While rich in art, culture, museums, fascinating history and architecture, Spain is also home to flamenco and fiestas, bullfighting and beautiful beaches. But one of my favourite Spanish experiences is enjoying tapas.

The Spanish have mastered the art of casually bringing people together. And tapas are the perfect accompaniment to the vibrance and allure Spain offers.

What are tapas?

Tapas are small plates that include practically anything. Whether a simple skewer of olives to a gourmet slow-cooked beef cheek served over a sweet-potato puree. They’re a small taste of Spanish cuisine. These interesting dishes are traditionally served as a bite to eat with a drink. And they are an essential ingredient to the essence of Spanish culture and its social scene.

A beautiful spread of Spanish tapas
A beautiful spread of Spanish tapas

The tapas experience

It is typical custom to order drinks and then place small orders of food as you go along. Whatever your fancy, tapas are meant to be shared and enjoyed by all, which is what makes them so socially popular. If you stick to the traditional Spanish times, that’s around 1.30pm to 3pm or 8.30pm to 10pm, you’ll be sure to enjoy the freshest food and the best atmosphere. It is the perfect way to try different foods and flavours. And you will know what to get more of next time you visit.

The history of tapas

It is believed that the tradition of serving tapas started when bartenders would place a small plate over drinks to stop dust from entering and flies from taking an unwanted sip, but legends stem back to medieval Spain to King Alfonso X, “The Wise”, of Castile. The most popular legend is that while the king was recovering from an illness, he had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. When he was well again, he declared no wine was to be served without being accompanied by something to eat. This would prevent citizens from becoming too inebriated from the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach.

There is also a theory that tapas stemmed from farmers and workers needing to eat small amounts of food to sustain their energy until their main meal. Rich in fat, the main meal (around lunchtime) was heavy to digest, so a “siesta” was needed before resuming an easier workload in the afternoon hours. Meals were typically served with wine, and when taverns were established all over the country, they honoured the King’s decree and covered the glass with a slice of smoked ham and cheese.

Considering that the Spanish verb “tapar” means to cover, the stories seem to have merged into an idea that has become ingrained in Spanish culture. While the idea of tapas has spread worldwide, its true essence lies within its place of origin – Spain!

The Concierge Suite onboard Seven Seas Explorer
The Concierge Suite onboard Seven Seas Explorer

Tapas is Spain

These interesting small dishes, regardless of their legendary origin, are an important part of Spanish cuisine and culture. Going out for tapas has created a way to try a variety of dishes and experience local flavours, and enjoy the great libations the country has to offer.

Tapas has become synonymous with Spain, not only being an important part of the culture and cuisine but also associated with family and friends spending time together socialising. While we’ve all recreated our own versions of tapas, there is nothing like socialising at the bar counter or around small tables or barrels having drinks, sampling food and enjoying the ultimate experience in the homeland of tapas. Keep your drinks covered!


Monte Carlo to London

Seven Seas Splendor

Date: 16 May 2024, 14 nights

Ports: Monte Carlo, Provence (Marseille), Malaga, Tangier, Seville (Cadiz), Lisbon, Oporto, Ferrol, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Biarritz (Saint), London (Southampton)

Lisbon to Antwerp

Seven Seas Voyager

Date: 28 Jun 2024, 14 nights

Ports: Lisbon, Oporto, Vilagarcia, La Coruna, Bilbao, Biarritz (Saint), Nantes (Montoir), Pont, Brest, St. Peter Port (Guernsey), Paris (Honfleur), Bruges (Zeebrugge), Antwerp

Belfast to Barcelona

Seven Seas Voyager

Date: 21 Jul 2024, 15 nights

Ports: Belfast, Dublin (Dún Laoghaire), Waterford, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Biarritz (Saint), Gijon, Tangier, Melilla, Alicante, Palma De Mallorca, Barcelona

Rome to Monte Carlo

Seven Seas Mariner

Date: 5 Sep 2024, 12 nights

Ports: Rome (Civitavecchia), Amalfi/Positano, Messina (Sicily), Athens (Piraeus), Santorini, Katakolon, Corfu, Valletta, Ibiza, Palma De Mallorca, Barcelona, Sete, Sanary, Ajaccio (Corsica), Monte Carlo, Monaco

Lisbon to Barcelona

Seven Seas Mariner

Date: 2 Oct 2024, 10 nights

Ports: Lisbon, Funchal (Madeira), Santa Cruz De La Palma, Arrecife (Lanzarote), Agadir, Casablanca, Seville (Cadiz), Barcelona

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