recommendations for must-eat traditional dishes in Granada. But some of the best Spanish food on offer in the city might not come free with your drink. You can wait to see if you receive the specialty Granada food you want to try. To be safe, just go ahead and order a tapa of that dish. This is much easier to do if traveling in a group. Here’s the secret: Don’t order your tapa until after you receive your free tapa. Then place an order for a ración (full plate) or a media ración (half plate). Raciones normally range in price from €5-10.
Order Small Beers
If you really want to make the most of your Euro, order small beers. A tapa will come with each drink, so the more drinks you order the more food arrives. You will receive the same tapa with a small beer as a large beer. Order a caña, which is a small beer, versus a tubo, which is a big beer. The one downside to this plan? We tried this and I filled up pretty quickly. Between all the plates of food and all the beer, my belly just couldn’t keep up. Do what works for you.
Want to Learn More About the Tapas Culture in Granada? Check out this Granada Tapas Tour of the Albaicin neighborhood from €35.
What To Eat In Granada Spain
When ordering a drink, a free tapa can range from slices of jamon or cheese to a meat or stew dish. For many travelers, whatever they receive could be good enough. For true food travelers, though, try seeking out some of these dishes when eating in Granada.
Migas is an incredibly delicious dish made from some of the most simple ingredients. It is made using stale bread, kind of like American stuffing. It is then fried with garlic, green pepper, and local sausages. This is probably one of the most common tapas to eat in Granada, so you won’t need to track it down.
We first tried cazon in Seville, and it quickly became one of my favorite Seville tapas. Cazon is marinated and deep-fried whitefish, normally dogfish. At its very basic, they could be described as fish nuggets, but are oh so much more than that. The fish is tender and juicy, the breading light. They are the perfect accompaniment to an ice cold beer in Granada. We had cazon at Los Diamantes, which was good, and at Bar Casa Julio, which were sublime.
Habas con Jamon
Habas are Spanish broad beans, stewed with jamon. Yes, the Spanish put ham in everything. The dish is flavored with garlic, onion, and olive oil. It’s not a good looking dish, but it is pretty tasty. Although a friend we were traveling with did not appreciate the flavor, it grew on me for sure. Try habas con jamon at Bar Espadafor.
Rabo de Toro
Rabo de toro is oxtail, which when cooked well is fabulous. Rich and tender. It can be served as a stew or deep friend in croquettas. In Granada, the best oxtail we ate was at Los Manueles, which serves a pimientos rellenos con rabo de toro, or red peppers stuffed with oxtail. This is a great example of a racion that we purchased because it looked so darn good. It cost about €8, was a giant plate, and was well worth it.
Boquerones and Pescaitos Fritos
If you love fried fish, Granada is the place for you. In addition to the cazon, you can find all sorts of fried fish at fish fry tapas bars or take away stalls. Look for boquerones (fried sardines), choco (small squids), and bacalao (cod). Try the fried fish at Los Diamantes, which is well known for its fish.
I’ve eaten snails before, on occasion. Mostly escargot. But, since moving to Girona, I’ve eaten a lot of snails, or caracoles. I simply love them. Not only are they fun to eat (pick out the snail with a toothpick) but it’s all about the sauce. We tried the caracoles at Bar Casa Julio. The snails were amazing. I asked the grandson of the owner what was in their sauce, and he replied: “it’s a secret.” Minimally it includes a mix of red pepper, black pepper, garlic, and almonds, and something secret that made them zing. If you’ve never tried snails before, go for it! It’s a small investment and totally worth it.
Jamon de Trevelez
The best ham in the world comes from a few of the regions in Andalusia, and that includes the village of Trevelez in the Alpujarras mountains. Unlike pata negra, which is a black-footed pig, this jamon comes from a white hooved pig. It’s a must-eat in Granada.
Other Tapas to Track Down in Granada
We simply ran out of time, and stomach capacity, to track down everything we wanted to eat in Granada. This was, in part, because we just enjoyed the free tapas that kept on coming. Here are some other recommendations for dishes to track down while hopping around the best bars in Granada.
If you can, and you are adventurous, look for a tortilla sacromonte, an Andalusian specialty tortilla made with eggs, potatoes, and mutton brains. If visiting in the summer (we were there in the fall), try Remojon Granaino. Remojon Granaino is a salad made with bacalao (a salted codfish), olives, and Andalusian oranges. Also, there are some great pastries available, many of which are influenced by the Arabs. Try piononos, a sponge cake topped with cream.
Where To Eat In Granada Spain
We did a lot of research on the best tapas in Granada Spain and where to find them. And, we ate at a lot of places. Our list is slightly on the small side for a few reasons. One, we did visit a few misses, and I am not including those. Second, some of the Granada tapas bars we visited and liked we returned to multiple times during our stay in Granada. We couldn’t help ourselves. In the end, this is our list.
One note, open times and days in Spain are flexible. Places open late. They close on strange days. If you have a list of must-visit places in Granada, try to hit them first just in case. I did find that there were a good number of tapas bars in Granada that were open all day, which is great.
Get More Tapas Bar Recommendations – Top Tripadvisor Granada Restaurants
Bodegas Castenada Granada
Bodegas Castenada seems to be on everyone’s list of best tapas bars in Granada. It’s busy, noisy, and cheap. It’s the perfect place to start a night out in Granada. Order a beer, wine, or a vermouth cocktail and just get a feel for the place. Take your time and observe. It’s one of the oldest bars in Granada and popular with locals and tourists alike. I don’t recommend it for the food, it’s really just the atmosphere and the history. That said, it remains one of the most famous restaurants in Granada Spain.
Bodegas Castenada is located at Calle Almireceros 1-3. It is open all day, every day making it an easy place for travelers to visit for their first stop. If you order vermouth, be prepared for a vermouth cocktail, which is made with sweet liquor. If you are used to vermouth, it’s an adjustment.
Los Manueles Granada
We returned to Los Manueles multiple times during our visit. It was our first stop and one of our last stops as well. The food was good. The quality of free tapas was also decent. It was even better when it wasn’t Saturday There was one server with loads of character who made the experience entirely unique. At one point we did not quite finish our dish and he tried to feed me the last bits of rice from my plate! It’s consistent and fun.
Los Manueles is at Calle Reyes Católicos, 61, with a corner location and some outdoor seating. They are also open all day every day, which is how we found them. They were open when we arrived right off the train, and we were starved! Try the pimentos rellenos con rabo de toro, oxtail stuffed red peppers. Yum.
Los Diamantes Granada
This has to be one of the best places to eat in Granada if you love fish and seafood. There also is an electric atmosphere. They have a couple of locations in the city. If sitting at a table, it is assumed that a patron will order tapas. For free tapas, stay standing at the bar. Los Diamantes offers, probably, some of the best free tapas in Granada. Normally a first tapa is cazon, the marinated and deep-fried fish. During our first visit, I made Eric order another beer just to see the next tapa, and we received a plate of choco (small fried squids) and a large prawn. On another visit, our second tapas was a large plate of prawns. A really great deal.
Los Diamantes is located at Calle Navas 28 and Plaza Nueva 13. At their original location on Calle Navas, we scored a spot at the bar at the back, just in front of the kitchen. We got to watch all the action. Boquerones and calamari were flying from the window, it was mesmerizing. The location at Plaza Nueva is also one of the restaurants near the Alhambra, at least near the street that leads to it. A great option for travelers coming to Granada to visit the Alhambra. The Plaza Nueva location is open all day whereas the Calle Navas location is open for lunch and dinner.
Bar Casa Julio
We have a vermouth bar in Girona that we love, that’s never open. We tell travelers that if you walk by and they are open to stop in. You don’t know when you will get another chance. I heard the same about Bar Casa Julio. We saw it was open and we were the first inside. At first, we were all alone. Ten minutes later, the place was packed. Deservedly so. Try the snails, or caracoles, and be sure to sop up the sauce with the fresh bread they provide. Yum.
Bar Casa Julio is on Calle Hermosa 5, down a little alley. It’s a bit hidden. They are open for lunch and dinner most days but because it is family-owned they tend to be a little less reliable on opening times.
Bar Espadafor Granada
This is a traditional tapas bar, loaded with locals. It’s a little off the typical tapas trail, up Gran Via. They opened in 1910 so it exudes history. It’s so old the floor is so warped in the back I thought I was drunk already (it was our first stop). Sit in the back to watch the chefs at work. They are known for their habas con jamon.
Bar Espadafor is at Calle Tinajilla on Gran Via. They are open for lunch six days a week and dinner on Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.
Other Recommended Tapas Bars in Granada Spain
When in doubt, there are two primary neighborhoods to visit when looking for a tapas bar in Granada. The area near the Cathedral, in Granada Old Town, on the east side of Gran Via is a prime spot for tapas. It might seem a bit touristy, but there are loads of locals there too. Also, check out the spots in Realejo, including the strip of restaurants on Calle Navas.
We also tried a couple of other highly-recommended spots. We visited Restaurante Oliver on Plaza Pescaderia 12. We met friends there who we hadn’t seen in a while and ordered several rounds of drinks and received one plate of rice. I am sure they knew we were tourists even with my Spanish-speaking skills. I felt a little cheated and would not recommend other tourists visit. We also visited Restaurante Gastrobar Sibarius on Plaza de Bib-Rambla 20. It’s a little more contemporary and a nice atmosphere, with Asian fusion cuisine. We also heard good things about La Trastienda on Plaza de Cuchilleros, but we didn’t get a chance to visit. Supposedly you need to sneak under the bar to get to the back room. If you try it, share a photo!
For drinks, try Taberna la Tana on Calle Rosario for one of the most extensive collections of local and Spanish wines. They also carry local Granada beers. For gin and tonics, La Gintoneria Granada on Calle Escudo del Carmen 11. They offer a great selection of local and international gins. Try the Bruny Collin’s gin, which is made in Granada.
San Agustin Food Market Granada Spain
I love visiting local markets when traveling. Well, we also shop regularly at our local food market in Girona too. It’s always a good idea to stop in and walk around. It is a great way to see how the locals shop. In Granada, I would recommend hitting the local market near the Cathedral, Mercado San Augustin. There are a handful of stalls selling prepared foods as well. It’s a great first stop on a tapas tour of Granada. Check out La Picateria in one corner of the market. You can order all sorts of tasty cold tapas and they will deliver it to the bar next door. We enjoyed some nice vermouth along with red peppers stuffed with goat cheese – one of my favorites. The bar also serves sandwiches and other small tapas. A real treat.
How to Learn More About Typical Spanish Food
While traveling through Andalusia, I read Matt Goulding’s Grape, Olive, Pig, which is a great compendium about food and travel in Spain. It covers not only Andalusia, but Catalonia, the Basque Country, Asturias, and more. It’s a great way to learn more about Spanish cuisine.
As soon as I returned home, I vowed to spend more time learning how to COOK Spanish food. So, I bought Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain. The book includes the history of the regional cuisine of Spain as well as hundreds of traditional recipes from all over the country. The book is simply lovely too, with pretty photos and illustrations. I enjoy reading about food while sipping Spanish wine, and yes, actually making some of the recipes too.
FAQs – Granada Travel Tips
- Where is Granada Spain? Granada is a mountainous city in the center of Andalusia, in Southern Spain. It is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Due to its mountainous surroundings, it’s not as warm in the winter as the rest of Southern Spain – be prepared for cold.
- How do I get to Granada Spain? The easiest way to get to Granada is to drive, but parking can be tricky in the city. There is a Granada train station that traditionally had links to Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, and beyond. Currently, the Spanish government is conducting massive railway improvements on the route leading into Granada. As a result, you can train from any of these cities to Antequera, but the last stretch is finished by bus. The train and bus combination is purchased on one ticket from the Renfe website, but it means that the journey is longer than anticipated. Some journeys involve a “layover” in the Antequera train station, which is isolated. There is, though, a snack bar in the train station.
- What are some of the top Granada Spain Attractions? People flood into Granada, particularly on day trips, to visit the Alhambra, one of the most famous attractions in all of Spain. Check out more of the top attractions in Granada Spain here.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.