For Spanish people, tapas are the most international element of Spanish cuisine. The combination of food and the chance to spend time with loved ones has made this little tradition an important part of Spanish culture.

Many stories surround the origins of Tapas, with different regions in Spain claiming that it originated there.

A popular tale states that tapas began in the 13th Century. When King Alfonso X was recovering from an illness, he could only eat and drink in small amounts. After recovering, he made a decree that all drinks should be served with something small to eat.

However, all areas can agree that tapas is an integral part of Spanish culture that brings people together. It combines delicious food and spending quality time with your friends and family into one. 

Elena Baeza Ruso, a Spanish native, said: “Tapas is basically our food. We eat it every day. This is the only part of the day when everyone in my house is together so it’s a time for us to really connect.”

It is still very much rooted in tradition and has become the social norm in Spain. It plays an important role in the social life of the country with it being made into a regular activity. Most people in Spain will now ‘go for tapas’.

This usually means that they will have a drink and tapa at one bar before moving on to another, making it their very own night out. It is almost like the equivalent of a bar crawl here in the UK.

So what is tapas?

It is small plates of food that are usually served with a drink. However, they are distinct from appetisers. It comes in wide varieties from hot to cold, meat to seafood and rice to sandwiches, there is a choice for everyone.  Common tapas food includes ‘tortilla de patatas’, ‘jamón serrano’ and even exotic caracoles (snail).

Jamón serrano
Tortilla de patatas

The most popular times to eat it are during the weekend from 1pm – 3pm and then from 8pm – 1am. 

Despite tapas, being common everywhere in Spain, it is important to acknowledge that it is completely different from region to region. 

Elena said: “Yes they’re completely different. In the North, that’s where you would most likely find seafood tapas and in the South, where tapas culture is big, you’ll find a little more variety like different types of montaditos and tortilla’

Tapas has become so popular that other countries have started to put their own twist on the classic tradition.