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While going for tapas has become a popular pastime and eating option all over the world, and many famous chefs have elevated these small, tasty portions to high art, there’s no other country on Earth that can match Spain’s tapas culture.

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For a truly authentic experience go to Madrid or Granada, where the free tapas tradition is kept alive in tucked away tascas that have maintained their character through the years. The real Spanish tapeo is much more than just food. It’s a way of life, a national pastime that involves eating, drinking, and socializing in a friendly and unpretentious atmosphere.

Of course also the “tapeo” has his history, and although nobody knows for sure the true origin of the tapas, legend has it that the tapa was created by the Spanish king Alfonso X (“El Sabio”). It is said that he had become very ill, and by medical prescription he was only allowed to eat small amounts of food and a little bit of red wine throughout the day.

History further says that “once upon a time” passing an inn called “El Ventorilla del Chato” (still existing), the king wanted to relax a bit, He asked for his normal routine and treatment. As they were preparing him something to drink (a glass of Jerez wine), an air stream entered the dining room through the window, the inn was close to the beach and in order to keep the sand from entering in the glass of wine the innkeeper put a small plate on top of the glass and in this plate a piece of Spanish ham.