Granada is not only a beautiful Andalusian city and home to the spectacular Alhambra: it is also considered the home of tapas. An intensive Spanish course in Granada is also the perfect opportunity to get to know this fantastic food tradition!
While you will get tapas just about everywhere when out in Granada for lunch and in the evening, there are a few recommendations which will make your experience better.
The concept of free food when ordering a drink in a bar can seem very strange. On my first trip to Granada I made a few mistakes that meant that I missed out on some of the tapas. Here are a few tips to help you to avoid making the same mistakes as me!
1. Don’t sit outside
We know, it is very difficult not to want to enjoy a balmy Spanish evening enjoying a drink outside on one of Granada’s beautiful squares. However, some (but not all) of the more touristy bars, particularly in the old town, only offer à la carte dining on their terraces. For the typical tapas you have to find a spot inside. Please, don’t be put off by the noise or the number of people. A busy, boisterous bar is a good sign that it’s a great tapas bar. Generally, if there’s standing room at the bar, it’s a tapas bar. If it’s tables only, you’re probably not in a tapas bar but in a restaurant. Be brave. Push yourself to the bar, order a drink in your best Spanish, and, as far as the tapas are concerned, the barman will do the rest.
2. Don’t go bar-hopping
Yes, this may seem like fun-stopping advice. Bar-hopping is a great way to get to know a few places, especially if you are on a short trip, to try and test as many tapas bars as possible over the course of the evening. But one tip would be not to do it all the time! The tapas in any bar can be seen like a set menu: each round of drinks corresponds to a “course” on the bar’s tapas menu. Often, the really good tapas only begin to arrive with your third or fourth drink, so you could miss out on the best tapas if you decide to change bars too early.
3. You’ll still get a tapas if you order a Coke!
Tapas used to be typically served with alcoholic drinks, so there was a time when ordering a Coke meant you missed out on the free snacks in Granada. Nowadays, however, this isn’t usually the case. Basically, the bars have their costs covered with the price of the drinks and these days their calculations apply to soft drinks as well as to the beers and wines.
4. Go to the busiest places
This is a simple rule that applies in most other cities too: the busy bars are full for a reason! Don’t be put off by the packed bodegas where it looks like it will be impossible to find a place. What happens a lot in Granada, especially in the warmer months, is that people tend to spill out onto the pavements with their drinks and tapas if the bars are full. You’ll still have to go inside to order, pay and hang around for your tapas before you take your drink outside with you. While you’re at the bar, take the time to admire the skills of the bar staff, who somehow manage to keep track of all the orders (and how many rounds each person has had) without a pen or paper in sight! And don’t forget: the Spanish don’t eat until late, so expect all of the bars to be fairly empty (except for the tourists…) until at least 8 pm.
5. Learn this one Spanish phrase
As we’ve mentioned, tapas bars are busy places and as good as the waiters are, they do sometimes forget to give you the tapas you are due with your drink. There may also be the odd waiter who tries it on with the tourists and doesn’t give them a tapas either. So if you find you are waiting too long for your delicious treat, while others are enjoying theirs, get the barman’s attention and politely say. “Falta aqui una tapa, no? Translated: “There’s a tapas missing here, no?” Don’t worry, you’re not being rude.
6. Don’t be put off by the decor
I’ve been in Granada with people who have said, “I’m not going in that bar - they have plastic table covers!” Believe me, this is no way to judge if a tapas bar is good or not. You will find bars with stainless steel bar tops, plastic chairs and tables and fluorescent tube lighting. You might find bars with absolutely nowhere to sit. There are bars in Granada that are dark. And there’s even a bar with a tabernacle and full of religious paraphernalia such as statues, holy pictures and rosary beads. In Granada, don’t judge a bar by its cover - you could end up missing out on some very special tapas.
If it’s your first time in Granada, the concept of tapas might be strange to get your head around. But after a couple of days, you will definitely get the hang of it. I quickly got into the routine when I did my Spanish course in Granada. The Spanish classes finished around 1pm so it was the perfect time for a tapas lunch and then set off to explore the amazing city. The food in Granada is one of the reasons why it’s our favourite place in Spain. So what are you waiting for?