There are so many things to see and eat all over Spain, but these seven dishes in Madrid should top your list of things to do in Madrid and also your list of reasons to go in the first place.
1. A croissant at Oriol Balaguer
Forget about France, the best croissant I’ve ever had (and I’ve had my fair share) can be found in the Salamanca district of Madrid. Once you find the futuristic looking store you’ll be overwhelmed by the beautiful pastries and chocolates, but don’t get too distracted – you’re here for the croissant.
After eating this, no other croissant will measure up. The outside is sturdy and slightly sweet while the inside remains light and fluffy. The crisp exterior shocked my senses and the sweetness was a pleasant surprise. Basically, you need to taste this because I’m still dreaming about it a week later.
2. Churros con chocolate from Chocolatería San Ginés
This place is on everyone’s list for good reason. It’s open 24/7 because there is never a wrong time for some chocolate and fried dough. They serve both churros and porras (thicker strips of dough, a little too greasy for my taste) but the churros are the classic you cannot miss.
3. Calamari Roll at Lateral
Another classic bite from Madrid is a sandwich or bocadillo stuffed with fried calamari. Fried calamari is amazing on its own, now imagine it stuffed into a fluffy roll. Now stop imagining it and book your ticket to Madrid so you can eat one (this one specifically is from a funky tapas restaurant with multiple locations called Lateral but you can find them everywhere, including 100 Montaditos).
4. Paella at Arrocería Casa de Valencia
Okay, so paella is technically a classic dish of Valencia, but you can find it almost everywhere in Madrid. There are many versions, but seafood is a classic. Make sure you dig to the bottom of the paella pan for the socarrat: the magical crispy rice layer that forms during cooking. Devour Madrid recommends Arrocería Casa de Valencia for your fix, but if you can’t get to Spain you can always make your own at home.
5. Croquetas de Jamón at Mercado de San Miguel
Croquetas are fried cylinders of deliciousness, usually filled with ham and cheese. You can find delicious renditions of the classic combination all over the city, but be on the look out for versions filled with bacalao (salt cod), vegetables or chicken like the ones you can find at the Carro de Croquetas at Mercado de San Miguel (a worthy destination for more than just croquettes). They’re usually super hot on the inside so be careful not to burn your mouth.
6. Tortilla Española at Granja Malasaña
In Spain, a tortilla is a combination of eggs, potatoes and onions that more closely resembles a frittata than a tortilla you might get at a South American restaurant. Tortillas are often served cold inside a sandwich or atop a piece of toast but you can also find them warm and topped with things like jamón or vegetables (check out the Granja Malasaña stall, upstairs at Mercado de San Idelfonso for a variety of toppings, but bring a friend as the tortillas are large and a little pricey). After you try one you’ll want to make your own as soon as you get home.
7. Jamón y Queso at Every Tapas Bar
There are so many types of charcuterie (cured, smoked, dried or otherwise prepared meats like sausage and prosciutto) and Spain really excels in the department. Pricy jamón Iberico de bellota is definitely worth the splurge, but you can get your fix in smaller doses because jamón is used as a garnish or served along with cheese and fruit at most restaurants. This mixed plate is from Lamucca de Pez, part of a larger restaurant groups with spots all over the city.