When visiting a culinary destination such as Barcelona, one of the best ways of understanding and experiencing the local culture is through the local cuisine. From quaint tapas bars to world-class fine-dining restaurants, bustling markets to local wineries, Catalonia’s capital certainly has no shortage of culinary delights to experience. Here’s a guide on how to avoid the tourist traps and seek out the authentic foodie experiences in Barcelona!
The first step towards having an authentic food experience is familiarizing yourself with the local cuisine. When people think of Spanish cuisine, they normally think of paella, tapas and sangria. Believe it or not, there is a whole lot more to this country’s gastronomy scene than these three things.
The first thing to know is that the cuisine greatly varies across each region in Spain. If you came to Spain for the Paella, you are best you head to Valencia, where this dish originated from, or along the Mediterranean Coast where you’ll also find good paella. In Barcelona, you’ll find a similar Catalan dish called Fideua, which is made with short spaghetti-like pasta called ‘fideos’ instead of rice. Within the Catalan region, dishes range from being pork-intensive when you go inland to being more seafood-based along the coastline. Due to the geographical location of the region, Mediterranean ingredients are abundant across dishes.
Best Tapas Dishes to try in Barcelona
Although going out for tapas is a favourite pastime for all Spaniards, you’ll find unique tapas dishes on offer depending on where you are in the country. Below are some of the typical tapas you’ll find in Barcelona…
Patatas bravas– One of the most common types of tapas you’ll find throughout Spain, Patatas bravas consists of pieces of fried potatoes served warm with a spicy tomato sauce, creating a unique blend of flavors. Although it’s a simple dish, you’ll find that every place you go will prepare it in their own unique way!
Esqueixada- A zesty Catalan salad made from raw salted cod, sometimes paired with romesco sauce, tomatoes, onions, and black olives, it’s refreshing choice for a summer day.
La Bomba- This Barcelona creation was actually inspired by the bombs from the Spanish Civil War! Croquettes are filled with potato, ground meat and served with two sauces- a white garlic aioli and a rich and spicy red sauce, making a delicious indulgent and tasty treat.
Escalivada– A dish made from eggplant, red peppers and onion grilled over open wood fire and topped with lashings of olive oil, garlic. It can be served hot or cold, often on toasted bread and sometimes coming topped with anchovies!
Grilled squid- This is another type of popular seafood you’ll find in this region. The squid in this part of the Mediterranean Coast have an exceptional flavour and are especially good when fresh and tender.
Gamba Roja- Caught locally on the Spanish coast, red shrimp is easily the most popular type of shrimp that you’ll find in Spain. If there is anywhere to try fresh red squid, it is here!
Cured meats- Cured Spanish meats are an ever-popular snack in Barcelona and is often paired with crusty bread. You’ll find all sorts of varieties at both tapas bars and at farmer’s markets through the city, including Spanish ham, fuet, llonganissa, and chorizo. Make sure you take the opportunity to try the best quality Iberian ham- it is an original pork breed from the southeast of Spain and is considered to be one of the tastiest in the world.
Mato- Whilst you’ll find many great cheeses throughout Spain, Mato is particularly unique to the region. This soft Catalan cheese comparable to ricotta, often eaten as a dessert with honey.
Pa amb tomàquet– A staple on many Catalan tables every day, this simple dish consists of local bread rubbed with tomato, sometimes garlic, and then drizzled with olive oil.
Traditional desserts- There are also plenty of traditional desserts you’ll find around Barcelona that are well-worth indulging in. These include torrijas (a type of French toast), churros and mille-feuille.
Drinks to try in Barcelona
Vermouth- Believe it or not, vermouth is a favourite aperitif in Spain and you’ll find it being drunk by locals throughout the country. However, vermouth is Spain is very different to the rest of the world, where it tends to just be used as a mixer for Martinis. Here, the locals drink a sweet, red variation neat or on ice. All vermouth actually starts out as white wine, then is infused with caramel and a range of spices and botanicals, hence how is gains its darker colour.
Cava- This is the name given to Spain’s national sparking wine, and can either come in a white or rose variation. About 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedès area in Catalonia, so it is a very fitting drink to have in Barcelona.
Spanish Wines– Spain is the third-largest wine producing region in the world, with a vast range of local wines on offer. Catalan alone has eleven wine-growing regions- the best wines tend to come from Montsant, Priorat or Terra Alta regions.
Going on a Food Tour in Barcelona
Going on a food tour is a great way of gaining insider knowledge of what to eat and where to eat in the city. When lead by a local guide, these tours are the perfect opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of a place and ask questions along the way. I often find city walking tours to be a little dull, but throw some food and drink in the mix and I’ll happily walk through a city for hours!
How to choose the best food tour in Barcelona
There are many different food tours on offer in Barcelona so it can be difficult to know which one to choose. I would recommend going with a locally owned company such as Food Lovers Company. Nuria, the owner, is very passionate about sharing her love for the gastronomic culture and providing authentic foodie experiences, whilst also showing off the highlights of her city.
Food Lovers Company offer a Barcelona Food Tour, a Tapas Experience and Winery Tour. On each tour, a local foodie will take around an intimate group of up 6 people around to showcase the city’s best local, regional and national cuisine. During the Tapas Experience, the guide will take the group to three authentic tapas bars around the city to sample some of Barcelona’s famous Tapas dishes. For a more in depth glance into Barcelona’s gastronomy scene, the Barcelona Food Tour involves stopping in four iconic venues in Old Town to try a selected range of high-quality, locally-sourced dishes and drinks to go alongside. On the Winery Tour, the group will visit wineries around Barcelona for wine tastings, brunch and walks through the beautiful vineyards.
You can find out more about these tours on the Food Lovers Company website.
Have you visited Barcelona? What is your favourite dish that you tried when you were there?