I imagine what draws most people to Granada is a visit to the Alhambra, the stunning fortified palace sitting at the top of the city. However, what might make them stay a little longer is the proximity to the ski fields of the Sierra Nevada in winter and the nearby beaches in summer. The heart of the city itself is also worth a wander; there are mix of wide boulevards and narrow lanes where you can shop, marvel at the architecture, and of course, eat and drink. Unsurprisingly, the latter two are my favourite past-times whenever I find myself in Spain.
A certain someone and I have always had a soft spot for tapas, even back when we were in New Zealand, I remember gorging ourselves silly at this one place in Auckland… but I think we really fell in love with it when we visited our first Spanish city together – Barcelona. Everything we had previous to that just paled in comparison; this was the real deal and ever since then, we’ve been excited about all the food we’ve had in the country whether it’s been fine dining in Madrid, pintxos in San Sebastian or a food tour in Seville. I think the Spanish have a wonderfully civilised drinking culture where they usually serve some sort of nibble alongside their beer or wine.
Having a few drinks is a very social occasion here, and despite how affordable the drinks are, it’s a long way off the ‘drink to get drunk’ mentality I remember from New Zealand. Granada was no different, though it does have its own food and drink tradition that we haven’t yet come across anywhere else. In Granada, every drink you order comes with a free tapas, and I’m not talking just a couple of olives, these can be a little pintxos each or a small plate to share. We spent two nights hopping from bar to bar, stopping for a couple of drinks at each before ordering a bit more food at the end – as each glass of wine or beer is around €2.50 – €4, it’s a budget-friendly and wonderfully fun way to spend the evening! If you want to follow suit, here are a few suggestions for your own Granada tapas bar tour…
This English expat-run bar is popular with the tourist crowd and a good place to get your head around the tapas culture in Granada if you’re a little shy about your Spanish language skills. When you order your drink, you’re also provided a menu from which you can choose your own individual tapas; this is a little different to the usual custom of the bar providing whatever’s going at that moment. The dishes here are best described as fusion or with an international influence; not my usual cup of tea when in Spain but they’ve been smart in creating filling and tasty dishes which really make you feel like your money has gone a long way!
In stark contrast, this small bar looked to be a popular local haunt. We found the prices a little steeper than the other bars (I mean €3.50 instead of €3 so still cheap by UK standards) but the quality of the wine was also better too. I thought this general rule also extended to the tapas we received. For the first round of drinks we could choose one dish for the whole group, while for the second round we had two choices which is fairly accommodating considering they’re ‘free’. Our favourite of the three we tried were the ripe and creamy avocado halves filled with a mixture of smoked fish. Such a simple and delicious concoction, I’m not at all surprised that they are a Los Toneles speciality!
When we first arrived, we struggled to find a space at this tiny bar and almost considered leaving, but take my advice and stay; order a drink, be prepared to stand, and just enjoy the atmosphere. The crowds seemed to come in waves, but there was always a jovial yet sophisticated buzz which was reflected in the drinks and tapas. There was no choice in the accompanying tapas at Saint Germain, although we had absolutely no complaints about the paté we received, so much so we tried to order another portion… but alas, that was just the special for the evening. They do have a great range of other dishes on their menu so if you want to linger longer with something more substantial, this is a great place to do so.
This Granada stalwart was my favourite stop on our tapas bar crawl of the city. The tapas we received with our drinks weren’t as good as the other bars we visited but their main menu was worth sticking around for. We noticed some diners having a proper sit-down meal, something we might have considered if we hadn’t been grazing all evening and made this our final stop! Instead, we stuck to their tapas, many of which come served on thick slices of white bread, just like a less elaborate pintxos – my favourites were the boquerones and grilled pork. Bodegas Castañeda is much bigger and busier than the other bars we visited, but don’t let that put you off as the staff are seasoned professionals who work at lightning speed so you’ll be ordering and eating in no time!
So Make a Move…
- The bar etiquette seems to be that you get your drinks, wait for your tapas to be delivered to you, then pay when you’re ready to leave – the staff are impressively good at keeping a running total of your bill!
- If you are planning to visit the Alhambra, make sure you book your tickets well in advance as they only release a set number for each day and they tend to sell out quickly. We joined a tour which we would normally find a little tedious however it meant we were able to move through all the main parts within the Alhambra with ease and got more insight into the history and culture surrounding it.
- Bar Pöe, Calle Verónica de la Magdalena, 40, 18002 Granada
- Los Toneles, Calle Cristo de San Agustín, 14, 18001 Granada
- Saint Germain, Calle Postigo Velutti, 4, 18001 Granada
- Bodegas Castañeda, Calle Almireceros, 1-3, 18010 Granada
Have you been to Granada? Where were your favourite tapas bar in town?