Puerta del Sol, 28013 Madrid Spain

Why are tapas called tapas?

When a foreigner thinks about Spain, several images come to his mind immediately: flamenco, wine, tapas. Likewise, among the activities that constitute a must for any tourist, we can find a walk around the Main Square, a visit to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and a good tapas night. But… tapas… ta-pas… t-a-p-a-s… tapas. Where does this word come from? Why are tapas called tapas?

The story is divided into two. First let’s go back to the 1200’s to understand why you get food every time you order something to drink in Spain. Alphonse X, “the Wise”, suffered an illness that caused him terrible aches. His doctor suggested him to eat something every time he drank alcohol and, surprisingly, the king got better very soon. For that reason, he ordered that every beverage was served with something to eat all over the kingdom.

Alphonse, the Wise

Now the second part of the story. After many, many years, during the 1900’s, king Alphonse XIII was passing through Cadiz when he stopped for a glass of wine. Nevertheless, the wind was so strong that the waiter feared that something could enter into his glass, so he decided to cover it with the slice of jam he had offered him as complement of the beverage. The food, thus, transformed into a lid, a tapa in Spanish.

Alphonse XIII

Since that moment we know as tapaeverything that goes with a good drink, whether it is wine, beer or something with a higher level of alcohol. Thus, in the broad sense, a tapacan be a little bit of paella, olives, potatoes, etc., etc., etc. Doubtlessly, that is what makes a tapas night so delicious for both Spanish and foreigners. Spending a whole night drinking and eating all you can from all kinds of food and liquors is a true delight. Going out for tapas is just like going out for a tour around Madrid.

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