Late Night Tapas Culture in Spain

Tapas is the general name for small dishes of food. They can range from a bowl of almonds to a plate of seasoned mussels.

Tapas describes small dishes of food. They can range from a bowl of almonds to a plate of seasoned mussels.

The restaurant scene in Spain comes alive late in the evening when American chefs have already swept the floor and hung their hats. The daily siesta indicates that shops and business are closed until 5 pm while bars and restaurants stay closed until 8 pm. Contrary to popular opinion, Spain’s sleepy habit isn’t a commentary on the laid-back nature of its population, but a result of the country’s irregular time zone. The sun rises and sets later compared to countries in its region, so decades of Spanish citizens were forced to improvise.

Tapas, Explained

American tapas restaurants and tourist destinations in Barcelona describe the tapas experience as “small plates to be shared.” While tapas are indeed small plates of food, these restaurants defeat the spirit and purpose of the culture. Many of these establishments charge through the roof for tapas, but locals know that diners can typically receive small plates for no charge at all. Simply order a beer at a bar, and a waiter will bring you a small dish of anchoas en vinagre (pickled anchovies).

If you can’t manage to find tapas for free, a typical plate can cost around $3. Frugal traveler tip: Avoid ordering seafood, which can cost up to $15 per plate.

Other Names for Tapas Dishes

When traveling through Spain, it’s important to understand the difference between tapas and other forms of commonly served meals.

Tapas is the general name for small dishes of food. They can range from a bowl of almonds to a plate of seasoned mussels.

On a menu, you might find dishes marked as “raciones”. These are simply tapas, made for two. Perfect for the hungry traveler, raciones provide diners with more food to share with friends.

A concept that originates from the Basque region of Spain, Pinchos are mouth-sized tapas served on top of bread. Sometimes referred to as “Montaditos,” Pinchos are the perfect food to pair with wine or late night cocktails.

Lastly, platos combinados is the name given to a charcuterie board. Platos combinados offer a variety of meats, cheeses, and vegetables on one large plate, perfect for the indecisive tourist!

Visit Spain With AESU!

AESU offers unique, thrilling travel programs for college students and young professionals at affordable rates. Each trip is action-packed and informal—designed just for people your own age. We are also able to design custom tours just for your group.

AESU offers several trips to Spain, including: Euro Explorer and Continental. Explore Spain and its spectacular landscapes. Try a variety of authentic Spanish tapas and delicacies from all over the country!

If you have any questions or want help booking your Spain adventure, please contact AESU by calling 800-638-7640, or fill out the contact form found on our website!

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