In collaboration 
with Rough Guides

What to eat and drink in Barcelona 

Barcelona’s restaurants have a major advantage: superb ingredients, as anyone who’s entered a great covered market in the city can attest. Eating out in Barcelona is a treat and can be one of the highlights of your trip. 
Restaurants are not cheap, but they compare favourably with those in many European and North American capitals. Get ready to drool, here are our favourite things to eat and drink in Barcelona.

In collaboration 
with Rough Guides

Eat | Drink | 

What to eat in Barcelona

Catalan cooking is based on cuina del mercat – market cuisine. Fresh fish and shellfish lead the menus (even though they’re often flown in from the north coast and Galicia), and fruits and vegetables are at their freshest. Mountain-cured hams and spicy sausages, spit-roasted meats and fowl with aromatic herbs are specialities. Expect aioli (garlic and olive oil mayon-naise), produce from the countryside, and wild mushrooms – bolets – an object of obsession for people from all over Catalonia.

Catalan specialities

Catalan food is hearty, flavoursome and sometimes unusual – especially if you’re expecting the Spanish (Castilian) tastes of elsewhere in the country. Here’s a few special dishes to look out for your uniquely local foodie experience.

Fancy a picnic? Parc de la Ciutadella is the city centre’s favourite green space, while the gardens of Montjuïc offer some fantastic views. 

Bread, soup and noodles

The foundation of rustic Catalan cuisine is pa amb tomàquet – slices of rustic bread rubbed with garlic and halves of beautifully fresh tomatoes, doused with olive oil, and sprinkled with coarse salt. Another typical Catalan dish is espinacs a la catalana, spinach prepared with pine nuts, raisins and garlic. Others include escudella (a thick tasty Catalan soup); suquet de peix (fish and shellfish soup); fuet (long, salami-type sausage); and fideus (long, thin noodles served with pork, sausage and red pepper).

Tortilla and fish

You might be fooled by the Catalan word for a Spanish tortilla (omelette), which is truita, but translates as both omelette and trout. Bacallà, the lowly salt cod, is now served in the most distinguished restaurants in various guises and is not cheap. A sarsuela is a stew of fish cooked in its own juices; a graellada de peix is a mixed grill of fish.

Sausages and salad

Barcelona’s all-purpose sausage is the hearty botifarra, often served (in spring) with faves a la catalana (young broad beans stewed with bacon, onion and garlic in an earthenware casserole). Xató (pronounced sha-toe) is the endive and olive salad of Sitges, fortified with tuna or cod, and has an especially good sauce made of red pepper, anchovies, garlic and ground almonds. The word for salad of any kind is amanida.

Paella

Although it originates in rice-growing Valencia, the classic seafood paella is high on many visitors’ lists of dishes to sample in Barcelona. And there’s nothing like tucking into paella to know you’re in Spain. Try the restaurants in Barceloneta for a paella of fresh mussels, clams, shrimp and several kinds of fish. It will take about 20 minutes to prepare. Just do your tastebuds a favour and treat them to something better than ready made paellas flouted by tourist-trap restaurants, especially on La Rambla.

Sweet treats

When it comes to dessert, flan is ubiquitous, but there’s a home-made version, the more liquid crema catalana (egg custard with caramelised sugar on top). If they say it’s casera (home-made) then get stuck in. Mel i mato is a treat made with honey and creamy cheese. But here’s a tip – the best sweet things are the delightful delicacies sold in pastry shops.

All about tapas

Tapas – the snacks for which Spanish bars and cafés are world-famous – come in dozens of delicious varieties, from appetisers such as olives and salted almonds, to vegetable salads, fried squid, garlicky shrimps, lobster mayonnaise, meatballs, spiced potatoes, wedges of omelette, sliced sausage and cheese. The list is virtually endless, and can be surprisinglycreative, especially at the now extremely popular Basque tapas joints. Head to Tapeo in El Born or El Quim de la Boqueria in the Boqueria market for creative, moreish choices.

Vegetarian and vegan food

Traditionally, it was hard to be a vegetarian in Spain – let alone a vegan – as meat stock and garnishes were just a fact of cooking. But in the last few years, this trendiest of cities has been responding to the meat-free and plant-based needs of an increasing number of people, so happily, not only are there more places that everyone can eat well, but they are also often among the most fashionable joints in town. Try Aguaribay in Poblenou or Rasoterra in the Barri Gòtic for cutting-edge style and flavours.


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What to drink in Barcelona

It should probably be called Bar-Celona – whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, from bohemian boozer to cocktail bar. Passeig del Born (La Ribera) is one of the hottest destinations, with Sant Pere hard on its heels, while there’s an edgier scene in El Raval and around Carrer de Blai (Poble Sec). The main concentration of designer bars (and the city’s gay scene) is in the Esquerra de l’Eixample, while the theme bars of Port Olímpic are mainstream playgrounds for locals and visitors. Bars usually stay open till any time between 11pm and 2 or 3am.

Wine

Wine is a constant at the Catalan table. In addition to an assortment of fine wines from across Spain, Barcelona presents an opportunity to try some excellent regional wines. Penedès, the grape-growing region just outside Barcelona, produces some excellent wines, including cava, Spain’s sparkling wine. Cava goes well with seafood and most tapas. Among Penedès reds, try Torres Gran Coronas, Raimat and Jean León. Wines from the Priorat area are superb, robust, expensive reds that rival the best in Spain. Don’t be surprised to be offered red wine chilled in hot weather. White wines from the La Rueda region are generally good. 

Unlike in pretty much every other culture, a gin and tonic is an after-dinner treat in Barcelona, rather than an aperitif. Some of the hottest bars in the city are gin specialists, such as Bobby Gin in Gràcia and Xixbar in El Poble Sec.

Sangria

Sangría is a favourite, made of wine and fruit fortified with brandy, but it’s drunk more by visitors than locals. Spanish beers, available in bottles and on draft, are generally light and refreshing. A glass of draught beer is a caña.

Spirits

You’ll find every kind of sherry (jerez) here. The pale,dry fino is sometimes drunk not only as an apéritif but also with soup and fish courses. Rich dark oloroso goes well after dinner. Spanish brandy varies from excellent to rough: you usually get what you pay for. Other spirits are made under licence in Spain, and are usually pretty cheap. Imported Scotch whisky is fashionable, but expensive. It’s advisable to request a particular brand when asking for spirits.

Coffee

Coffee is served black (solo/sol), with a spot of milk (cortado/tallat), or half and half with hot milk (con leche/amb llet). Horchata de chufa, made with ground tiger nuts, is popular in summer, and is sold in bars called horchaterías, which also sell ice cream.

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