Tapas is traditionally considered a small snack or starter that people would eat in bars alongside beer or sangria before their dinner or lunch. As Spainards eat later than most other European countries – around 9 or 10 pm, this meant there was more time to have snacks throughout the day before the meal.
There are many tales of its beginning, one stems from the 13th century, under King Alfonso X ‘The Wise’. He was prescribed a large quantity of wine whilst recovering from an illness and ate small portions of food to diminish the effects of alcohol. The method proved successful and he insisted that every household should serve a small portion of food alongside the drink to prevent public drunkenness.
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Another tale is that bartenders would cover their customers’ drinks with a slice of bread, ham or cheese to prevent dust and bugs getting to them. Although the tradition is to eat small, today, it is more popular for diners to have an entire meal of different tapas for lunch or dinner, sharing amongst a group of friends or family. Tapas is a social event and can be in more than just one bar or restaurant, with many people ‘going for tapas’ and sampling food and drinks from several different places in one night.
Located in the heart of the Carmen neighbourhood, is Tasca el botijo, a humble tapas bar open from morning to late. Only open on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, here is the perfect place for a mid-week lunch, catching up with friends over tapas and drinks. There is a nice patio to sit in, where you can soak in the afternoon sun whilst enjoying the wide selection of plates on offer. An easy-going local spot, you will always find groups chatting and laughing over tapas here.
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Another local star: La Bodeguita de Juan Llorens, gained its popularity from its warm atmosphere and great serviceLa Bodeguita is the perfect place to go after a morning exploring the churches and plazas nearby. They also have a terrace for their customers to sit in the sun whilst they enjoy their drinks and tapas. A reliable and affordable spot, with many different hot and cold options!
If you are looking for the most traditional restaurant, look no further than Casa Montaña, a charming tavern founded in 1836 offering refined tapas, tasting menus and a vast wine selection. Their wine cellar boasts a total of some 20,000 bottles, including a fair selection of Valencian wines. So if you are into wine pairing this would be the perfect place for you to sample. At Casa Montaña, they prize quality ingredients above all else, using locally caught squid and farmed vegetables. Located in the Cabanyal, this tavern is ideal for lunch after the beach.
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Another tapas bar in the heart of the city is: Central Bar, located near the mercat de central. First and foremost, the atmosphere at Central Bar is inviting and lively, the interior design is modern and chic, with a clever blend of industrial and rustic elements. The lighting is warm and sets a relaxed mood, making it an ideal spot for both casual gatherings and special occasions. The bar itself is well-stocked with an impressive array of spirits, wines, and craft beers, ensuring that there is something for everyone.
The service at Central Bar is top-notch; the staff members are friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive, adding a personal touch to the overall experience. They are always ready to provide recommendations or answer any questions, making sure you feel comfortable and well taken care of throughout your visit. Central Bar offers a tantalising menu that showcases the best of Mediterranean and international cuisine. From tapas to larger plates, the dishes are expertly prepared with fresh, high-quality ingredients. The flavours are bold, and the presentation is elegant, truly pleasing both the palate and the eyes.
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Last but not least, Bar La Pilareta, is a true culinary treasure that showcases the essence of traditional Spanish tapas in an authentic and vibrant atmosphere. This historic bar has been serving locals and visitors for over a century, and it continues to impress with its delightful tapas and warm hospitality. As you step into Bar La Pilareta, you are instantly greeted by the bustling ambiance and the aroma of mouthwatering tapas. The interior exudes a charming rustic charm, with wooden beams, tiled walls, and barrels lining the bar.
It’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and allows you to immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the region. The portions are generous, allowing you to sample a variety of flavours and textures. Each tapa is prepared with the freshest ingredients, ensuring a burst of flavour with every bite. One of the highlights of Bar La Pilareta is their renowned specialty, the famous “Espardenya” (sea cucumber). This delicacy is a must-try for adventurous eaters, and the way it’s prepared at this bar is simply exceptional. The Espardenya is cooked to perfection, tender and flavorful, and it showcases the expertise and culinary heritage of the establishment.