Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or snack in Spanish culture. Tapas come in many different forms and varieties throughout Spain. Today we are going to set our sights on Tapas in Andalucía and Málaga. Welcome to the insiders guide to tapas!

What is a tapa? A small plate of food that is served to a customer when ordering a drink (water and soda included, not only beer and wine) at a restaurant.


Thankfully Málaga is not known for their tapas like its close neighbor Granada. Which we think it is great because it makes Málaga another great kept secret. Especially when your inner fatty wants to go crazy. Tapas in Andalucía are always free when ordering a drink. Some tourist traps charge you separately, so be aware and read this for more info.

History of The Spanish Tapa

We have talked to people extensively in Málaga and researched this controversial subject here in Spain. The birthplace of tapas and how the origin came about will remain a mystery.

However some people say that the King Alfonso X El Sabio (The Wise) started the trend while recuperating from an illness. He needed to have small snacks such as cheese or ham with his wine (wine was the only sanitary beverage at the time).

Some say it was to counter effect the alcohol. While some say he could only eat small amounts of food because of his illness. But after recovering, King Alfonso declared that no wine be served without a snack in his land of Castilla (now the north of Spain).

Other people say that another King, either King Fernando XVII or King Fernand VII, stopped at a restaurant after a long day travelling with his court. There they were served wine with a slice of cheese over the top of the glass. The idea was to keep bugs and mostly dust out of the wine from the busy road near by. The king, being very hungry from a strenuous day ate the cheese and so did his court.

The legend has it that he kept asking for these “tapas” whenever he ordered a glass of wine, it stuck and here we are today. Thanks King Fernando, you are the best!

Definition of tapa: Derives from the word tapadera meaning lid and then shortened to tapa as people from Andalucia love shorting every word they say… You will understand when you get here… 

Tapas in the 21st Century

Tapas now are not served on top of your glass of wine or beer but alongside in a small dish. Andalucía being one of the last places in Spain to offer free tapas in general, is offered in two ways. First, being on a prearranged menu for the day, that for each drink you order, you get a different tapa. Or secondly, you get to pick from a small menu of tapas they offer.

Tapas are also considered a portion size for the food items offered on a menu. Typically there are three different plate sizes offered: Tapas (small), Media Ración (half ration), Una Ración (full ration). If you are hungry or with a bunch of people order Una Ración as it is a normal sized plate to share. Tapas and Spanish food in general is all about sharing. So order a bunch of dishes and serve it up family style.

With Spain being on a very different timetable for eating hours, the tapa has become a go to for certain situations. For example, dinner is served at night anywhere from 9 to 11 p.m. and in between the long periods without food you might become hungry, but don’t want to ruin your appetite for dinner. Then have a tapa!

However, many people will go to “tapear” (have tapas) for their main meal nowadays. Tapas for lunch or tapas for dinner are completely acceptable. We highly encourage it as it is fun to have a variety of food for your meal. It also won’t hurt your wallet at the end of the day when la cuenta (the check) arrives.

Also to note, the popularity of the tapas is spreading around the world and getting a big face lift. Many world class chefs are creating their own rendition of the classic simple bite. All over Malaga and Andalucia these Gastronomía bars are popping up that offer a more upscale tapa dining experience. Definitively a must do but know that your tapa will probably not be free as the ingredients are more high end.

One last word of advice before you go running out the door…

Know that tapa hopping just like bar hopping is recommended at the bar. Firstly because the price sometimes will be cheaper than when sitting down (due to a waiter not being needed). Secondly because you won’t have to wait as long to be served your drink and tapa! Restaurants can be very busy during peak hours and on the weekends, so be prepared to wait for a table.

We are working on a “best of Malaga tapas” article that we know you will love. So stay tuned for that! Also, what did we miss? What is your favorite tapa restaurant in Málaga, let us know in the commects below or drop us a line on any of your social media accounts!

But until then we hope you get out there and tapa responsible, as several Cañas later can lead to good times had by all.


The Malaga Flow Team