Common Foods in Spain



David Thyberg, Leaf Group

(Photo: Antequera, Spain image by Peter Jarvis from )

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It is hard to overlook the gastronomical variety of Spain. There are many regional specialties throughout the country, but there are a number of foods that most Spaniards prepare. If you are in Spain, make sure to try these tasty dishes.


Originating in Valencia, paella is a rice dish prepared with seafood. Of all the foods in Spain, this is the most popular. In this dish, savory yellow rice is combined with tomatoes, onions, peas, shellfish, squid, clams and chicken drumsticks. These ingredients are cooked in a large saucepan over an open fire with olive oil and salt.


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Gazpacho originated in the southern region of Andalusia, and it is very popular in the warmer summer months. This cold tomato soup can be served in a bowl or in a glass. Ingredients include tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, oil and vinegar.

Spanish Omelet

The Spanish omelet, or tortilla española, is one of the most common dishes in this country. It is very simple to prepare, and most tapas bars and cafés serve variations on the classic recipe. This dish is made from potatoes, eggs and chopped onions and fried in a pan with oil and salt.

Jamon Serrano

Large slabs of cured pork can be found hanging from the ceilings of bars, restaurants and bodegas all over Spain. They are hung from the rafters to dry, giving off a delicious aroma of ham and spices. Traditionally, jamon Serrano is cut and served in thin slices with a baguette or a slice of toast.


This dessert is most commonly found in the northeastern Catalan region. It is a nougat confection made from sugar, honey and egg whites. Almonds are often chopped and added to the mixture. Spaniards often enjoy this treat around Christmas time.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.








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The Best Food to Eat in Spain


David Thyberg, Leaf Group

(Photo: paella image by monregard from )

Spanish cuisine has become increasingly popular in recent years. Regional specialties are not to be missed when traveling around the country. Located in southwestern Europe, this Iberian nation is situated along the Mediterranean Sea. Spaniards in the coastal region tend to use fresh seafood in their dishes, while the fertile soil in the south of Spain is perfect for growing juicy tomatoes and olives. Foods like gazpacho and paella are fairly well known, but other dishes fly under the radar. The following is a list of Spanish foods perfect for a four-course meal. You’ve got your soup, tapas, main entree and dessert.


Gazpacho is essentially a cold tomato soup. This food was originally made popular in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain. It makes a refreshing entree in the warmer summer months. Chefs combine diced tomatoes, chopped peppers, crushed garlic cloves, oil, vinegar and bread crumbs. To finish the soup, salt and vinegar are added to taste. Gazpacho is usually served with a side of croutons or bread rolls.

Tortilla de Patatas

One of the most common foods in Spain is la Tortilla de Patatas. This is basically a Spanish omelet. Made with diced potatoes, chopped onions and beaten eggs, this dish is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Many Spanish families will serve the Tortilla de Patatas for any given meal throughout the day. The ingredients are fried and mixed in a pan with olive oil and salt. Once the omelet starts to solidify, the heat it turned up and the chef gives it a disc-like form, similar to a Frisbee. You will find slices of this tortilla at just about every tapas bar in Spain.


No trip to Spain would be complete without a taste of Paella. This traditional Spanish rice dish originated in Valencia, a city along the Mediterranean Coast. Yellow rice is seasoned with saffron and a wide variety of meat and seafood is added. Most recipes include shrimp, calamari, clams and chicken drumsticks. Other variations use rabbit and pork. These ingredients are cooked in olive oil in a large metal saucepan over an open fire. The result is a delicious smoky taste.

Flan de Huevos

Wrap up your meal with some Spanish dessert. Flan de Huevos is a caramel custard. Eggs, milk, lemon rind and caramelized sugar are combined to make a sweet dessert food. The ingredients are cooked until they become golden brown, forming a caramelized custard. This custard is then covered and refrigerated until it is ready to be served with a dash of cinnamon on top for aesthetic appeal.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


9. Spanish Culture

Facts about Spain

  • The Kingdom of Spain is the second largest country in the EU
  • Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world
  • Spain has the fourth highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries
  • The Spanish love to chill out (siesta anyone?)
  • Nudity is legal in Spain
  • The United Nations predicts that Spain will be the world’s oldest country by 2050
  • Spain has 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Spain produces over half of the world’s olive oil
  • There’s no tooth fairy in Spain
  • You can enjoy a meal in the oldest restaurant in the world in Spain’s capital, Madrid
  • Spain is the country of fiestas, with hundreds of festivals taking place throughout the year

Language in Spain

The vast majority of Spanish population speaks Spanish, the national and official language of the country. There are a few languages spoken in certain regions of Spain such as Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranès.

In terms of foreign languages, English and French are the most commonly spoken languages.

10. Is Spain Safe?

Travelling through Spain is generally safe: there are no threats or serious dangers, but being such a touristy country, a large number of pickpockets are concentrated in the main cities. A few simple precautions will reduce the chances of falling victim to a pickpocket.

  • Extra care in crowded areas

We don’t need to tell you that you should be extra careful at outdoor bars, beaches or crowded streets, such as Las Ramblas de Barcelona. Don’t let anyone hug you if you don’t know them. Be cautious with those who approach you for directions. These people are magicians in the art of pick pocketing. But don’t walk with fear either. It’s a spectacular city with very friendly people who may want to genuinely help you. Just be smart.

  • Secure your belongings

Be vigilant at transport hubs like train stations. In the subway coaches of the main cities, there can be up to a hundred thieves. They are very discreet and it is very difficult to identify them or catch them red handed. That’s why it’s best to take a series of precautions: wear backpacks on the front or put them on the floor where you can see them. Don’t leave anything valuable in your back pockets.

  • The most common scams

Madrid and Barcelona are the city with the largest number of scams, but only in the very touristic areas. In the city centre, you should be aware of this type of scam:

Fake petitions: You can be approached by a lady or by young people to sign a fake petition for a good cause, but most likely they will be trying to distract you while their accomplices pick your pockets.

Map Directions: asking for directions on a map is another technique to empty your pockets. Don’t make a fool of yourself and leave your precious phone on a table while you’re sitting outside. They will place the map right on top of your phone and they just need a second to make it disappear.

Lucky rosemary: The technique is to offer a sprig of rosemary for good luck with apparently no cost, but then they will try to read in your hand your good fortune and charge you up to 10 euros for it. Believe us, there are cases of people running into an ATM with these ladies to avoid a curse from them.

Fake beggar: less common than the ones above, but you might find a very well dressed man asking for money because he just has been robbed and just happened to be near the tourist attraction you’re visiting. A good idea is to offer your help saying you can call the police to report it and the scammer’s reaction will tell it all.

  • What about terrorism?

It is true that in 2017 a van rammed into a crowd in the heart of Barcelona and chaos took over the country but, in reality, Spain has no greater risk of terrorism than any other European city. Moreover, due to these recent events in Europe, security measures have been reinforced, as well as border control becoming stricter with entering and exiting. There’s nothing to worry about!

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba @gscenes

11. Spain Travel Tips

Recommended by Silvia

Eat, sleep, drink like a local

Breakfast is usually from 8am to 10am. But there are food chains serving breakfast deals until 12 pm or 1 pm (like 100 Montaditos, Rodilla, Vips). Lunch in restaurants will start from 1pm to 3.30pm. It is very rare to find someone eating before 1.00 pm, but not strange to see people seating after 3.30 pm.

Dinner is served from 8:30pm to 11pm. Of course you can find dinner at an earlier time in the most touristic areas (and many establishments have continuous service throughout the day) but don’t expect to find any Spanish people sharing their raciones at 7.00 pm!

We’re sure you are quite familiar with siesta. So, don’t be alarmed if you want to go to a particular shop between 2 and 5 pm and find it closed. That is because the owners are taking a siesta! But don’t worry, this is more likely to happen in small villages, and not in supermarkets or fashion chains in the city centre.

Nightlife in Spain is taken very seriously, especially from Thursday to Sunday. Pubs, cocktail bars and nightclubs usually remain open until 3 or 4 am and in large cities, they dance until dawn.

Feed yourself with free Tapas

The small amounts of food that are served in the bars to accompany the drink are popularly known as tapas. You can save money by going for lunch/dinner to places where the tapa is included with the price of a drink. They are very popular in Andalusia, but it is also common to find them in other cities such as Madrid.

Useful apps

Although Uber exists in Spain, the locals use Cabify because it’s cheaper (also, free bottles of water included!) You can find some discounts online for your first ride. Or check the ads at the airport for more info!

The original Spanish app Fever and very well known around the world, is very convenient to find something suitable to go out and with reasonable prices: restaurants, discos, festivals, cinemas, museums… locals of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Bilbao, Valencia use it.

Meetup is also used to find people with your same interests. Options are as varied as the cities. Visiting Granada on a solo trip? You will find different groups there: Tapas, Walking Granada, Hike, Chat or Discover Andalucía… make some good amigos!!

Avoid tourists traps

Tourist traps in Spain are usually easy to spot, but here are some of our “favourites”.

Plaza Mayor (Madrid): Don’t sit in one of their tables for a coffee, you will only enjoy an overpriced drink while hearing non traditional music (Do we really need to tell you those mariachis are not typicallu Spanish?)

Try instead: Bocadillo de calamares. Plaza Mayor is best known for its many spots of calamari sandwiches. Even if you have to queue, they’re worth the wait. Pick one up and find a free spot to admire the beautifully decorated buildings.

Cave flamenco shows (Granada): Many of Granada’s flamenco tablaos are located in the old gypsy district of Sacromonte, up in the hills. The caves are thought to have been excavated by Jews and Moors, making them a huge part of history. Trouble is, the drinks are expensive, the music medioce and the middle-aged audience is not so fun.

Try instead: Peña La Platería, the oldest flamenco club in Spain, with shows every Thursday night.

Mercado de La Boqueria (Barcelona): It was once the best market in Barcelona. Boasting that it was the number one market for exotic fruits, the freshest fish and seafood and the wildest assortment of mushrooms, today it’s the number one visitor attraction. The authentic Spanish food it used to have is not there anymore, and anyway, you can’t see what they offer with all those tourists and selfie-sticks in front of you.

Try instead: Mercado de Santa Caterina, which stands out for the quality and variety of its products and, generally, welcomes less visitors than La Boqueria.

Try to speak basic Spanish

You can’t probably hide that you’re a guiri (this is how Spanish people refer to foreign tourists) but you can make use of your charms and speak some basic español to get a larger tapa or a local price. Learn to say “Hola ¿qué tal?” It works for everyone! Oh, but Spanish is tricky with the informal/formal form of “you” and with the feminine/masculine form. So a simple “Nice to meet you” could be either “encantado de conocerle / encantada de conocerle / encantado de conocerte / encantada de conocerte”.

You just gave up, right??? Let’s keep it simple, when being introduced to someone, just say “encantado” (if you’re a male) “encantada” (if you’re a female).

Granada: The most famous beer here is Reserva 1925 from the brand Cervezas Alhambra, but locals call it milnos or la 25, la verde (the green one, as the bottle is green). Practice the pronunciation of: “ponme una milnos bien fresquita”?

Cadiz: Pisha is the most well-known expression in Cádiz, it is widely used in conversations among locals, supporting other’s ideas, or to express exaltation.

Seville: If someone says miarma it shows affection (comes from “mi alma” – “my soul”)

Malaga: If someone calls you quillo (as a diminutive of “chiquillo”) it would be like dude – you can use it in other parts of Andalucia too!

Stretch your euros at hostel bars

Let’s be clear. Spaniards party till late, true, but this also means that they start the party quite late too. (Makes sense if groups of friends meet for dinner at 22.30!) That’s why hostel bars are the perfect place to start the party. Gather together with other travellers in the best party hostels in Spain!

Cat’s Hostel while you give madrileños (boys from Madrid lol) some time to get ready, start your night at the Cave Bar, it is sure to be a blast! Every night you will be taken to the best pub crawls, where you will meet your fellow travellers and truly experience the Madrid lifestyle. During the week, they also offer tapas and shopping tours, and in-house free Flamenco and Salsa dance classes. Wondering what our favourite event is? The paella party every Saturday night! You can’t miss this deal: a free dish of paella with every drink you order!

Kabul Party Hostel is considered one of the best party hostels in Europe, and is famous for its vibrant atmosphere and parties. It is Barcelona’s very first hostel and is still standing strong! Whether you are travelling alone, with a friend or in a group and want to have a great time, meet great people and enjoy Barcelona to its fullest, Kabul has something to offer you. Free walking tours every day, BBQs at the rooftop patio overlooking Plaza Real, and other activities before you head out to the most famous clubs in the city (a different club every night!).

Oasis Backpackers Seville this centrally located hostel has its own onsite bar, daily BBQs and home cooked dinners, and a rooftop terrace with a small pool. What’s better than spending happy hour drinking with great view of Metropol Parasol? (PS *their mojitos are highly recommended*). A few mojitos will ensure you’re ready to indulge in the vibrant nightlife of Seville during one of their pub crawls!

12. Spain packing list

In Spain the power sockets are type F. Check if you need a power plug adaptor or voltage converter.

Summer is hot and winter is dry. Northern Spain is always cooler than Southern Spain, so pack accordingly.

You’ll need to dress up for bars and nightclubs.

When visiting churches, dress appropriately, although it’s not mandatory to cover your arms and knees.

Spain is the sunniest country in Europe. Bring your sunglasses and sunscreen no matter what time of year you go

Need more reasons for backpacking Spain?

You will want to explore Northern Spain and Southern Spain right now

Your home in paradise: The best hostels in Spain


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