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The history of Spanish tapas

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

If there is one aspect we all know about Spain… it’s the culinary tradition called ‘tapas’. Of course, nowadays you will find possibilities to enjoy tapas in bars and restaurants around the globe, but… no one will be surprised that the best tapas still can be found in their homecountry: Spain.


Nothing is more satisfying than enjoying a good wine and tapa under the Spanish sun. Who invented tapas, why are they actually called tapas and what is the best place to eat them?



June Verwijs reports…:


Many explanations can be found about the origin of tapas and Andalusia is known as the best place to eat them. How big is a tapa and what can be called a tapa and what not? One of the most important clues to give an answer to that is to understand the word itself.


The word ‘tapa’ means ‘lid’ and comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapear’, which means ‘to cover’. Cover what? Cover your glass to keep flies and dust away! Well, we would say: a delicious tapa on top of your glass isn’t particularly something to keep flies away. To us it sounds more like an invitation for the fly to invite all of his fly- buddies. But, still this theory is one which many people do believe.



Or is it true that fieldworkers in the past only had short lunch breaks in which they could not eat more than something small and easy to made? We find this theory highly unlikely. Since Spanish people love to stick to traditions… when exactly would have been the transition from short breaks and easy food to ‘having a break and siesta from at least 2 to 5 pm and enjoy a typical Spanish- more than extensive- lunch with friends or family?


What about the theory of King Alfonso X’ the Wise’ (13th century)? The king, who was prescribed a large quantity of wine to recover from an illness (where can we find a doctor like he had), ate small food portions to diminish the alcohol effects. In this way he could stick to the advise of his doctor and consume his prescribed daily amount of wine. We say: ‘Hail to the king, let’s get involved in his Majesty’s wisdom. We will follow up his advice until further notice!


In Spain tapas vary greatly between regions… In Granada and the regions around Malaga and Almeria; tapas are served for free when you order a drink. In Valencia this is unfortunately not the case, although… if you are a regular customer of course some owners will do their upmost to give you a bit extra!



Common types of tapa are cured meats like jamon iberico or chorizo, Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet), Patatas Bravas (potatoes with sauce), meatballs in tomato sauce, olives or Morcilla (black pudding). In fact, everything can be a tapa.


In Ciutat Vella, the old centre of Valencia one can find some nice tapas restaurants. The best are of course, those where the locals go to. Or... find you way to another area, like Canovas, Rusafa, or Mestalla. In these area's many restaurants and little gems can be found. So many that it will be impossible to visit them all.




As eating and drinking is a way of living for the Valencians, we advice you to always make a reservation.

Get Involved... Life is so endlessly delicious!



Photos: June Verwijs









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