The word ‘tapas’ literally means cover or lid. One version of the story goes, a tapa was a piece of bread placed over a glass of wine by workers in the field to keep insects away. Another version of the story is that peasants could not afford to buy food and drink separately, small food on the drink was added to attract them. Later on, it became a tradition in Andalucía to add some ham, cheese, or cooked vegetables to the bread, to be served as a snack on a small plate on top of wine glass.
Today, Tapas can be any kind of small portion of Spanish food, usually served with a drink; a range of ’empanadas’ or toasts with vegetables, fish or cured meats, or simply a bowl of olives, complex dishes like Paella, everything can be a Spanish tapa. These tapas are perfect accompaniments to a local wine or cerveza. If you wish, you can order at the bar, or serve at your party, several tapas as a starter, or larger quantities (raciones) together to have a meal.
Pinchos and tapas are similar but they differ in origin. A pincho or pintxo is a small snack typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country and Navarre. Tapas originated in Andalucía, in southern Spain. When one goes to a bar and orders a drink, often a tapa will be served with it for free in Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalucía but pintxos are often paid for in the north.
The best cities to enjoy tapas at any time of the day are; Granada, Valladolid, Burgos, Jaen, Salamanca, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Madrid, Orense, Oviedo and Cadiz and Logroño. It is very common to eat a tapa or two in one bar, and then move on to the next bar to best enjoy this tradition.
Source for article: ibericaspanishfood.co.uk