Famous foods you must eat in Barcelona are readily available as a part of daily cuisine. Whenever we have a trip to Spain planned we get excited for the sites…and the FOOD! Delicious things like top quality ham and olives are part of their everyday lives. And you have to try it all to really experience the culture.
Where to Taste All this Delicious Food You Must Eat in Barcelona
Things you must eat in Barcelona are available all over the city. Nothing on this list is hard to find. You may have to go to a seafood restaurant or market to find things, like prawns or olives, of course. But that’s typical of any location. Certain eateries have one specialty while another restaurant may offer something different.
Barcelona Food Tour
If you want to get even more information and history about these well known foods in Barcelona, we can’t recommend a Devour Food Tour enough. (We have grown to LOVE Devour Food Tours all over Europe.)
They’re the best for several reasons, including their wonderful guides, small group tours and where they take you. But because they also send us awesome information about the city we’re going to before and after our tour. They develop a relationship with their customers and for foodies like us, that’s been a positive relationship we can’t get enough of.
Barcelona Food Markets and Food Halls
Two of the most famous food markets and halls are:
1. La Boqueria, food market: Be sure to go deeper inside the market to not be priced gauged! The vendors closer to the entrance charge more for their food and products. The deeper in you go the better the prices are because they know less tourists venture past the first line of vendors.
The market’s history can be traced back to its roots in the 13th century. Yet the market we know today was designed and flourished even further in the 19th century.
This is definitely the most touristy market in Barcelona. The avenue that it’s on, La Rambla, is Barcelona’s most famous avenue, open to pedestrians only. It leads from the center of the city down to the water. The market’s official name, whose beautiful Gaudi-inspired archway above its entrance proclaims its presence, is Mercat de St. Josep de la Boqueria.
Somehow the market doesn’t feel quite as welcoming to tourists as San Miguel Market in Madrid did, for instance. I think it’s because you can buy things like ingredients for recipes (like whole fish), which most tourists aren’t participating in unless they stay in an Air BnB with a kitchen, but not as much grab and go things as other markets we’ve been to. (Even though yes, they have that too.)
A favorite item to get there is fresh squeezed or blended juice for €1. (Which is €2 if you get it just inside the market, but half the price the deeper in you walk.)
2. El Nacional, food hall:
This food hall really blew us away. It’s gorgeous but that’s due to the fact it’s a newer food hall in Barcelona. It’s built where an old…get ready for it…parking deck used to be! Yes, a parking deck! Be sure to check out the progress photos from the parking deck times to know in the restroom. Yup, the restroom.
It’s a gorgeous place to go and they’re open late in true Catalan style. So after a full day of touring and site-seeing in Barcelona Dan and I really enjoyed popping in here for wine and cheese on more than one occasion to close out the evening. (Our centrally located hotel, the Renaissance Barcelona Hotel on Pau Claris, was just blocks away.)
They are open every day from noon to midnight. Easy peasy. Their location is yet another famous avenue in Barcelona: Passeig de Gràcia.
We also consider El Nacional to be one of the best food market halls around the world.
Onto more meat of the post with what to eat in Barcelona, no pun intended…
Fideua is very similar to Paella, but its a Catalan version of the dish. It’s made with noodles instead of rice. Our Barcelona Devour Food Tour guide, Alvaro, shared the best place to get Fideua in Barcelona is in the neighborhood Barceloneta, right by the water.
He was kind enough to recommend Can Ramonet. We loved it there. It had a slightly nautical theme (which made sense – it’s by the water and they have lots of seafood on their menu) and the neighborhood it’s in, historically working class, had plenty of character.
We enjoyed the seafood fideua below with little clams and pieces of squid. It was a huge serving. The “paella” pan it’s made in is shallow (which is literally the name of the pan, which is how paella got its name, which we learned in Valencia). But it’s still a fair amount of food.
Oh my gosh – if I could eat one thing in Barcelona for a day, this would be it. Why? There are SO many varieties and I love a little variety in my meal! Ideally I want a little bit of everything.
Pinchos, or pintxos, are pretty much a slice of baguette type bread top with anything. We had ones topped eggs, peppers, Spanish croquettes, bacon, tomatoes, fish, burgers…you name it. They topped it.
And guess what? They’re only €1 to about €4 EACH. Can you believe it?
We went to more than one restaurant but our favorite in Barcelona’s “pincho alley” was at La Tasqueta De Blai.
TIP: go in between hours to get a seat. They don’t have a lot of seating and it got really busy. We arrived around 4:00pm, sat at the bar (in front of the pinchos) and witnessed more and more people coming in as the hours went buy. It can get busy.
Getting there early also helped us develop a rapport with the bartenders who were the ones serving drinks but also letting us know what was on each pincho.
If you are a carnivore and you visit Barcelona but didn’t have “jamón”, or ham, were you even there?
One of the most delectable things you can eat in Barcelona is ham. They have two main types: Serrano and Iberican. The lattes is the pricier of the two and tastes a bit nuttier. This is because the free-range Iberian pigs eat only a diet of acorns in their last weeks of life. It gives their meat a very rich flavor.
We had a wonderful lesson in how jamón plays into the culture of the Spanish people during our Devour Tour with Alvaro. A leg of ham is a special gift to give to family during the holidays, for instance. (But to learn more you’ll have to take the tour!)
We even got to taste a variety of different hams at a specialty store on our Gracia Neighborhood food tour. It was really interesting to taste the hams in a particular, logical order that our guide, Alvaro, laid out for us. He explained each piece of ham as we tasted them.
The two pieces we’re holding, in the photo below, are by far the best we’ve ever tasted. It costs €230 per kilo! But it was all included in the price of our tour. What a treat!
Alvaro also taught us why the back legs cost more money than the front and that a black hoof indicates the pig is 100% Iberian.
We also made sure to have ham the night before we left Barcelona… Can you tell it’s one of our favorite foods in Spain?
Seafood, Including Razor Clams and Prawns
The seafood we’ve had in Spain has always been great. Barcelona is on the coast so things are fresh for the eating there!
We enjoyed prawns our first night in town. We’ve had them in Spain in the past and they’re always always served with the shells on. They’re easy to get off and the meat is tender and juicy (if cooked correctly, of course).
Another seafood item I l-o-v-e in coastal parts of Spain are razor clams. They literally look like long knife razors from back in the 19th century. The delicate shells of razor clams can be opened by a pro and the meat that runs the length of the shell cooked to perfection. They’re usually available at nice restaurants that serve seafood and mollusks for whatever the market price of the day is.
Another cool thing we encountered in Barcelona was something like the display below. You’ll walk into a restaurant and see the daily fresh offerings from the sea and you can choose what you want to eat. Then the kitchen cooks it and the restaurant serves it to you.
There’s a restaurant with eight locations around Barcelona called La Paradeta, whose entire basis of their restaurant is this concept! If you’re in the mood for seafood in a no fuss, inexpensive yet high quality kind of place this would be a great option.
We were lucky enough to try a variety of olives at a neighborhood market. We learned that there are 43 markets around Barcelona from our Devour Food Tours guide.
He arranged for a sampling of a variety of types of olives for everyone on our Gracia neighborhood food tour. Here, we learned Spanish people prefer pits in olives. This is because to remove them during the curing process, they would have to be put through a chemical process to soften it to remove the pit. Many people think this affects the pure quality of the olive. Thus, pits are good!
One night we had olives they serves them in a double-sided tray. One side had the olives and the empty side was for the olive pits. So smart.
We never met a cheese we didn’t like, whether enjoying cuisine Spain or traditional food in Slovenia. It’s so satisfying to have some drinks and cheese. There are over 150 kinds of cheese in Spain. They’re typically named after the region the cheese is from and the kind of cheese it is.
Try getting some cheese at a local market in the neighborhood you’re staying in (or from La Boqueria if you fancy it). We also enjoyed a cheese board one or two nights of our trip at El Nacional food hall, referenced at the start of the post.
Cava (or Spanish Champagne)
Cava is all over Spain! And we especially loved this must consume drink in Barcelona. It was the first time we really appreciated it on a trip to Spain.
This bubbly drink is made the same way as champagne, with two fermentations. (Prosecco, from Italy, for example, is not fermented in the bottle the second time like cava and champagne.)
Hot Chocolate, with a Churro and Malandro Cookie
It pretty well known that Spain is famous for chocolate and churros. (Hot chocolate to be more specific.) But on our Devour Tour, we learned that the more authentic treat to have with hot chocolate in Barcelona is a Malandro cookie. It’s like a Catalan Lady Finger.
I like it a lot more than churros, which, to me, feel too fried and heavy. A Malandro, on the other hand, is lighter and a great dipping cookie. This is definitely a food you must eat in Barcelona (or maybe have a couple of them).
Did you know the Spanish had chocolate before anyone else? (Even if you think Mexico did, it’s because they were a Spanish colony!) When the church banned chocolate it was even more appealing…what is forbidden is more desired, eh? That’s why there’s much more than meets the eye to the hot chocolate and Malandros served in Barcelona.
Tomatoes Two Ways
Tomatoes are glorious! And the people in Barcelona love to use them – often – on bread and as its own solo dish. Here’s the two most popular ways they’re offered.
Tomatoes and Bread (Pan con Tomate)
This is one of my favorite Spanish foods, particularly for breakfast. A tomato is “juiced” on a grater and then topped with olive oil and salt. Sometimes another spice makes it on the tomatoes if the restaurant serving it chooses. (I first fell in love with Pan con Tomate on a trip to the Andalucia region of Spain, in Seville, Granada and Cordoba.)
I’ve made it at home because it’s so good you won’t find it anywhere on a menu in America. It’s awesome. Such a healthy topping for bread.
If a tomato is great and hearty on its own why dilute it by serving it any other way than to slice it up, add some olive oil and serve it on a plate?
We went to Bodega 1900 (a Michelin rated restaurant) our first night in Barcelona and loved consuming small plate after plate of the top Barcelona foods recommendations we asked for. One was the beautiful plate of tomatoes you see below.
We also learned that a specific type of juicy tomato is hung up at markets because their extra-juicy interiors make them extra soft. They’re hung to protect them from bruising amongst other veggies!
The tomato juice is often rubbed on top of bread to soften it, a practice that began during the Industrial Revolution, between the 18th and 19th centuries.
Spanish Sandwiches, or Bocadillos
The food in Europe is simply fresher than in the United States. The abundance of so many local markets ensures the ingredients are, in fact, as local as possible whether that’s the bread they use, or the meat and vegetables going into a recipe.
Thus, even the sandwiches, or bocadillos, or fresher in Barcelona.
We want to point out two in particular that are typical finds you must eat in Barcelona! One is a sandwich we had the morning of our food tour with a glass of cava. (Because, why not? When in Barcelona, do as the Catalonians do!)
They have two breakfasts. The first sweet at around 8:00am (a lot of people skip that one). The second is savory around two hours later. It can be consumed with or without alcohol.
This is when we had the sandwich – a baguette with Girona pork sausage. It was delicious! It’s a winning simple sandwich yet with great ingredients, which makes it a superb combination.
The other sandwich is similar: if there’s quality ingredients something like ham and cheese on a baguette is instantly elevated. This is with Iberian ham and manchago cheese, with fresh squeezed orange juice. It was simple to grab this quality sandwich at the Enrique Thomas shop at Barcelona’s Sants train station before our train to Valencia.
We had fried sardines as part of our typical Barcelona food meal at Bodega 1900 our first night. They’re a little harder to eat this way because they have tiny bones that you have to pick through in your mouth. But they’re really good if done right and you exercise a little bit of patience with eating them.
Vinegar and Olive Oil Cured Anchovies
Most American know anchovies as the Italian fish served on Caesar salads. But its typical that they’re served purely in their cured form on a small plate, as a tapa, in Barcelona.
There’s two ways you can order them or buy them from a market: as “boquerones”, cured in vinegar (which is when they turn a yellowish white).
Or marinated in olive oil like you see in the photo below in a brownish color. These anchovies are from a region of northern Spain called “Santoña” and are very high quality.
The vermouth in Spain is not like the vermouth you have in America, that’s added to drinks like dirty martinis. It’s different. And I admit I’m not a vermouth expert but from everything I’ve learned about vermouth in Spain (including Barcelona) and in America, I certainly know they’re very different.
Dan and I were really excited when the final stop on our Barcelona Gracia Neighborhood food tour was at a vermouth bar. We were otherwise too shy to go into a bar and order it ourselves. But we were all ears to learn about it with our guide, Alvaro, teaching us.
We learned that Sundays, from noon to 2:00pm, is for vermouth in Barcelona with friends! The streets may be empty but the bars are full. Even if you’re getting a beer, its called “Vermouth time”.
Otherwise, Catalonians have vermouth and a sandwich during the day around 5:00pm when kids get out of school. (Haha – probably not a coincidence.)
Want to make vermouth at home? We’ve got you covered.
We wanted to end this post on a sweet note, mentioning this seasonal pastry. Bunyols are cream-filled donut-hole like pastries that are produced around Easter time. They’re traditional and delicious so if you’re in Barcelona around March through May and see them get some. You won’t regret it!
Disclaimer: we thank Devour Food Tours for generously hosting us. All the opinions in the post are ours and we bring you genuine content with real facts, photos and thoughts. Always.
Heading to Spain? Also check out:
- What to Eat in Valencia that’s Traditional and Delicious
- Madrid to Zaragoza by Train: How to Get There and What to See in a Day
- Eat Your Way Through Seville