Everything you’ve heard about the food in Barcelona is true--it’s really good. Whether we ate a pastry from the corner bakery, munched our way through a market, sat at the counter in a tapas bar or spent two hours enjoying a tasting menu, it was all delicious. This will not be a exhaustive food guide, but I do hope to give you some suggestions of food to try in Barcelona. And to be really ready for your trip to this great city, here are 21 Essential Barcelona Tips & Tricks.
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Jamón Ibérico – The most famous food in Barcelona
Made from the black Ibérico pig, this jamón--or ham--is everywhere in Barcelona. Every tapas bar will have a leg of jamón in a stand that allows specially trained staff to carefully carve it as needed. And jamón Iberico will be seen in every tapas bar.
During our first night we found a great place called El Nacional that offers four tapas bars and four restaurants in a historic building along the Passieg de Gracia. We were drawn to the bar that featured two carved jamón legs and dozens of wrapped legs waiting to be carved in the near future. We sat directly in front of the carver and were mesmerized by the precision and focus given to his craft. Jason and I discussed the possibility of purchasing one of these legs and bringing it home, but weren’t sure it would make it through customs.
Tapas and Pinxtos
Tapas are small plates of food typically served in bars before dinner. Pinxtos are quite similar but are differentiated by the toothpicks that attach the food item to the bread. However, most visitors to Barcelona will find these two terms used interchangeably, and quite frankly both are delicious. So whichever term you wish to use, let’s explore this delicious food concept.
Tapas and Pinxtos restaurants are everywhere in Barcelona. Since Barcelona is a big city you may want to ask a local for their favorite tapas bar in the neighborhood where you are staying. After our walking tour the guide, Zelda, recommended a restaurant near Placa Catalunya called Ciudad Condal. She told us this place was popular with locals and therefore be prepared to wait. We did wait about ten minutes and then were seated at the bar.
Many restaurants offer menus in English which makes ordering quite easy. Keep in mind that ordering wine or beer with tapas--whatever time of day--is common. Also common is ending your tapas meal with desert and coffee. Spaniards know how to enjoy their food and don’t believe in rushing their meals.
Some of our favorite tapas were those made with marinated seafood like squid or octopus and those with anchovies. Barcelona is located on the Mediterranean Sea so seafood is plentiful here and a common ingredient in tapas and pinxtos.
This is an ideal place to mention Barcelona food prices. Eating in this city is affordable. For tapas or pinxtos, a typical plate is 2-3 Euros and a glass of wine is 3 Euros. We found this applied throughout the city for most types of food and restaurants.
After exploring the city, be sure to consider a few day trips from Barcelona.
Barcelona has more bakeries than any city in the world. Ok, I can’t actually prove this, but I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. I am also including in this category all the “sweet shops” selling cupcakes, cookies, donuts and chocolates. I expected to see plenty of overweight people walking around the streets because they regularly stuff themselves with all of these delicious sweets, but that was not the case. How the residents of this city stay so thin while having easy access to amazing pastries confounds me, but maybe they eat them in moderation.
Jason and I made several morning visits to bakeries near our hotel. I could not stop ordering the chocolate croissants which were uniformly delicious. Jason preferred the chocolate covered donuts. I know that we can purchase both of these items in the U.S., but both were better in Barcelona.
One of the most popular bakeries in Barcelona is chök the chocolate kitchen. We stopped here for an afternoon snack and were impressed by the beautiful displays of cupcakes, donuts, and chocolates. Even their website is gorgeous! Fortunately there are two locations, one near Las Ramblas and one in the El Raval district.
Our Must Eat in Barcelona — Paella
We had a “must eat in Barcelona” list before our trip and paella was at the top. This dish is not originally from the area, but its popularity has spread and can be found in restaurants throughout Spain. After enjoying the Fira de Sant Llucia Christmas Market, we stopped at nearby restaurant called El Cercle and ordered this savory dish. A large, sizzling paella pan was brought to our table loaded with shrimp, mussels, clams and squid. We ate every single morsel! I also want to point out that this restaurant has a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the Gothic Quarter which made for the perfect backdrop to our delicious dinner. (If you're from the Los Angeles area, there's a great place for paella you should check out.)
Wine and Cava
Wine and cava are technically drinks, not food, but I would be remiss to not discuss these beverages. Other than breakfast, wine and cava are a typical part of a meal in Barcelona.
I am a big California chardonnay drinker, so I had doubts about how much I would appreciate Spanish wine. Fortunately, Spain proved me wrong. Not only did I try many glasses of good white wine, but it’s also very affordable. We never spent more than 5 Euros on a glass or 18 Euros for a bottle. After returning home I picked up a few bottles of Spanish wine at the local market, each costing me just $6. Even after exporting, these wines remain affordable.
We were not very familiar with cava before visiting Barcelona, but learned that it’s made in the same method as champagne, so essentially it’s a sparkling white wine. Most cava is produced in Catalonia, so it’s common to see locals order this with their meals. We opted to accompany a few of our meals with cava and definitely enjoyed it. We did not leave the city during our trip, but it is possible to book cava tasting tours in the countryside of Catalonia.
What to eat in Barcelona should really include many more items, but like I said at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive list. Instead, I hope to entice you to visit this city and experience the food for yourself. Food and mealtimes are an essential part of the culture in Barcelona and experiencing them like locals gave us a deep appreciation for the people of this city.
Believe it or not, there is much more to do in Barcelona than just eat. Here's a great itinerary of the sites to see from World Inside My Pocket.