1. Visiting an arrocería in Valencia to find out what real paella tastes like
One of the biggest misconceptions tourists have when they visit Spain is that they can eat paella anywhere. Many restaurants will try to make them think they’re right by adding this famous Spanish dish to their menus. But the reality is a bit more complicated — ask anyone from
Where should you go to taste the real thing? Anywhere in Valencia, really, but it’s worth visiting one of the many “arrocerías” — restaurants specializing in rice dishes — in the city. You’ll find the best ones in the El Palmar area, on the outskirts of town and surrounded by rice fields. Bonaire has one of the best paellas in Spain, but you’ll also be happy at Pasqualet or La Cambra dels Sentits. In the city center, Casa Roberto is the place to be, where you’ll find no shortage of paella with snails, veggies, or (and!) artichokes.
2. Learning to drink cider in Asturias
Do you really know how to drink — and, more importantly, serve — cider? Does it involve having your hands as far apart from each other as humanly possible when pouring it from the bottle to the glass? If you just answered “what?”, then
You’ll see expert escanciadores (people who can serve cider without spilling it on the ground) in most Asturian restaurants, but look for those with the “Sidrería Excepcional” certificate to make sure you get the whole experience. Some of the best sidrerías and llagares are Casa Gervasio in Oviedo, La Marina or Casa Fede in Gijón, and La Torre in Villaviciosa. If you want to learn a bit more, go to the Cider Museum in Nava.
And don’t worry, you won’t be hungry — all of these places offer enormous Asturian traditional dishes to fill your stomach. Are you up for a challenge? Order cachopo. Thank me later.
3. Warming your body with a good cocido in Madrid
Cocido (literally meaning “boiled”) is a traditional dish in many regions of Spain, each with its own special characteristics. The one from
Restaurante Charolés, in San Lorenzo del Escorial, is the place cocido enthusiasts flock to at the start of winter. If you’re looking for some literary inspiration, go to Casa Lhardy, open since 1839 and mentioned in the works of countless Spanish writers.
4. Tasting for yourself what Spain’s current culinary enfant terrible has to offer
Close your eyes and picture a renowned chef — a three-star Michelin chef whose restaurant has a month- or year-long wait list. Chances are you’re imagining someone who looks nothing like David Muñoz. He’s young, has multiple piercings, sports a mohawk, and is hugely in demand in Madrid. You could try and get a table at
What will you eat? On his website, he defines the three menu options as “unique cuisine marked by intense sensations and raw creativity.” Expect a fusion of Spanish, French, Italian, and Asian cuisine, and to be shocked, surprised, and delighted all at the same time.
5. Eating tortillas everywhere until you’re able to discuss them artistically
The first step to truly understanding the tortilla is learning that
You might have it served as a small tapa (you can order a portion or share one with friends) at a bar, and if you’re lucky you’ll be invited to have one at someone’s home. You’ll quickly become an expert and notice the slight differences: with or without onion? Should the eggs be cooked or still liquid? Being able to join a discussion about the best way to cook tortillas is the closest you’ll get to actually becoming a Spaniard.
6. Exploring at least one of the many wine routes you’ll find across the country
You might already be familiar with wines from Rioja or Ribera del Duero, but did you know we have a total of 70 different Denominaciones de Origen (DO), our regulatory classification system of wine? Spain was the world’s biggest wine exporter in 2014 and is one of the world’s largest producers, which means you’ll find vineyards and wineries all across the country.
The Spanish Association of Wine-Producing Towns and Cities (ACEVIN) has created
7. Going bar crawling for pintxos — haute cuisine in miniature
You’ll need to be in the Basque Country or Navarra for the real experience, but let’s start with the basics: Pintxos are a bit like tapas, but smaller. Traditionally, they consisted of a slice of bread with some food on it, and everything was fastened together with a toothpick. Legend has it the barman used to calculate the customer’s bill by counting the toothpicks on their plate, but most people from the Basque Country will tell you this “basque” tradition is basically made up — though some tourist bars do it, of course. The part that’s definitely true? Pintxos are delicious!
8. Having a gazpacho with a clara on a terrace by the sea
This is the ultimate Mediterranean experience, what we all dream of during winter when we yearn for summer. The sun, the sea, a cold clara (beer with soda), and our cold tomato and cucumber soup. Gazpacho is typical of
9. Wondering if the pepper you’re about to eat will be hot or not in Galicia
The saying goes, “Pimientos de Padrón, some are hot, some are not,” and once you taste these fried little
Of course, you’ll never just be eating peppers. On your table will be other tapas — empanada, octopus, maybe croquetas, and definitely some Galician bread to dip in the olive oil left on your plate. Try this combo anywhere in Santiago de Compostela’s old town; if you want to avoid the touristy Franco Street, try Restaurante Rey, El Central, or, if you can find it, Entre Rúas. For massive (and free) tapas to accompany your beer or wine, you’ll be happy in Lugo — explore its medieval center within the Roman wall, most notably Rúa da Cruz, Rúa Nova, and Praza do Campo.
10. Being a part of the super-chic dining scene in Barcelona
Everybody knows it:
And while you’re at it, why not become one of those stylish people dining at Barcelona’s finest? Check out El 300 del Born — it’s inside an old market building and is a hipster favorite, serving traditional Catalan dishes with a modern treatment. Or try the Japanese restaurant Kibuka in Gràcia, or the Olimpic Bar in El Raval, which has new, young owners and a new attitude to match.
11. Becoming an Iberian ham expert after tracing the Ruta del Jamón in Badajoz
There are several different “ham routes” in Spain, but the
Rent a car and explore the province of Badajoz — drive through the “dehesa,” stop to look at the pigs foraging happily for acorns, check out the Iberian Pig Visitor Center in Higuera La Real (and the Iberian Ham Museum in Monasterio), and, of course, stroll around the small villages you’ll find along the way and eat lots of ham. Fregenal de la Sierra is said to have the best Iberian Ham in the area, and Bar Nito is where you’ll find the locals.