Oct 10 2019

Spain, From North To South: 5 Cities, 5 Restaurants, 5 Tapas Along the Vía de la Plata

From Asturias to Andalusia, from northern to southern Spain. We chose 5 cities and 5 tapas so as to savor all of the flavors along the Vía de la Plata, one of the country's oldest and cultural paths.

There are important routes in Spain that offer travelers the chance to mix art, history, gastronomy, tradition and nature. The most well known route is, indubitably, the St. James’ Way,  which attracts thousands of international tourists each year. Today we're going to take a look at a route for those who prefer a more off-the-beaten-track approach to travel. We're traversing Spain, from the north to the south, on the Vía de la Plata.

This route reached its peak during the Roman Empire. Goods, troops, traders and people traveled along the route, creating a continuous flow of traffic that helped spread Roman culture, language and lifestyle, while also making it easier for the Romans to control the territory. This route was used for centuries, by Arabs and Christians during the Middle Ages, and continued to play an essential role later as part of the communication network on the Iberian Peninsula.

Our suggestions aim to highlight gastronomy and gourmet food that travelers can enjoy along the route, which begins in Asturias (northern Spain) and ends in Andalusia (southern Spain). We propose 5 stops in 5 cities, where we recommend 5 tapas typical of the area and a list of gastronomic souvenirs. Ready to go?

Vía de la Plata begins: Gijón, cider and sea air

Chorizo in cider.  Photo by: Javier Peñas / @ICEX.

The coastal city of Gijón in Asturias smells of the sea, seafood, and plenty of gastronomic passion. You can't leave without trying products like Asturian beef, the wide range of cheeses (CabralesAfuega’l pitu,Casín,GamonedoLos Beyos, etc.), its famous Asturian cider, its canned fish... and many other delicious products. Among the most well known tapas here is chorizo in cider, and the best place to try it is at a longstanding tavern: La Galana, right in the Plaza Mayor.

León: where tapas and wine are forever entwined

Trout in pickle sauce with roasted peppers from El Bierzo.  Photo by: Fernando Madariaga / @ICEX.

Art lovers will fully appreciate León, for its Gothic cathedral, its Romanesque Basilica of San Isidoro, and its Modernist Casa Botines. The locals know exactly how to spend time with friends while sipping on local wine and indulging in tapas at the many bars in the Húmedo neighborhood, in the Old Quarter. A culinary secret: don't miss the marinated trout with El Bierzo pepper at La Jouja tapas bar. Sublime. As for souvenirs, you'll want to take cold cuts, canned fruits and vegetables, cecina (cured, air-dried beef) and DO Bierzo  and Tierra de León ines back home with you.

Salamanca: passion for Ibérico products

Acorn-fed Ibérico ham.  Photo by: Toya Legido / @ICEX.

This city oozes history, culture and art on every street. It's home to one of Spain's most incredible group of monuments, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Center. If there's one product with strong ties to the city, it's Ibérico ham and all of the products made from this native variety of pig, especially those produced in DO Guijuelo. In the city center you'll find plenty of stores to buy Ibérico products, and if you want to munch on them along, with a great Castile-León wine, we recommend Doctrinos, one of the city's top wine bars.

Mérida: Roman roots and a delicious variety of products

Fried eggplant with honey.  Photo by: Fernando Madariaga / @ICEX.

To visit Mérida is to revive the Roman Empire's splendor on the Iberian Peninsula. Its Roman theater and amphitheater and the lavish National Museum of Roman Art are mandatory stops on our route. If you want to refuel, head to Serendipity and order the fried eggplant with molasses. Mérida is the perfect place to buy a whole suitcase full of Extremaduran delicacies (Extremadura being the region of which Mérida is capital): La Serena cheesesTortas de Casar cheese, 100% Ibérico acorn-fed ham from DO Dehesa de Extremadura, canned vegetables, cold cuts...

Last stop: Seville and the art of tapas

Seville is synonymous with beauty, style, light and living with gusto. Eating tapas here is nothing short of an art form. Its neighborhoods are chock-a-block with gastronomic temples, from centuries-old taverns to cutting-edge locales where creative cuisine reigns supreme. It's never easy to choose, but in Seville it's truly challenging. We're leaning towards a historical restaurant, very close to the cathedral: Las Teresas. There we'll order grilled secreto ibérico and a glass of Fino sherry. The perfect grand finale.

Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/@ICEX

Translation: Samara Kamenecka/@ICEX.