Spain's favourite nibbles are ubiquitous across Madrid. Here are some of the better bets - but wait, what's this about flies?

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The Tapas Trail

Madrid's top tapas districts.

Did you know that tapas originated as small plates placed on top of drinks to keep flies away? Some proprietors started adding slices of bread on the plates, and little by little that evolved into a tasty tradition now universal throughout Spain (and these days, increasingly common beyond its borders). In Madrid you can find tapas almost anywhere, and while no one spot can be said to be "the best", there are a few areas which loom larger for tapas-bar-hoppers. They include the Plaza Mayor and surrounding areas such as Calle de Cava Baja and Plaza de Cebada, packed with bars to enjoy good tapas and good wine (perhaps the most touristic area). Madrileños - especially middle-aged and with a taste for quality wine - flock to the Plaza de Santa Ana-Huerta. And in recent years the Retiro area has become a major tapas destination thanks to various young entrepreneurs who have opened quality establishments with appealing ambiance. Chamberí welcomes both locals and visitors, right in the middle of the so-called Neighbourhood of Letters. Buzzing downtown Chueca has evolved beyond merely restaurants and drinking spots to develop a good tapas-and-wine scene as well. You'll also find companies which offer ready-made tapas tours - a little on the pricy side usually, but a good option if you've got no local friends to steer you to the right places.

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