Barcelona is a city that’s home to vibrant culture, breathtaking architecture, lively markets, interesting museums and galleries, delectable cuisine, and not to forget beaches and mountains. The city is perfect for those who cannot decide between city life and spending time in nature, given that the scenic trails, coastal hikes, and medieval towns of Costa Brava are just a short drive away. The city is rightly popular with lovers of modernist architecture, thanks to it being a treasure trove of Antonio Gaudi’s masterpieces that include: Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Mila and many more.
When you’re out and about exploring the city (which is best done by bike or on foot) or dining somewhere close to your hotel, hostel or student accommodation, it’s helpful to know what to eat. To get a well-rounded cultural experience, it’s best not to set foot into McDonald’s and sample some local favorites instead. Food lovers will enjoy eating in Spain like a local because the cuisine is varied and it is delicious!
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Here are the top foods to try in Barcelona.
- Crema Catalana
Image by Moritz Barcelona via Flickr
As you can tell from the name, this sweet dessert is typical of Catalonia. Though it looks a lot like Crème Brulee, there is a subtle difference that is obvious to the refined palate. Legend has it that this dish was born when some nuns tried to prepare a pudding to welcome the bishop. It resulted in a runny texture so they decided to burn some sugar on top to give it a certain crunchiness. The dessert is also sometimes called crema quemada or ‘burnt cream’ but the popular name in Spain is Crema Catalana.
The dessert is so popular that you’d also find Crema Catalana flavored ice-cream in Barcelona, as well as a really tasty tea-time cake called the cremat (or mini-cremat) that you should definitely try. I can vouch that once you’ve tasted the cremat, you won’t be able to get enough of it.
- Pa amb Tomaquèt
Image by Jessica Spengler via Flickr
Bread with tomato might seem like it’s nothing special. However, the gifted people of Catalonia have managed to take something so simple and make it an indispensable appetizer that you’ll find on every table in Spain, whether at home or in a restaurant. For reference think of the Italian bruschetta- but the Spanish version is way tastier, not to mention, easier to eat.
Preparing Pa amb Tomaquèt takes barely a few minutes. Crusty bread is used as the base and a tomato is split into half, and rubbed vigorously against the surface of the bread until all of the juice and pulp has been soaked into the bread and all you’re left with is the tomato peel in your hand. A sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of olive oil completes the dish. Sounds really simple and tastes great!
Image by Cafeterias Nebraska via Flickr
Contrary to expectation, bikinis in Barcelona are not found only on the beach. These little ham and cheese sandwiches get this strange name from the Bikini concert hall that opened in Barcelona in 1953 and first began to serve these sandwiches as a local alternative to the French croque-monsieur. The rest, as they say, is history.
- Mel i mató
For those with a sweet tooth, this dessert is a must try. Mató is a fresh and unsalted white cheese made of goat’s milk. In the dessert form, it’s topped with a drizzle of honey and chopped walnuts.
- Calçots con salsa romesco
This typical dish from Catalonia is basically onions cooked on a grill over flames. To eat it the right way, you have to peel away the charred layers and dip the juicy cooked part into romesco sauce before you pop it into your mouth.
- Butifarra con mongetes
This Catalan favorite makes for a truly satisfying meal and something you can expect in a local home. It is a dish of butifarra or sausages served along with white beans and vegetables like onions, carrots and leek. This is accompanied by toasted bread.
Even though this dish might take the name of a type of lyrical theater that is popular in Spain, the edible version is a pleasing explosion of flavors. It is essentially a hearty stew in which various types of fish and shellfish from Catalonia are mixed together along with bay leaf, saffron, almonds, and wine and served in a traditional plate.
- Arroz negro
Image by I HQ via Flickr
Arroz negro or ‘black rice’ can be thought of as a black paella. The dish gets the black color from squid ink (from squid or cuttlefish) and the other ingredients are peppers, paprika, crab, shrimp and possibly other seafood. If you like seafood, this is definitely one to try, and a great alternative to the better known paella.
- Pollo Asado a la Catalana
If fried chicken is your thing, then you will not be disappointed because this Catalan chicken dish isn’t just healthier, it’s also a lot tastier. The chicken is roasted and the use of pine nuts, raisins and prunes in the seasoning is a unique and typically Catalan characteristic of including fruits.
Image by Nuria Farregut via Flickr
Escalivada, served either as a tapa or starter, is a dish of smoky chargrilled vegetables and is made of various ingredients such as eggplant, onions, bell pepper, and garlic. It can be served on its own or as a side dish for grilled meat or fish or topped on bread.
Whether you’re studying in Barcelona or just visiting, these culinary delights will help you explore the city through the dimension of food, an experience you won’t regret.
This post was presented in partnership with Uniplaces.
Tell me, have you been to Barcelona, or would you like to eat your way around the city?
If you’re curious about the food in Barcelona, check out my posts on my chocolate journey in Barcelona and eating in the neighborhood of Gracia.
For general information to help you plan your travels to Spain and suggested itineraries, check out these posts.
Unearthing Barcelona’s Best Kept Secret in the City of Chocolate
La Sagrada Familia: Gaudi’s Unparalleled Genius in Barcelona
Tasting Gràcia: A Walking Food Tour with Devour Barcelona
Cap De Creus: Finding ‘Brava’ on Spain’s Eastern Tip
Girona: The Colors of a Medieval Town
On My Plate In Costa Brava: What to Eat & Where
Flors i Violes: Celebrating Spring in Palafrugell
In Conversation with Pedro Burruezo, Musician, Environmentalist & Pioneer
La Casa Magica: House of Curiosities in Costa Brava
Hotel Review: chic&basic Born, Barcelona
Wednesday 24th of April 2019
great food and presentation