how to eat and drink like a local

<span>“Gran Vía could easily take its place next to Fifth Avenue in scale and elegance.”  </span><span>Photo: Sean Pavone/Alamy</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 72b002f57ef” data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 02f57ef”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=“Gran Vía could easily take its place next to Fifth Avenue in scale and elegance.” Photo: Sean Pavone/Alamy

Freshly baked churros, golden brown and crispy; a cup of velvety hot chocolate on the side; circles of eggplant striped from baking sheet; mushrooms silky smooth with chorizo; a tangle of potatoes smothered in spicy sauce; handmade chips, crispy and salty; strips of jamón serrano; plump Nocera olives; and crumbly, spicy morcilla… By the end of our first day in Madrid, my sister Penny and I had eaten all of these things. A tad indulgent perhaps, but when you’re staying in a city that runs on its stomach, it seems rude not to go with the flow.

Madrileños are known for eating late, especially since dinner is the last of five meals at mid-evening

Madrileños are known for eating late, especially as mid-evening dinner is the last of five meals, starting with a light breakfast – often coffee and a pastry to go, before an early lunch snack (almuerzo), a full lunch, usually between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM (comida), then coffee and pastries (merienda) and finally dinner. Once you understand this, Madrid really starts to make sense: a city of centuries-old pasticcerias, hole-in-the-wall tapas bars, neighborhood markets and dimly lit bodegas, all packed with diners. There is always someone eating somewhere. During our visit it was mostly us.

It starts well with the discovery that Los Artesanos in 1902 ( – perhaps the most beloved in the city churreria – is just around the corner from our hotel. History and tradition are a big part of Madrid’s culinary culture, with many eateries run by the same family for generations. The churros we devour – dipped in rich chocolate the color of mahogany – are made by the grandsons of the original owner; they are baked to perfection and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Everyone around us, from groups of teenagers to older couples, eats and drinks exactly the same.

Restaurants specializing in one dish are common in the city, from chorizo-stuffed mushrooms at Mesón del Champiñón (, to finger sear shells of prawns al ajillo at La Casa del Abuelo ( – another Madrid institution, owned by the same family since 1906. Evening gatherings are usually pleasant walks between bars, each selected for a particular dish. We learn all this during a four-hour Devour Madrid food tour ( that wraps 2,000 years of Spanish history around four tapas stops, fueled by tinto de verano – the city’s simplified version of sangria, red wine topped with a mild lemonade (unusual, but strangely drinkable).

I’m not always sure about foodie tours – you end up eating a special selection of things – but this was a winner. Our guide, Ana, led us through Moorish skirmishes, Habsburg rule and the harsh realities of Franco-era Spain, leaving us with a full stomach, a new appreciation for Spain’s volatile past and the strong impression that the city, Although the city has a pioneering culinary scene (currently it has 26 Michelin star restaurants), it is in the markets, bodegas and tapas bars where you really eat like a local.

The churros – dipped in chocolate the color of mahogany – are baked to perfection and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon

With this in mind we set out the next morning to explore the city. Madrid is a sprawling capital; Gran Vía could easily take its place next to Fifth Avenue in scale and elegance, while Retiro Park unfolds around the expansive colonnade of the Monument to Alfonso XII – a spectacular backdrop to the glittering lake. It’s too cold for the boats to sail, but warm enough to sit with a thimbleful of thick black coffee while we look through the maps and decide which market to visit for lunch.

We settle at the Mercado de San Fernando ( in the trendy Lavapies district. Every neighborhood has a market; the most famous, the Mercado de San Miguel, now attracts more visitors than the Prado Gallery. San Fernando is more under the radar; a nondescript building with a rickety maze of market stalls selling everything from meat and cheese to books and electrical appliances. We nestle among the patchwork of microbreweries and food stalls in El Colmado, where enormous empanadas the size of A4 notebooks line the counter, ready to be cut into pieces and heated up. I go for bacon and chorizo, the light, buttery pastry delicious with the spicy meat, and wash it down with a cana, the sensible little beer of the city, served in 200ml glasses. Later, as we walk back to the hotel, we duck into the Mercado de San Miguel, but it feels a bit like the dining room at Selfridges and we don’t stop.

In between meals we find time to see some of the city’s fantastic art, opting for the more manageable Thyssen-Bornemisza instead of the gargantuan Prado – one of the most extraordinary private collections in the world, with works from everyone, from Titian and Tintoretto to Warhol and Pollock. But the real joy is the Sorolla Museum, the former home and beautiful garden of Joaquín Sorolla, which is largely preserved as it was when he lived there and is filled with dozens of his works. The paintings are as much a lesson in Spanish history as in art; he was commissioned by several organizations, including the Hispanic Society of America, to travel the country and paint everywhere from Andalusia to the Valencian coast, providing insight into rural life in the late 1800s and the beginning of the 20th century.

From the museum we walk to the leafy Salamanca district, famous for its designer boutiques and luxury restaurants, for our final lunch. Even here you can discover a market: Mercado de la Paz (, although every seat is occupied at the bar counters located between the food stalls. Instead we grab an outdoor table at Jurucha (, a simple tapas bar serving a few cañas and a selection of croquetas And pinchos au gratin (baguettes topped with béchamel sauce and melted cheese) costs less than €20.

At the end of our stay we realize that, despite our best efforts, we have barely scratched the surface of this most food-rich city. We haven’t tried it el cocidothe city’s iconic stew, where the broth is served first and the stewed meat and vegetables as the main course, or huevos rotos, fried eggs served on fries and ham. But luckily that can only mean one thing. We’ll have to go back for a second helping.

A five-night stay, including hotels and travel by Eurostar and train via Barcelona, ​​plus a food and drink tasting tour of Madrid, starts from £1,486 per person with Kirker Holidays (

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