Spanish cuisine is built on the pillars of the Mediterranean diet and is, therefore, rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, bread and olive oil. Upon arriving, you’ll also notice that pork products are quite popular, especially the cured hams (Serrano and Iberico), chorizo (spicy sausage both cured and for frying), salchichón (a salami-like cured sausage), and lomo (cured pork loin). And although Madrid is not located on the Spanish coast, the best seafood is transported to the Spanish capital, so seafood and fish is always fresh, although also quite expensive.
A traditional Spanish breakfast is coffee, juice or tea with toast or a croissant. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and is typically eaten between 2:00PM and 4:00PM. Dinner is eaten between 9:00PM and 11:00PM and tends to be a significantly smaller meal than lunch. “Merienda” means snack, and it’s an accepted practice to “merendar” a small sandwich or something similar between lunch and dinner. And when it comes to dessert, Spaniards usually eat fruit. Pastries and ice cream are rate treats.
Tapas and tapeo (going out for tapas) have become popular all over the world but a lot of people don’t know exactly what they are. Spaniards are very social, and there is a large and important bar culture. Traditionally, each drink is accompanied by a small portion of food called a “tapa.” When Spaniards want a light meal, generally in the evening, it’s common to go out for drinks and tapas.
Each Spanish province has its traditional dishes, and the three dishes typical of Madrid are callos a la madrileña (beef tripe with chickpeas), oreja a la plancha (grilled pig’s ear) and cocido madrileño, a stew made with chicken broth, chickpeas, blood sausage (morcilla), chorizo and cuts of pork. In Spain, there are few parts of the animal that are not eaten, and although some of the traditional dishes may sound somewhat off-putting, they tend to be quite tasty. Sometimes it’s best to try a dish before asking what it is.
Aside from traditional Spanish food, it’s easy to find all types of international foods, as well as nouvelle Spanish cuisine, in Madrid. The large immigrant populations from Latin America, North Africa and Asia, have led to hundreds of Moroccan, Turkish, Chinese, Indian/Pakistani, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Cuban, Peruvian, Ecuadorian and Argentine restaurants.
You don’t have to worry about any food-related sanitary risks in Spain, and tap water is perfectly safe to drink anywhere in the country.