Malaga is lauded for its chiringuitos (beach bars) and burgeoning Michelin-star dining scene, but the tapas deserves a closer look. We’ve tracked down the best tapas bars in Malaga.
Tapa literally means ‘a cover’ or ‘a lid’. There are a dozen different tales espousing its origins, ranging from humble farmers covering their drinks with slices of ham to a trend-setting king’s preference for small plates while recuperating from a stomach illness. While its origins are up for debate, we know for certain that the Spaniards are masters of the small plate, and that sun-baked Malaga, with its balmy, late-night lifestyle, is a particularly enticing place to sample some of the best. Among the specialities, boquerones (fresh anchovies in vinegar) are a local favourite, but owing to an idyllic location squeezed between sea and fertile countryside, you’ll also have the best Iberian jamón, cheese and local wine at your fingertips.
You’ll know you’ve hit the right spot before you see the sign because the queues spill out onto Calle Carreterría as soon as the doors open at La Tranca. It’s all about traditional tapas at traditional prices here – cheap but consistently tasty. Dishes sit behind glass lining the length of the bar, a blessing for indecisive eaters. Local favourites include pimientos rellenos (stuffed peppers) and albondigas (meatballs) made with the famed Iberico pig. Prices start at around €2 per dish and your bill is written up in chalk on the bar as you go.
C. Carretería, 929008
Atarazanas Market Bar
There are lots of reasons to visit this local market – history, fresh produce, design – but the Market Bar is a good reason to keep coming back. What was once a small stall has since expanded to incorporate an extra bar and a handful of large tables outside. Don’t bother with a seat; prop yourself up at the bar with a plate of pescaíto (lightly fried fish) and a caña of ice-cold local beer, instead. Other crowd pleasers include the navajas de afeitar (razor clams) served in a sticky pool of garlic butter and the berenjenas con miel (grilled aubergine slathered in honey). Expect to pay between €5–10 for a generous portion.
C. Atarazanas, 29005
Just a few doors down from La Tranca, Colmado 93 serves up simple dishes bursting with flavour. It’s small, busy and friendly, so you’ll need to use your elbows to secure a seat at one of its coveted barrel tables or at the bar, but it’s worth the squeeze. They’re famed for their mojama (salt-cured tuna), one of Andalucia’s most exquisite delicacies. Wash it down with one – or several – glasses of vermouth. Prices start from around €2 per dish.
C. Carretería, 93, 29008
Intense flavours make the experience at Uvedobale Taberna an unforgettable one. It’s also a stone’s throw from the spiritual heart of the city, the looming cathedral or ‘La Manquita’ (one-armed woman), so-called because the building was never finished. Chef Willie Orellana serves up innovative twists on classic Andalucian dishes. Ajoblanco, a centuries-old cold soup made with bread, almonds and garlic, comes served with sweet figs and smoked mackerel, while the albondigas (meatballs) are made with ox-tail rather than pork and beef. Try their Ensaladilla Rusa too, it’s one of the fluffiest you’ll find in the city.
C. Alcazabilla, 1, 2901
This traditional blue-and-white tiled bodega specializes in pinchos, Basque-style tapas. Ingredients take centre stage here and dishes are served flounce-free, an approach which has proven popular – there are now three branches across the city. The original restaurant in Calle Granada is still the most popular. Come for generous portions of meats, cheeses, seafood and fish piled high onto wedges of bread and speared with a cocktail stick. They also serve some of the best-loved patatas bravas in the city. Their montaditos (mini-sandwiches) are unrivalled too. Dishes cost a couple of euros.
C.Granada 46, 2901
La Peregrina Centro
In-the-know seafood aficionados hotfoot to La Peregrina Centro almost immediately after touching down at Malaga Airport. The kitchen serves up tapas-size portions of almost anything that moves in the sea, from squid to scallops. Book a table for a Sunday and join the hordes of hungry Spanish families. It’s one of the best places to try espetos (skewered sardines grilled on an open flame); do as the locals do and eat them with your fingers to get the most flavour. Other highlights include the choco croquetas (pillowy potato, fish and squid ink croquettes) and the colitas de lagostinos (grilled langoustines) that are bursting with flavour. Service is sparkling and plates are happily affordable too.
C. Madre de Dios, 37, 29012
La Farola de Orellana
It’s hard to get two locals to agree on the best tapas in Malaga, but if you could get them to commit to one, they might just suggest La Farola de Orellana. This hole-in-the-wall establishment has hardly changed in the past five decades, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? There are only a few seats by the bar so, unless you’re extremely lucky, you’ll have to eat standing up like a true Malagueño. Try the gambas pil pil (hot prawns served with olive oil and garlic), pimento del padron and the pork ribs.
C. Moreno Monroy, 5, 29015