If I had to create a top 10 list of things I love about traveling, food tours would be high up there! Whenever I’m planning a trip, one of the first things I do is google the name of the city or town I’m visiting followed by “food tour” and hope and pray something good comes up!
One of my first food tours in Europe was with Devour Spain in Madrid where I enjoyed their Huertas Neighborhood Food & Market tour. You can read my full review here. I loved it so much that I went on one of their newest tours in Barcelona last year which I also wrote about here! Are you sensing a pattern? I’m a big fan of Devour Spain and found myself in Madrid again last October on their Tapas, Taverns, & History Tour!
I’ll be honest, this is their most expensive tour at 95 euros per person, while the others range between 65-75 euros. However, this is no ordinary tapas tour. They advertise this as two tours in one which is completely true since it lasts around 4.5 hours. You’ll spend the evening in Madrid exploring five beloved, family-run tapas taverns. Every stop includes alcohol and multiple dishes to share amongst friends, in true Spanish style!
My first tip: pace yourself. Or not. You’re on vacation so I guess anything goes! Be warned though, you might be tipsy after the first two stops. But let’s be honest, wandering around the famous Plaza Mayor at twilight a bit drunk isn’t the worst way to spend an evening in Madrid.
Devour Spain’s motto is to “taste Spain like a local” which they live up to very well. Rest assured, you won’t find yourself in any chain restaurants or tourist traps on these tours. While I don’t want to spoil every stop and dish on this tour, I will share with you two of my favorites!
You’ll find Taberna Real in Plaza Isabel II, a stone’s throw from Madrid’s opera house, Teatro Real. You can’t get more central or touristy than this location, however, Taberna Real is certainly a diamond in the rough. Way back in the 16th century, Taberna Real was used by the Royal Palace (only 400 meters away) as an out building for gastronomic tasks that the workers couldn’t do inside the Palace itself. Nowadays you can enjoys drinks and tapas in a charming environment…which allows you to throw your olive pits onto the floor when you’re finished! Who has time for trash cans?
We started off with a glass of vermouth, a very appropriate aperitif, before digging into plates of traditional Spanish tapas such as ham, olives (specifically Campo Real olives… so sweet!) potato chips, and tomato bread. Our fabulously energetic guide, Harriet, shared with us the history of tapas and her local knowledge of what to order in certain taverns. She said that authentic Spanish taverns will only specialize in one or two dishes, meaning you’ll get the best quality! In other words, a small menu is a good sign.
I’ve said it before in my previous food tour reviews, but a food tour is about more than just food. As we walked to each tavern, we passed by notable sights like the Royal Palace, Teatro Real, Plaza Mayor, to name a few, and Harriet would explain to us the history and significance of each place which is something I truly enjoyed. For example, I learned that the Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest functioning royal palace in Europe, with an astounding 2,800 rooms! Not too shabby.
Throughout our tour, I noticed these beautiful street signs painted on tiles. I asked Harriet about them and she said that they were painted all by one man in 1992 whose name escapes me. Google isn’t helping out either, but I trust Harriet! She also pointed out the zero kilometer plaque on the pavement in Puerta del Sol, which marks the center of Spain, however it’s more symbolic rather than being 100% accurate! She also shared stories of famous Spanish artists like Velázquez and Goya, and the tales of their missing bodies, or in some case, body parts!
At the end of our evening, I felt as if I learned more about Spanish history, food, and culture than I ever learned in my high school world history class, or even my Spanish classes! Maybe if they provided delicious Spanish tapas and drinks in school, I would’ve paid closer attention. But I digress, back to the food!
Another one of my favorite stops was Mesón del Champiñón where we were promised the best mushrooms in the world. Good news: they were the best mushrooms I have ever tasted, and I never really was a fan of mushrooms before! Bad news: All other mushrooms I’ll eat in the future will pale in comparison. Not only were the tapas spectacular (and my wine), but the cooks were hilariously friendly and the tavern felt cozy and oh-so-Spanish. I could’ve spent all night there but we had more drinks and food waiting for us in other wonderful taverns! Such a hard life, I know.
I really cannot recommend this tour enough, or any of the tours Devour Spain provides. You’ll find them in Madrid and Barcelona as I mentioned before, as well as Sevilla and Malaga soon. In my opinion, one of the best ways to learn about a new culture is through food and my stomach is always happy to keep learning!
What are your thoughts on food tours? Have you been on one before? I’d love to know in the comments below!
*Note: I did receive complimentary tickets for my Devour Spain Tour. Opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!