The food culture in Spain is one of international fame and glory. Delicious wines and tapas for cheap in a vibrant ambiance while dining with the locals! Sounds like the most fulfilling travel experience when you travel in Spain, doesn’t it? But what to do when you spend your evenings eating out alone in Spain?
I have some useful tips for all you solo travelers out there that will prevent feeling awkward when you eat out in Spain.
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Food culture in Spain
The Spanish food culture is mainly focused on sharing. World famous is their paella. A big pan of rice, seafood and other delicious foods from the local countryside. You do not make 1 pan of paella for yourself, it is made to share with the whole family. Or the street or village, depending on the size of the pan.
Or the Spanish tapas. Little bites to eat when having a drink before dinner or a full platter of delicious meats, cheeses and other things to nibble on that makeup for a whole meal!
You can always order a “raciones”, which means racion or portion. You’ll get a smaller portion of a full plate, made to share.
But you don’t walk into a crowded local bar to shout your orders at the counter and then nibble on 5 different types of tapas all by yourself.
You share it with your friends.
They try some cold cuts, while you have a bunch of croquettes and you share it among each other to taste a bit of everything. Not really a setting you’ll enjoy as a solo traveler and you can feel quite awkward with your tapas platter and nobody to share it with. Solo dining in Spain is hard!
Eating out in Spain
Restaurant life and eating out in Spain is the most common thing to do. Maybe your mama will make you an excellent lunch which you will eat at home. But for breakfasts, pre-dinner drinks and dinner it is perfectly normal to eat out.
When I traveled solo in Barcelona, I was looking for a nice place to eat by myself. But the restaurants were all so crowded, they didn’t want to sacrifice a table for just one person eating in. All they could offer me was a place at the bar on a very uncomfortable bar stool. No thanks.
My 5 useful tips for eating out alone in Spain for solo travelers
But I traveled a lot since then.
And learned a lot about dining alone while traveling without feeling awkward as a solo traveler.
These 5 tips for eating out can be applied to eating out wherever in the world, but they are particularly important for eating out alone in Spain, as the Spanish food culture is quite different than the rest of the world.
Don’t go dining solo in Spain
Maybe a bit obvious, but if you do not like eating out alone in Spain, then don’t go solo. Because of the easygoing character of Spanish food culture, it is perfectly normal to eat out with an almost perfect stranger.
In France, you’ll be stuck at a romantic table for two with candle lights in between (oh wait that was in Peru, awkward) but in Spain, you’ll just stand shoulder to shoulder at a crowded bar with other strangers.
Or you’re so close to the other table, you have to remind yourself not to take their bread because it is closer to you than the one on your table. (True story).
Eating out in Spain with other solo travelers
One of the best ways to meet new people when you travel solo is to stay in a hostel.
I have not always made instant friends with the people in my dorm room, but I did strike up a friendly conversations with the people hanging out in the common area.
As most of the people staying in hostels are also traveling solo, it is very easy to just say: I am going out for dinner, anyone wants to join me? Voila, instant eating-out companion it is.
Join a Food tour in Spain
This must have been one of my biggest discoveries from the past year. After my food tour in Nice, I was very eager to try a few food tours in Andalusia. I joined a food tour in Malaga and realized I didn’t need to have lunch by myself. We were with a whole group of fun people! Excellent.
During my evening food tour of Seville, I had a lovely sampling of all kinds of Spanish tapas, while enjoying the company of some interesting people who became instant friends. Diner and a good conversation? This solo traveler didn’t feel awkward at all while eating out alone in Spain!
One of the best Spanish Food Tour companies is Devour Tours. Their Barcelona Food Tours will show you the very best of Barcelona, her markets and Devour Barcelona offers great tips on where to eat solo in Barcelona. Find a suitable tour for yourself via this link, (you may thank me later).
Reschedule your feeding frenzy times
While traveling in Spain, I was almost constantly hungry. Only 7 pm, darn, still cannot go out for dinner, it is wayyyyy to early! A sandwich in the afternoon just doesn’t cut it to last you through the whole (longgggg) afternoon until it is an appropriate time to have diner. Ugh.
Long lunches in Spain
In Spain, it is perfectly normal to have a 3-course warm lunch in the afternoon. It is something different than tapas but you can enjoy some local specialties over lunch too!
While I stuffed my face in the afternoon, I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day. Eating out alone in the afternoon felt less awkward than at night and I just ate a small snack or little tapas in the evening, and I was good to go for a good night’s sleep and another day on my road trip around Andalusia.
Dine solo at a different time
Another advantage of having an exuberant lunch is the fact that places are less crowded. I had my different tapas tastings in the afternoon. There was plenty of room for me to sit at a table and I still was able to sample all the different flavors of Spanish cuisine.
It feels more common to have lunch on your own and you feel less awkward as a solo traveler eating out alone in Spain.
Of course, you can eat out at 6 pm if the restaurant or tapas bar is open. It will not be that crowded and people will not stare at you for being alone. But then you miss out on an important part of Spanish eating-out culture, which usually doesn’t start until well after 8 pm.
Last but not least: do not give a f*ck about solo dining!
Excuse me for the language but it is something we all think. I must confess I myself have not nailed this point a full 100% but I am getting there. When you do find yourself hungry in Spain when traveling alone and you want to eat out as a solo traveler: just do it.
I’ve found this excellent (self-help) book with the enticing title: the Art of not giving a F*ck, which seems very much appropriate for the road still ahead. If you’re anything like me and still give a tiny f*ck, then give it a read.
You found a nice tapas bar or restaurant, didn’t arrive too early and are ready to feast on some fantastic food tonight.
GO FOR IT!
Don’t give a dime for some stares or glares from others.
Truth is, you are not the center of the universe and you are not that important. Nobody of the 125 people in that tapas bar will stop eating because you are eating out solo. It is more likely that they will ask you to join them!
Have you ever traveled solo in Spain? How did you handle the eating-out-alone situation? Please share your solo diner tips when traveling in the comment section below. Buen provecho!